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Hiking near Tokyo with JAMBO

David Howenstein on JAMBO’s Tokyo hiking activities, environmental restoration projects and reconnecting with nature activities.

Q. What is JAMBO – its mission and its activities?

MISSION: To organize/participate in various activities which have the purpose of bettering each aspect of our overall environment.

Our overall environment can be divided into three parts: the Natural Environment which means the natural surroundings upon which our lives depend (including the atmosphere, water resources, plants, animals, etc.); the Social Environment which refers to situation of the society around us as well as in other places where we have contacts; the Inner Environment which relates to the individual’s spiritual condition.

David Howenstein
David Howenstein

It goes without saying that these different parts are interconnected and it becomes most meaningful and effective to work on the three in conjunction. On the one hand, the worsening of any one of these environments tends to corrupt the others. On the other hand, the betterment of one part generally affects the other parts in a positive way. It is therefore our mission to work on all of these fronts simultaneously.

Todoroki Gorge hike & clean up
Todoroki Gorge hike & clean up

At JAMBO, therefore, we work on the betterment of each of these parts through the following activities (which will hopefully be expanded with the passage of time).

The Natural Environment
• Hiking Activities (mostly in the Kanto Plain around Tokyo)
• Reconnecting with Nature Activities
• Environmental Restoration Projects (Area beautification, tree planting, garbage pick-up, etc.)
• Raising of funds to support Environmental groups

The Social Environment
• Promotion of International Understanding (through language education, intercultural get-togethers, etc.)
• Working with the Disadvantaged
• Raising of funds to support development efforts and the disadvantaged

The Inner Environment
• Holding of periodic spirituality meetings (to promote a sense of peace, joy and openness)
• Offering of a mentoring program for those wishing to do service work

Q. Why was the name JAMBO chosen?
JAMBO is a Swahili greeting, and is often said with a big smile which is often associated with the peoples of East Africa. In English, JUMBO means large, grand, and brings to mind a feeling of openness.

JAMBO Parties raise money for worthwhile causes
JAMBO Parties raise money for worthwhile causes

Our work at JAMBO International Center seeks to develop such a sentiment of welcomeness and openness to ALL life around us, starting with that within our physical vicinity. On the other hand, our charities are largely used to raise monies for the people and natural environment of Africa (especially East & South) since this is considered as one of the most “neglected” areas of the world (an area which seeks connection outside itself) as well as home to some of the world’s most hospitable people and incredible natural creatures & environments which are in dire need of protection and (in some cases) restoration.

Q. How did JAMBO get started and how has it developed?

Koubouyama Hike
Koubouyama Hike

JAMBO International Center began in the spring of 1996. In the beginning, it was hoped that JAMBO would do a combination of projects which would work towards benefiting the natural environment of Africa (especially Eastern and Southern Africa) while promoting the development of the peoples therein. These projects included sales of African handicrafts, publishing of a periodic newsletter, holding a “Current Issues” class, sponsoring charities, etc. The Center was set up in Takadanobaba (which is where it still is) and most of these activities were held at the Center.

Koubouyama Hike
Koubouyama Hike

However, as the concept of JAMBO developed and we became more realistic about what we could and couldn’t do, several of these in-house activities were given up while many in-nature activities were taken on.

Q. Aren’t you trying to bite off more than you can chew?

Yes and No. In the beginning of the project, the directors were unrealistic in terms of what their abilities were. I myself thought that I would enjoy the business of “Fair Trade” and putting together a newsletter. How wrong I was! It wasn’t so much that we were biting off more than we could chew as much as that we were biting parts that weren’t delicious for us. Plus the active JAMBO members consisted of only 4 people (me, myself, I, and one other). So, we found it a pain in the you-know-what to try doing these activities which didn’t match our characters. However, in the process, I found what I enjoyed doing (and didn’t enjoy), and now JAMBO has volunteers who help out with making the homepage, informing me of related programs, translating, and dealing with the finances and organizing of documents. These are the things which I cannot do or dislike doing, and I am extremely grateful to these wonderful people for their help.

In the process, this frees up my time to do the scheduling and take part in the
various activities which I love to do. I believe that when you come to love what you’re doing and stop doing those things which you consider to be a burden, you try to do as much of those things as you possibly can. Therefore, I feel as if I’m doing what is right for me now, and other JAMBO members are free to hold JAMBO activities which fit into the mission of the organization. I encourage others to use the JAMBO network and resources to hold any such activities, and am happy to get any new volunteers which are always much needed.

Q. What kind of people are involved in JAMBO, and how can you be contacted?

Anybody is welcome to join in JAMBO activities. In the course of the year, youngsters (as young as 2 years old) to older people (including a few in their 80s) take part in JAMBO events. The majority of people are in their 30s and 40s, with about 75% of participants being Japanese.

Mount Kuradake Hike
Mount Kuradake Hike

As there is no registration fee, it’s easy to take part in the events without any prior contact (however, a few of the events, especially for Charities, require a fee and/or reservation). Most of the JAMBO members simply wish to enjoy the outdoor events or charity parties where they can meet an interesting range of people; however, JAMBO especially encourages people who are interested in volunteerism to join the environmental volunteerism activities which we hold or participate in. As the word JAMBO signifies, we try to be open and welcoming to all.

Q. What groups do you support through your charities?

JAMBO holds Charities every month and the monies collected go to different groups each month. The 3 main sponsored groups which most relate to JAMBO’s environment/development double mission are as follows:

Abalimi Bezekhaya (Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA) – This is an organization
working with development and environmental restoration in Cape Flats.
Cape Flats is an impoverished area outside Cape Town which was partitioned
as a “Black” residential area under the apartheid regime. Due to poor
management, overcrowding, and the unjust policies of the apartheid era,
Cape Flats became environmentally devastated. Abalimi Bezekhaya is working
to “re-green” the area by promoting gardening and tree planting efforts.

Okutama Hike
Okutama Hike

Campfire Association (Harare, ZIMBABWE) – Campfire is an organization
which works with local people throughout Zimbabwe to promote environmental preservation. Local people get personally involved in such activities as ecotourism, sustainable forestry, etc.

Mpumalanga Parks Board (Nelspruit, SOUTH AFRICA) – MPB works with local
people in the northeast part of South Africa to maintain a safari park
which was made and maintained by the local people. They have also trained
local people in permaculture, an agricultural method which works to build
healthier soil and conserve inputs (water, fertilizer) as much as possible.

Following is a list of other groups to whom we send money:

• ASHOKA and ACCION (two groups which lend money to poor social

• World Wildlife Fund

• OXFAM International

• Population Institute

• Laubach International

• Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

• Save the Children (for the 2 children JAMBO supports each year)

• Fr. Joest Mnemba (a Catholic priest in Malawi working with regreening)

• The Green Belt Movement

Periodically, as need arises, we will have a benefit for others as well. Details about what these groups do, their contacts, and all documents relating to JAMBO’s contributions to them are available upon request.

Q. What’s your vision for JAMBO in the future?

My vision for JAMBO relates very closely to what the MISSION statement says, and includes encouraging people to become more open and universalized, working towards a greater consciousness of this “gift of life” through spiritual development and nature appreciation endeavors, and striving towards developing a better (more just and sustainable) world.

Using JAMBO as an umbrella, it is my hope that people use the resources, network, and funds available in JAMBO to carry out activities and events which fit in with the mission of the organization. By working together, we can be of great benefit to each other and to the world. One of my difficulties is that I’m a control freak who wishes to be the person at the helm. However, for this vision to become reality, I’ve come to realize the need to let go and let others take control. Fortunately, we’ve made a good start, with people who have taken control of the homepage, the finances, the translation, etc. Yet, there’s room to do so much more.

Okutama Hike
Okutama Hike

JAMBO seeks the involvement of more people who are progressive, optimistic, and proactive with a can-do spirit. On a personal level, I seek to become that change which I seek in others and my surroundings. On a larger level, I feel that JAMBO can become a visionary organization which helps to bring such positive change about. Wishing that you’ll be a part of this wonderful spirit!

For more information about JAMBO see their website:
David Howenstein - Founder and Director
Phone: 03-5809-9389 or 080-6546-7688


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