Smanova Nargiza Asan kyzy
I hear, talk, and study about the SDGs a lot, almost every day, as I’m studying as a master’s student and enrolled in the program of SDGs at the University of Tsukuba. Besides the lectures and classes, we have other useful activities such as workshops and field trips. The fresh memory is about our recent trip to the Northern part of Japan, Okinawa and it’s totally dedicated to the SDGs. We had the great opportunity to see and learn how the Japanese government, private companies, and local people are working to achieve the SDGs at different levels: nationally, individually, and locally. In the Kazakh language, there is a saying “Көп жасағаннан емес, көп көргеннен сұра”, which is translated into English as “Don’t ask the one, who lives long, ask the one, who saw a lot”. So, such experiences of traveling far away and not just traveling, but observing and researching during trips are priceless, because everything which you see somehow affects your worldview.
Ishigaki is the most populated and most popular of Okinawa Prefecture’s Yaeyama Islands. Just a three-hour flight from Tokyo, Ishigaki serves as the region’s transportation hub with the New Ishigaki Airport for mainland Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong tourists. The island offers sandy white beaches with aquamarine water perfect for snorkeling and diving, lush hiking trails with breathtaking views of the coast, a favorable climate, and a welcoming seaside culture.
Ishigaki City comprises the entire island. Despite the secluded vibe found on some parts of the island, 45 000 people call Ishigaki their home, although most live in the central area known as shigaichi (town area). The area has ample restaurants, bars, and hotels to serve the island’s bustling tourist industry. Near the city center is the Miyara River, lined with beautiful mangrove trees and popular among kayakers. However, unguided tours are not permitted. North of the airport is Tamatorizaki Observation Point, a viewing platform with views of the bay and Ishigaki’s rocky peninsula. Nearby Shiraho’s blue coral reef is one of the best snorkeling spots in the world.
What I liked the most was our visit to the local Yaeyama High School. I enjoyed listening to the presentations of the students. We had 4 presentations on the SDGs: “Pre Shumamuni-Rescue Mission”, “Let’s PICK & Making!!”, “LGBT & Free Choice of Uniform”, and “One drop for global warming countermeasures – Let’s take the energy problem as our problem”. All 4 topics were about important issues of their island, but these problems are universal too. I admired how school children were thinking critically and delivering important messages using their own voices. They talked about saving the local language which is currently in jeopardy, LGBT rights and free choice of uniforms, how to save energy, etc. These children conducted research, surveys, and experiments and came up with insightful conclusions. In addition, they were open to answering our questions and had their own interesting questions too. At that time, I thought about my own country, Kazakhstan. I knew only about myself, that I know about SDGs, but I didn’t know about others in my home country, so the questions raised: Do school children in Kazakhstan know about the SDGs, do they conduct research on the SDGs, etc.? To be honest, I don’t know and I’m looking forward to getting answers to these questions once I fly to Kazakhstan.
Also, while walking in the streets of Ishigaki, I noticed some shops with the stickers of the SDGs on their windows and I think it’s great. Someone may think that it’s just an advertisement, but someone who notices will notice, and think about the SDGs for a minute.
The presentation of the Yaeyama High School students is a great example of involving students in the SDGs in an interesting way, so they don’t get bored or think that the SDGs are difficult topics, but instead, will understand and try to contribute to achieving them. To conclude,
I was glad to see those children even on an island which is lo located so far from central Japan are involved in the SDGs and doing their best.