Van Lifers special features explores the inspiring lives of the next-generation people living in vans. Kento Hoashi (甫足賢人) (on the left of the picture) talks about how his group of college seniors called Van_Boys is solving social problems with swag.
Tell us about your van life and how you got started.
I've been car camping since I was little with my family. We used to go with a Toyota Corolla Verso, but now with a Toyota Noah. Also, since I'm a senior in college now, that means I've been doing it for about 15 years. It all started simply as a hobby until recently. In March 2019, I and three of my buddies decided to start Van_Boys and go car camping together. The idea is to "solve social problems with swag" and in a vanlife-ish fashion that anyone else can do, not just us.
Van_Boys Photographers ©Hayato Matsuo / Hiroki Hayakawa: Photos follow below. They will make you want to travel now.
Wow, you guys are another level of college bros! What kind of things in particular do the Van_Boys do?
The Van_Boys is an awesome foursome comprised of a community designer, photographer, videographer, and chef, traveling together all over Japan while solving different problems in our society. For example, we recently went to Takayama and learned that the producers there were struggling to get their voices heard by the consumers. We sat down with Mayumi Terada of Terada-Nouen (a tomato processing company) and listened to the challenges they're facing and got our hands dirty and helped out for two days in their plantation. It was an amazing experience! We took lots of pictures and published them on our Instagram.
Mayumi graciously welcomed our sudden visit and even took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us.
We don't normally think about the food that we eat or the process it took to get to our plates, but I think it's important that we do. This realization was what led our group to visit a plantation for a chance to meet some of the people responsible for our food and join them in action as well!
Tomatoes are extremely high in nutrition like vitamins C and E, and lycopene, so they're good for the skin, for colds, and even has anti-aging properties. Learning about this from the source made me really want for every working person to eat tomatoes and pay attention to the nutritional balance of their meals.
Terada-Nouen provides a selection of tomato-based juices and curries for busy working-people who only have ten seconds to gulp down juice and for parents to outsmart picky eaters in their family in a form of an innocent curry. Learn more about Terada-Nouen products here.
That's so cool! And quite "stylish" indeed! By the way, have you always been interested in social problems?
I became interested after going to MCAS Futenma (US Marine Corps Air Station) when I was a freshman in college. At that time, there were a lot of talks on TV about social issues surrounding MCAS Futenma, but I noticed that people only held interest at the beginning and eventually they got bored regardless if there were resolutions or not.
So, I started thinking about what's missing to get people to care more about our social problems, and as a student I thought the solutions had to be “swag.”
I see. But why did you choose the van life as a means to solving social problems “with swag?”
Originally being an outdoor person probably was a big factor. Even now I still hold lots of camping events. Of course, I can enjoy camping or the van life alone, but it sure is way more fun with others as you can take advantage of one another's talents and skills. Which brings me to my main reason: we can apply our talents and skills. We can solve social problems with swag if only more and more people apply their own talents and skills.
Sorry if I'm a little bit slow, but... how is that exactly solving problems with swag?
What I mean by "swag" is when you realize that other people are helping you and you start being nice to other people as well and actually help them unconsciously. For example, when you're doing something you really like or good at, at some point you still ask for other people’s help. It's that feeling of gratitude towards those people...
I think helping others is not really in our radar unless we're put in other people's shoes, but being at the receiving end of help likewise opens our eyes to this symbiosis and thus extend help to others also. So, the more people chase their dreams and work hard, the more people will help one another and solve problems in our society. Now that's swag!
I see what you mean. It's swag beyond just social media swagger.
Exactly. Like when we went to Takayama, our trip also felt like a team-building exercise that made us use and benefit from one another's skillset. I couldn't have done it by myself without everyone's support. It's having this kind of acceptance while being true to ourselves. Something similar to that One Piece (animé) swag, LOL.
But, you know, I think the van life has a lot to do with the swag aspect of it. You can go anywhere, be with whomever you want, drink coffee, make bread, chill, meet local people, sleep anytime…under a starry sky—that’s swag to the max!
This new meaning of van life "swag" deserves to be in the dictionary! How do you see Van_Boys in the future?
We hope to use our van as an event space where we can invite people over and cover one issue at a time as we travel. That way, we think more people will realize their potential and connect with their communities through the social issues that we're facing.
We used to rent a space at campsites to hold events, like photography lessons, but our events felt too constrained by what the landowners only allowed us to do in their properties. We thought a movable event space would give us more opportunities. Now, we're thinking about getting a bus and converting it for that purpose. (We’re always looking for new people so please get in touch if you’re interested♪)
That's cool that you want to have your own homemade RV! Please give your message to the readers who may be interested in a new style of traveliving and the van life!
I'm a college student so I want to say this to other college students, "If there's anything that you want to try, just do it!" Where do you want to live, with whom, and in what way? Life is too short to have second thoughts. If it looks exciting, just do it! In our case, that exciting thing is the van life.
There are many things that we kind of just expect to happen depending on our stage in life. But with the van life, we're able to break away from the usual and meet new people, create special bonds, and learn new things. If you are worried about your future, come on a trip with us! Oh, and don't forget to get your driver's license before you graduate to make the most of your experience! LOL
Interview Profile: Kento Hoashi (甫足賢人)
"Solving social problems with swag." Van_Boys Leader. College Senior.