2016 Camps in Review

Natalie Akers
Published in
4 min readDec 6, 2017


Dear Gakko community,

Sempai, kohai, artists, friends, affiliates: A warm hello from our office in San Francisco!

We hope this message finds you well, wherever you may be in the world, and in life. Gakko has come a long way since Kenta’s late night musings at his dorm room in 2012. Having completed a fifth year of camp and looking forward to more exciting projects in the future, we want to maintain our connection to our growing community — even when we are not at camp. We hope you will keep reading our monthly newsletter and share it with kindred spirits as we continue to foster spaces for a more experiential, more holistic and more grounded education.

From our friend, John Dewey: “There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication. Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common.” (Democracy and Education)

If you would like to keep hearing from us, please fill out this survey so we can have your updated contact information and whereabouts.

We are currently working on updating our website — stay tuned for details on future camps and initiatives. In the meantime, enjoy this trip down memory lane…

…Year in Review

This summer, GAKKO held three camps, inviting 5 co-directors, 26 sempai, 6 artists-in-residence and 115 kohai. Here are some moments from each camp and a sneak peek at the disposable camera photos taken by kohai on the ground.


With our flag, at our Nest.

Taking over the lodge and park in Forest Village for a second year, the Gakko team brought its enthusiasm, late night conversations, songs and face paint to Chiba, Japan. Summoned each morning to our Nest, a rope structure built by our artists-in-residence, Laura and Yuta, to sing our camp song, we were constantly reminded: the act of coming together is the act of saying goodbye. We made up songs with Dylan, made psychogeographical maps with Amra, peered at the stars and thought of extraterrestrial life (and the possibility of our cosmic solitude) with Simon, built shelters with Charlie, populated the park with our newly founded civilizations, and “pooped our pants” at our talent show, aptly called the Shpilkes. Together, we asked ourselves: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What do I stand for?


Creating the Dream Shelter with Yale Graduate Architecture student and sempai, Jessica

This summer Gakko migrated to the magical island of Bali. Kohai and sempai gathered at the Green Camp located 13km South of Ubud. We learned surrounded by endless greenery and laughed enchanted by the croaks of geckos. The curriculum of the Bali Camp was grounded around three key words: RESILIENCE, KIKKAKE AND SYMBIOSIS. We woke up to the sound of the gong and ate delicious Indonesian meals at the “Bambucherie.” We learned about theatrical improvisation and Butoh dance, made models with wooden sticks and built a real scale bamboo shelter. We played a metagame, questioned our perception and designed identity flags. We carry in our suitcases memorable souvenirs from the field trips at the beach, market and rice fields. We won’t forget the laughs after the the curfew bell and the hugs at the graduation ceremony. We won’t forget the ineffable space of the yoga studio and the sacred sounds of the jungle; and Gakko won’t forget how many rich and unforgettable moments Sempai and Kohai shared in this magical location.

“Breathing Space”, meditation ritual in the yoga studio

ROMANIA CAMP — Danube Delta

Welcoming kohai to Romania Camp 2016

This year, 34 kohai, 7 sempai, 2 directors, 2 artists-in-residence, and 1 mentor descended upon the picturesque Green Village in Sfântu Gheorghe, Romania. Accessible only by boat, our camp was enmeshed on all sides by the natural beauty of the Danube Delta and the Black Sea.

We started each day with all-you-can-eat piles of cheese in the cafeteria, followed by meditation sessions in Blanquita. We stayed up all night to watch the sun rise over the sea, then stayed up again to watch for shooting stars. We went on an all-day excursion up the river, kayaking and paddle-boarding and somehow (mostly) not falling out of our boats. We made maps, cracked codes, became choreographers for a day, redefined music, explored the theatrics of politics, and made art with the earth. In the end, the sSempai passed the baton to the kKohai, who let loose their full creativity and wit during the talent show, kKohai-led workshops, and self-portrait gallery.

After one last night next to the sea, we boarded the boats and dispersed back to our regular lives — exhausted, sad to leave, but enriched in countless ways.



Natalie Akers

Reading about agriculture, secondary ed, entrepreneurship in and around the rust belt, and snow. Writing about summer camp.