Why do you support Mirai no Mori? vol.5 with Daigo Shibata

Series #5 with Daigo Shibata, from Mitake Race Rafting

As Mirai no Mori celebrates its 10th anniversary, we have been interviewing our supporters from various fields to share their “voices” with you. As valued partners who have walked together with us, they share their encounters with Mirai no Mori and the reasons for their continued support in these interviews.

For this edition, we spoke with Daigo Shibata of Mitake Race Rafting, a long-time partner of Mirai no Mori’s rafting program.

Mr. Shibata is a rafting planner who also manages competitions and Mitake Race Rafting’s lodging facility. He also serves on the Board of Leave No Trace Japan. While engaging in outdoor activities, he is also involved in river cleanups along the Tama River and other rivers, as well as develping activities for people to have fun while protecting the environment.

Please tell us about your work.

I am a rafting planner based in Mitake, Ome, Tokyo. I moved to Mitake in 2010. Before Mikate, I worked as a rafting guide in Shikoku, Gunma, and Australia. Since moving to Mitake, I have been working as a rafting planner, mainly managing competitions and events, and coaching competitors in competitions. By the way, I chose the name “rafting planner” myself!

With Mirai no Mori, I interact with the children in the rafting program and with the high school students participating as LIT who stay at the lodge.

How did you come across Mirai no Mori?

A mutual acquaintance introduced me to Jeff and Kozue from Mirai no Mori, who were looking for a partner to organize a rafting trip with them for children living in care homes. My coach back when I was a rafting athlete actually knew Jeff, and Jeff also ran a rafting company on the Tama River. So we had a connection! After being introduced to the mission and purpose of Mirai no Mori, I said, “Let’s do it!” and we held our first rafting program in the summer of 2016.

Why do you continue to support Mirai no Mori?

Actually, I don’t feel that I am supporting… But I do what I do because I found Jeff and Kozue to be very nice people. And, when Mirai no Mori participants come to Mitake, they are able to make stimulating, new connections, which has a positive impact not only on myself, but also on the other staff and Mitake. So, rather than supporting, I feel that Mirai no Mori is doing interesting and meaningful work, and if there is anything I can do, I am happy to do it with them.

What was your most memorable rafting experience with Mirai no Mori children?

One summer, a boy named T joined our rafting program, and he was just the same age as my son. We were in the same boat when there was a little mishap- the boat flipped over!  T, who was still in the early grades of elementary school, became afraid of the water and couldn’t continue with the rafting program after the halfway point. I think he was really scared, and as a guide, I felt bad that I put him in a situation that made him afraid of the river. From that point on, T did not participate in rafting.

But about three years later, he made the choice on his own to try rafting again! That time, I was again leading his boat, so I was more careful than ever to prevent any mishaps and we made it to the goal without any issues. During the reflection time after rafting, I was most happy to hear that he enjoyed rafting after he had the courage to try rafting again. At that time, T told me that my rafting skills had improved! After that, he started to participate continuously.

What do you think is unique about Mirai no Mori’s activities?

One of Mirai no Mori’s most unique points is the high school aged Leader in Training (LIT) Program participants. Despite wanting to have fun on the river themselves, they contribute as staff members during rafting activities.They proactively teach the younger children how to put on life jackets and helmets, stepping up to do tasks that are usually left up to the instructors. And they take special care of children who are scared, and talk to them to relieve their anxiety. The LITs are not just helpful, but they put the younger kids enjoyment ahead of their own. And every time they do this, they themselves grow.

The other thing is that Mirai no Mori creates an environment where it is ok to challenge yourself. It’s okay if children fail! I think it is good to have an environment where people can challenge themselves with all their might. I feel that creating a place where people can make mistakes is something Mirai no Mori takes pride in. It is the same as what I feel when I am rafting. There are many things that don’t go as planned on the river, such as when the course selection doesn’t go well and the boat flips over. But after a failure, I can find something to improve and think about what to do afterwards. This is the same in daily life; it is only after making mistakes that we are able to improve. From this aspect, I think it is very good that Mirai no Mori tells us that “We fail because we try.”

What kind of presence do you want to be for the children?

I would like to be a place where children can come whenever there is something on their mind. Including children at Mirai no Mori, children who have participated in various activities in Mitake can one day come here on their own. And a little further down the road, they may get married and come to visit with their families. I would like them to feel like they have a relative in Mitake, someone they can come visit even without a particular reason.

I myself live in Mitake because I like the nature there, so I would like people to feel something positive, like “It’s fun to enjoy nature with other people!” or “Activities in nature feel good.” I would be happy if the children come to love Mitake even more.

At Mirai no Mori, we believe that there is great significance in children’s continued participation in our programs. In order to continue to provide a safe place for children to learn and grow, we need your continued support.
We invite you to join the Mirai no Mori community as a monthly supporter so that together we can continue to provide children with opportunities to gain life skills.

We look forward to you joining us as a monthly supporter so that we can continue to help as many children as possible to grow happily, fruitfully, and independently.

Series #1 with Rob Williams, co-founder of Knights in White Lycra

Series #2 with Reina, Mirai no Mori program graduate

Series #3 with Dave Paddock, co-founder of Mirai no Mori & president of English Adventure

Series #4 with Akiko Suzuki, from English Hiking