In the decades since Walk Japan started partnering with schools to offer educational trips to Japan, we have worked with schools from all over the world, including:
British School in Tokyo
Walk Japan first worked with the British School in Tokyo in 2014 to help arrange a special trip to celebrate the school's 25th anniversary, to run a relay along the Nakasendo Way. All the way from Kyoto to Tokyo. While we have been leading tours and school trips along the Nakasendo since the 1990s, it was clear that running it as a relay would require additional planning. We started by mapping the route with GPS and dividing the route into 5-7 km sections, which would be run by two students and a teacher, with each day's section being 15-20 km.
During the run our tour leaders supported the runners by car and bicycle, while organizing visits to nearby waterfalls and local tourist spots for the students who were not running their part of the relay at the time. It was such a success that the British School in Tokyo has continued to work with Walk Japan to organize circuit runs on Mt. Fuji in the fall for the past 3 years.
Canadian Academy in Kobe
We have been working with the Canadian Academy in Kobe to run their senior trip since since the early 2010s. Every October we take the entire senior class, approximately 45-60 students and 4-5 teachers, on the Nakasendo Way school trip.
Given the size of the group, the teachers and students receive an earpiece so that they can hear Walk Japan's tour leaders introduce them to the history of the area, the rural lifestyles of the local people and how things have changed for them in modern times. The senior trip is done over 3 days, which means the students often have more than the usual amount of hiking for our school trips. One day has a section of about 24km, although once the seniors have reached their destination, they get to relax in hot spring onsen baths and learning traditional folk songs.
Hong Kong International School
Hong Kong International School is the first school that Walk Japan led on a school trip back in 1996. HKIS was interested in a school trip that focused on the adventure aspects of hiking through the mountains as well as embracing the traditional culture of Japan. So, Walk Japan based the trip on our Nakasendo Way tour, adding engaging cultural and educational experiences to the tour to help the students learn more about the region and it's history.
Every year since 1996, Walk Japan has operated a school trip for Hong Kong International School in March, as part of their Interim Week. Students and teachers on the trip hike and snowshoe through the mountains, staying in traditional inns on tatami mats, meeting with tea masters to learn about the tea ceremony, learning traditional folk songs, and so much more.
Canadian International School of Hong Kong
In 2011, Canadian International School started working with Walk Japan to run yearly school trips on the Nakasendo. In 2013, the school decided they wanted their trip to have a greater focus on community involvement and service, and changed the programme to the Kunisaki: Revival in Rural Japan trip. On the Kunisaki trip the students participate in community projects, including deforestation, environmental diversification efforts, and helping local farmers. The students also engage with the local community by visiting local schools and enjoying a homestay with local families, and making soba noodles, a local speciality.
Head Royce School, California USA
The Head Royce School contacted Walk Japan to discuss organizing a unique tour for their high school-aged students to see the impact of the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant on the region. The trip went ahead in 2015 and spanned 14 days, longer than our usual school trips, in order to accommodate all the locations and places necessary to meet their educational goals.
The trip started in Kyushu the students were able to speak with families and individuals which moved there after leaving the Fukushima region. The trip included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima before finishing in Ishinomaki in the Ogatsu region, which was one of the most heavily effected places by the Tsunami. During their time in Ishinomaki, the students stayed at the MORIUMIUS learning centre, where they could speak with survivors and storytellers to learn about the tsunami and the aftermath. The students also hiked up to a hill overlooking Ogatsu to see how far the water came up the hillside and how many houses are now empty lots.
The Harbour School, Hong Kong
Since 2013, The Harbour School's middle school-aged students have been going on the Nakasendo Way trip as a tie in to their history curriculum on the Warring States period. Usually, the students who would go on the Nakasendo trip would be in high school, so the walking sections have been tailored to be more appropriate for the age of the students, replacing them with additional activities for the students to enjoy.
Due to the focus on activities, the school trip includes making soba noodles (and eating the fruits of their labour for lunch), learning traditional folk songs and a specially organized half-day event at the local Kiso junior high school where they meet with the students, teachers and local board of education, as well as practising Kendo (a modern Japanese martial art involving wooden swords and protective gear) with the local martial arts club. The students also enjoy a trip to the Toyota museum in Nagoya, as well as a tour around Nagoya Castle.
Singapore American School
Walk Japan started working with the Singapore American School in 2014 as part of the school's Interim Semester, a week long experiential education part of their yearly curriculum, offering two separate trips as some of the many options available to students. One of the trips on offer is the Kunisaki trip, which focuses more on community service and environmental projects. The students may engage in forestry work, both to prevent deforestation and also improve biodiversity, and also work with local farmers, learning how to grow shiitake mushrooms.
The other option Walk Japan provides for SAS students is the Nakasendo Way, which focuses more on providing students with the physical challenge of walking through the ancient postal road, as well as learning about the local history and culture of the places the trail takes them through. Given that the trips run in February, the trip on the Nakasendo often experience a great deal of snow in the mountains, meaning there is often 2 days of snowshoeing along the trail, with the more adventurous students being able to try traditional bamboo snowshoes. In 2017, the students on the Nakasendo trip visited the Kaida plateau, to see how rural communities deal with the heavy snowfall.
Creative Secondary School, Hong Kong
In 2016 Walk Japan worked with the Creative Secondary School in Hong Kong to create a trip through western Japan, exploring and learning about the culture and society. The trip started in Kyoto, where students visited such places as the Golden Pavilion (Rokuon-ji) a Zen Buddhist temple, the Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo), built as the residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns under Tokugawa Ieyasu, and also meet with a local tea master to learn about the traditional tea ceremony. From there the group of students visited Hiroshima, where they visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, built to document the atomic bombing of the city in World War II. The students were also able to sit down and speak with a survivor of the atomic bombing. The trip ended in Kunisaki, where the students got to experience the rural lifestyle first-hand, staying with local families, helping farmers and engaging in community service.
Chinese International School, Hong Kong
CIS went on their first trip with Walk Japan in 2016, engaging in a tailor-made trip focused on hiking in the beautiful countryside near Kunisaki on Kyushu island. After the great reaction from the teachers and students, the school will go on another customised trip in 2017, where they will be visiting Hagi and Hiroshima in western Honshu, to learn about the historical period starting with the Meiji restoration in 1868, and moving forward to World War II and the effects of the atomic bombing. The students will spend time hiking through the region, learning about the major historical sites they visit, visiting Miyajima island, stay at at traditional inns as well as doing a homestay in Hagi to get a taste of the rural life. Also, as part of learning about World War II, they will visit the Peace Museum in Hiroshima.
Seoul Foreign School
In 2016, students and teachers from Seoul Foreign School went on Walk Japan's Kunisaki: Revival in Rural Japan trip, trading in the bright lights of the big city for the small hamlets of this remote corner of Kyushu island. On this trip the students engage in community service, increasing forest biodiversity by planting trees, clearing undergrowth, surveying, and creating wetlands, as well as assisting farmers in the village. The students also experience local food and culture, making their own soba noodles, practising sitting meditation in a Buddhist temple and learning about the religious history of the Kunisaki region from a local monk. In 2017, Seoul Foreign School will return to the region, increasing their exposure to traditional arts.
Tyee Middle School, Seattle USA
If you would like to see how the schools we've worked with feel about the trips they've taken students on, you can see more on our school testimonials page.