n the decades since Walk Japan started providing educational tours to Japan, it has worked with schools from all over the world, including:
British School in Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
In 2014, Walk Japan began working with the British School in Tokyo with a tour to celebrate the school's 25th anniversary that comprised of a six-day relay run along the Nakasendo Way, covering the 544km (338 miles) from Kyoto to Tokyo. While we had been leading tours and school trips along the Nakasendo since the early 1990s, significant additional planning and logistics were required to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. We mapped the whole route, divided it into 5-7 km sections, which were each run by two students and a teacher.
Four Walk Japan Tour Leaders guided them on their way by leading the runners on a bicycle, riding in support vehicles, and sometimes running aside them. Visits were organised for the students who were resting to places of interest along the way. It was such a success that the British School in Tokyo has continued to work with Walk Japan on relay runs around the foothills of Mt. Fuji every year since.
Canadian Academy in Kobe, Kobe, Japan
Walk Japan has been running the Canadian Academy in Kobe annual senior trip since the fall of 2010. Every October, the entire senior class of approximately 45-60 students and 4-5 teachers, joins us on the Nakasendo Way School Trip.
Given the size of the group, all the teachers and students are provided with an earpiece to clearly hear and enjoy the Walk Japan's Tour Leaders regale them on the history of the area, the rural life and how the Japanese countryside is fairing in recent times. The tour is a compact, at three days, which means the students have more than the usual daily amount of hiking for our school trips. On one day we complete a 24km section together, but their effort is rewarded with a long, leisurely soak in onsen hot spring baths before relaxing in the company of a local, traditional folk singer.
Hong Kong International School, Hong Kong
In 1996, Hong Kong International School (HKIS) was the first academic institution to join Walk Japan on a School Trip. As HKIS was interested in an more physical adventure combined with immersion in Japan’s traditional culture, their trip was created using Walk Japan’s Nakasendo Way tour as a base.
HKIS has returned every year since making their trip a firmly established and popular choice during the school’s Interim Week. A tour run in March, students and teachers hike and snowshoe along the route of the Nakasendo Way, an ancient highway that goes deep into the mountainous heart of Japan. Amongst other activities they also stay in traditional inns sleeping in futons on tatami straw mats, participate in the chado tea ceremony under the auspices of a tea master, and learn to sing local folk songs.
Canadian International School of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
In 2011, Canadian International School of Hong Kong started working with Walk Japan with a programme each year to the Nakasendo Way. In 2013, after the school decided they would like more emphasis on community involvement and service, their programme to the Kunisaki: Revival in Rural Japan School Trip. On the idyllic Kunisaki Peninsula in west Japan, the students participate in the local community working with locals planting trees and bushes to re-establish habitats and create a park. They also join famers to lend their hand with the work in the fields and forests, visit schools, stay overnight with local families, and learn to make soba buckwheat noodles.
Head Royce School, California, USA
The Head Royce School asked Walk Japan to create a unique tour for their high school students to understand the impact of the earthquakes and tsunami that struck Japan’s Tohoku region in 2011. Their trip ran in 2015 and spanned 14 days, one of Walk Japan’s longest programmes, in order to accommodate all the locations and places necessary to meet their educational goals.
The programme started in Kyushu, where the students met with families and individuals who moved there from Tohoku. From here the students travelled to Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo before completing their journey in Tohoku at Ishinomaki, one of the towns most devastated by the tsunami. Here the students stayed at the MORIUMIUS learning centre, where they met survivors and learnt first-hand about their experiences at the time of the tsunami and in the aftermath. The students hiked up to a hill overlooking Ogatsu, a neighbourhood of Ishinomaki, to see clearly how high the sea rose up and the destruction wrought on the town by the inundation.
The Harbour School, Hong Kong
Every year since 2013, the middle school students at The Harbour School have undertaken the Nakasendo Way School Trip as a tie-in to their studies on Japan’s Warring States Period (1467-1600). Walk Japan tailored the walking to better suit the students’ younger ages, and added in more non-walking activities for them to enjoy. These include making soba buckwheat noodles which they then eat for lunch, spending a half-day at a local junior-high school where they engage with the students and teachers, and practising Kendo with the local martial arts club. The students also enjoy a visit to the Toyota Museum and castle in Nagoya.
Singapore American School, Singapore
Since 2014, Singapore American School (SAS) has worked each year with Walk Japan, which provides two tour programmes as part of the school's week-long Interim Semester held annually in February.
One programme is the Kunisaki: Revival in Rural Japan School Trip, which has particular emphasis on community service and environmental projects. The students work with locals on planting mixed varieties of trees to help create a diverse habitats and help farmers with shiitake mushroom cultivation. The other programme is based on the Nakasendo Way, which focuses on providing students with a more physical challenge of walking along this ancient highway, as well as learning about the local history and culture of the places the route takes them through. As the Semester is in mid-winter, students often experience snow at higher altitudes on the Nakasendo giving them the opportunity to take to snowshoes. The students also explore Kaida Kogen, a beautiful, rural plateau set deep in the surrounding mountains.
Creative Secondary School, Hong Kong
In 2016, Walk Japan worked with the Creative Secondary School in Hong Kong to create a programme through western Japan, exploring and learning about its culture and society. The tour started in Kyoto, where students visited such iconic sites as the Golden Pavilion temple and Nijo-jo, a castle that served as a residence for the great Tokugawa Shoguns. They also visited a local tea master in his home to learn about and join in the chado tea ceremony. From here they travelled by the super-fast Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima to visit the city’s Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Museum, which was built to document the atomic bombing of the city in World War II. Here the students met a survivor of the atomic bombing. The trip ended on the Kunisaki Peninsula, where the students experienced Japanese rural lifestyle first-hand, staying with local families, helping farmers and engaging in community activities.
Chinese International School, Hong Kong
The Chinese International School (CIS) first joined Walk Japan in 2016 on a custom programme that focused on hiking in the beautiful countryside of the Kunisaki Peninsula on Kyushu. In 2017, the school followed up with another custom trip to Hagi, a charming old castle town at the western extremity of Honshu, and Hiroshima, to study Japan from the ending of the samurai rule with the Meiji Restoration in 1868 through to World War II and its end with the atomic bombings. Students spent time hiking through the region, learning about the major historical sites they encountered on the way. They stayed in traditional Japanese inns and, on one night, with local families in Hagi.
Seoul Foreign School, Seoul, Korea
In 2016 and again in 2017, 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.
Tyee Middle School, Seattle, USA
In April 2017 students, teachers and parents participated in Walk Japan’s Western Japan: An Exploration of Culture and Society School Trip. Starting in Kyoto, the group visited UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the fascinating Nijo-jo castle, and the exquisite Golden Pavillion and Ryoan-ji temples. They also experience the traditional tea ceremony with a local tea master. The students rode the super-fast Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima where they visited the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Peace Park and Museum, and the famed shrine on Miyajima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea.
From Hiroshima the group travelled by ferry to the Kunisaki Peninsula on Kyushu, which they explored before finishing their programme in Fukuoka. During their time on Kyushu, the group undertook in a variety of activities, including traditional crafts such as takezaiku bamboo and shittoi grass weaving, Zen sitting meditation at a rural temple, and working on our Community Project lending a hand diversify the local woodland habitats. Luckily the students’ visit to Japan came at the beginning of Spring coinciding with the sakura cherry trees in full bloom. In Fukuoka, the group visited Dazaifu and its serene shrine that was built in 905AD, the Kyushu National Museum, and Yanagibashi, a market with stalls selling a multitude of local delicacies.
To learn more about the experience of schools working with Walk Japan please see testimonials written by teachers who accompanied the students. Please also see School Trips for progamme itineraries and contact Walk Japan for further information and assistance.