Throughout our time in Japan so far, we have had the privilege to experience everything from Tokyo rush hour to the inner workings of a rural Japanese sustainable farm. Throughout all of the changes that we have gone through, one thing has remained constant: the mountains. From the first descent into Tokyo on January third, mountains have been everywhere. Tokyo is surrounded by a faint skyline of hills, binding the city as an oasis of economics, culture, and history. Kamakura lies on the coast of Japan, holding an unparalleled view of Mount Fuji, sitting as a monumental cornerstone among the natural countryside of japan. The Asian Rural institute sits in the hills of Nasushiobara, built using the mountains as a foundation. Nagano is placed among vast mountain and cliff sides, benefiting from the natural environment established by the volcanoes, hills, cliffs, and rivers.

The internal workings of our trip have been much like the countryside of Japan: covered in mountains. Many experiences are like the view from Tokyo, distant mountains that we may not have to deal with. This can be seen in the continuing struggles of many farmers after the Fukushima meltdown as well as the erosion of the agriculture industry and how Japan Agriculture is currently fighting for the continuity of Japan’s local famers. Although we may see these issues, there is little that we can do at this moment.

Other experiences are much like Mount Fuji, overwhelming at first, but stunning in the end. Being on this trip and hearing from so many educated and prestigious speakers, from inventors choosing to forgo the use of electricity in their creations to help those in communities without power to local ARI staff speaking on their experiences, has at first seemed like a vast amount of information to take in. However, after time to process, just as the splendor of Mount Fuji lit up at sunset, this information has created a mesmerizing view of the interconnectivity of seemingly independent people and just how complex living sustainably truly is.

Finally, many parts of this trip have been like the cliffs of Nagano. Things that we have had to face head on. One such thing is meeting all of the Japanese students from Nodai. We went into this experience without having met any of these students, and getting to know them all at first was a bit of a struggle as there were just so many, not to mention the language barrier. However, after the initial struggles, just like ascending a mountain, the results were incredible. Once you reach the summit of a peak, the view is incredible, and just like this, once we got to know the Nodai students, the experiences that we had will never be forgotten. Mountains contain struggles, yet mountains hold immeasurable beauty. Not every part of this trip has been easy, from the early mornings, the language barrier, and adjusting to a new diet, but in the end, despite any rocky paths or unsteady footing, the experiences have been incredible. And we’re not even to the peak yet.