Adopt, adapt, adept.
Throughout history, the Japanese have followed this three-step approach to localizing and improving ideas and artifacts to fit within their cultural milieu. This tradition of refinement has created a culture that is both uniquely Japanese, and reflective of the world. Envoys’ programs in Japan explore the social issues affecting the nation, examining post-modern Japan in its position as a nation in some ways like no other, and as a nation in some ways like every other.
Our fourteen-day learning tour takes students to two cultural centers: Tokyo, the bustling capital, for its history, development, and urban present; and the Tohoku Region, for its position as a center of farming and manufacture, its window into middle-class Japan, and as the recovering site of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
Envoys students pursue rigorous research projects during our programs in Japan. Project themes and research questions are identified during the pre-trip online courses through a process of consultation with school leaders, academic experts, development practitioners, and business professionals. Potential project themes include:
- Preparation for natural disasters
- How to feed a densely urban population
- Japan’s changing role in international business
- Implications of a declining population
[Envoys] knows kids extremely well…they know how to be cool with them while still commanding authority and establishing ground rules…I was incredibly impressed with the protocols established and put in place by Envoys.Micah M., Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Peru 2015
With its emphasis on empathy and general intelligence in planning, Envoys has quickly emerged as a premier global program provider. They are well worth the attention of any of our schools.Paul Miller Former Director of Global Initiatives,NAIS
Envoys was at the top of their game from start to finish. What initially interested me was their focus on curriculum during pre-departure meetings and the program itself. Envoys cares deeply about the experience of the participants and faculty. [They] constantly ask for constructive criticism and make changes when necessary.Joe Vogel, Executive Director Global Education Benchmark Group
Envoys carefully constructed an educational trip for students that purposefully engaged them to think, reflect, act, and enjoy. The travel logistics were always well-planned, and I had peace of mind knowing that my teen-aged daughter was in safe, responsible, and caring handsAlice T, Parent Deerfield South Korea, 2015
I could not have been more satisfied with the performance of Envoys throughout the entire process of planning and executing this trip. All Envoys staff demonstrated the utmost professionalism and dedication, as well as knowledge and competence. I am so glad that [we] chose to partner with Envoys!Rick S, Traveling Faculty Hingham Japan 2015
The team at Envoys did their very best to ensure that the the “i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed.” The staff was also quick to respond to any and all questions that arose prior, during and after the trip. My husband and I greatly appreciated the time Envoys took to provide preparation tips as well the planned activity schedules to help make our child’s South African trip a safe and memorable adventure”Regina J, Parent Dalton South Africa 2014
We had an amazing program. It was a biology teacher’s dream and Felipe and his crew couldn’t have been more thorough and professional to work with. Thanks for all of your efforts to organize an unforgettable experience for us all.Gerry, Traveling Faculty LCC Colombia, 2016
As a parent I felt the experience was well orchestrated and managed by Envoys. As a participant my daughter loved the whole experience; it is something she will treasure for the rest of her lifeLinda T, Parent Hingham Japan 2015
I don’t think it is possible to pull a trip like the Amazon and the many activities that you directed without the sense of purpose you have, without your drive for experiential learning for teenagers. All our experiences with the envoys team were amazing!Angela, Traveling Faculty RoundSquare Colombia 2015
It was not only the good times with our friends or the relationships we built but how we were after we came back, returning to this agitated society with a new view of ourselves and not just our impact on the world, but the world’s impact on us.Gabriela, Student Deerfield Colombia, 2014
The individuals we worked with, without exception, were all professional, courteous, patient, and greatly attentive to detail. As stated above, Envoys is flexible and works hard to make sure that if you have custom aspects to a trip that you want to add, they will work hard to make it happen for you.Adam H, Faculty Belmont Hill Japan 2016
I can honestly say that this was the best 10 days of my entire life. I feel as though I have grown as a person, and that I have made lifelong connections. This experience changed my life, so thank you very much to the entire Envoys staff!
Eliza C, Student Hingham Japan 2015
Every single person working for Envoys is excellent and committed to the kids and their experience, not just during the trip, but before and after. We would recommend Envoys to anyone looking for a high quality and enriching summer experience.Amy G, Parent Envoys Malawi 2014 & 2015
The Envoys staff has been amazing. I have bonded with each of them in different ways and they made the trip to Colombia nicer that I expected. Envoys helped me open myself up to interacting with the locals wherever we traveled!Illeana G, Student Deerfield Colombia 2014
My goals were to learn about post-conflict Colombia and step out of my comfort zone. These were fulfilled each and every day through activities, reflections, and first-hand experience.Julia D, Student GEBG Colombia 2016
I was incredibly impressed by the care taken by Envoys. Before we even hit the ground, there was an emphasis on comprehending impact on our destination’s environment that I appreciated..Throughout the trip, our Envoys leaders made sure that we continued to be conscious of impact. That awareness of cause and effect is something that often gets lost when traveling, and Envoys did not allow it to. During this trip, there was never a moment I did not feel safe and cared for nor a moment where I did not feel I was learning something!Keylee S, Student Dalton South Africa 2014
“Many student groups participate in ‘Voluntourism’. This trip did not attempt that, but rather funneled the collective energy of each member into meaningful, mutually beneficial cultural interactions..Thank you so much for this unforgettable and transformational experience.Altana, Student Friends Seminary South Africa, 2016
The Envoys staff were very open about sharing their first-hand experiences, which was a game-changed in terms of learning about post-apartheid South Africa. Also, having everything planned to the T made me feel very safe. I knew that I was in good hands.Gio H, Student Friends Seminary South Africa 2016
The Envoys Staff were exceptionally committed to us and to the goals of our trip. They were thoughtful, kind, caring, friendly, with great sense of humor, yet serious in their connection to the ethos of professional development that was our trip’s purpose. I was struck over and over again by how they literally RAN to be in the right place to respond to any given situation.Constance, Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Colombia 2016
Day One (Arrival)
We spend our first day together in Narita City, situated just outside of Tokyo. Following a thorough health and safety briefing, we meet student guests from Waseda University, and begin our exploration of Japan with a snapshot of its pre-modernity at a living museum.
During the evening, Envoys students and staff work together to review the content covered and learning goals set during our online courses. Students set out goals for learning about Japanese culture, interacting with local citizens, exploring the country, and sharing the adventure with their families and classmates. This process empowers students to take responsibility for their own development during the trip, both for their research outputs as well as their individual growth.
On this first evening, we get to know each other and overcome our jet lag with group karaoke in Narita.
Day Two (Tokyo)
Traveling to Tokyo together is a short but impressive trip: a local train from a city of less than 130,000 to its close neighbor of more than 13 million. Our first visit is to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, one of the highlights of Tokyo architecture, for a brief Q&A about the challenges that Japan faces and their proposed solutions. We continue our exploration of Japan’s history with a visit to the Edo-Tokyo museum, carrying us up to the period surrounding the Second World War. Dinner, however, is the pinnacle of modernity applied to tradition: conveyor belt sushi.
Day Three (Tokyo)
We make an early morning pilgrimage to the largest fish market in the history of the world: Tokyo’s bustling Tsukiji Fish Market, large enough to supply fresh fish to all of Tokyo. Afterward, a visit to the Showa-kan Museum gives us an opportunity to discuss life for the Japanese during and after WWII, and how that war affected the country and the lives of the average citizen.
Then, focusing on the present, we meet with foreign businesspeople in Tokyo to discuss the risks and rewards of doing business in the Japanese marketplace as a non-Japanese.
Day Four (Tokyo)
Today, we visit two of the most talked-about shrines in Japan. The first is the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to Japan’s war dead, where all (including war criminals) are revered as national heroes. We take this opportunity to explore the museum’s right-wing revisionist museum, the Yushukan, and discuss its implications on personal, national, and international levels.
Next, we visit the iconic Meiji Shrine: the most heavily visited shrine in the country, yet still an oasis of serenity in the center of Tokyo. In the area surrounding Meiji Shrine, we explore Yoyogi park, a massive wooded public space where weekend musicians escape their confined apartments; and Harajuku, the teenage fashion center of Japan.
Day Five (Tokyo)
After spending the morning visiting one of the largest and most beautiful Buddhist Temples in Tokyo, Senso-ji, we spend the day immersed in Japanese crafts through the ages. We visit the Aoyama Traditional Craft Center or the Japan Traditional Craft Center to learn about ceramics, mosaics, and paper products, and then take a short trip to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka City to learn more about the magic of Japanese animation. Finally, we spend the evening with student guides among the bright lights of Akihabara’s “Electric City,” Tokyo’s massive electronics district.
Day Six (Sendai)
Today, we wake early to travel by Shinkansen (bullet train) to Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture, the largest city in the Tohoku (Northeast) Region of Japan and the largest city to sustain major damage from 2011’s earthquake and tsunami. We visit the Miyagi Prefectural Building to learn about issues surrounding prevention and mitigation of such large-scale natural disasters in such a populated area, view some of the major progress Sendai has made, and take in a Rakuten Eagles baseball game.
Day Seven (Sendai)
We take this opportunity to explore some of the industries that contributed to Japan’s economic prosperity, and visit the factories of Megumilk and Shinkansen, before talking with students in Tohoku University’s famous semiconductor laboratories.
We also speak with a Sendai police officer about the complex challenges of policing during a major natural disaster, and how to prepare for it.
Day Eight (Shichigahama)
We take a short trip just outside of Sendai to Shichigahama, a small beach town which lost 4,000 houses in the tsunami, to understand some of the precautions against tsunami, and the difficulties of recovering from a major natural disaster with a limited budget. We tour destroyed areas and landfills, but also a rebuilt power plant and new neighborhoods, before participating in a free knitting class that began as a project in the town’s temporary emergency housing.
For dinner, we enjoy a barbecue on the beach and are joined by local residents and other visiting foreigners.
Day Nine (Sendai)
The Tohoku Region produces rice for consumption across Japan and the world, and we meet with farmers to learn about the policies that dictate how they distribute their crop. We also get to try our hand at some of the daily tasks of farmers.
Day Ten (Matsushima)
We are joined by Matsushima Goodwill Ambassadors on a trip to Matsushima, one of the Three Views of Japan. There, we tour some of the local specialty aquaculture (oysters and nori farms), experience the uniquely-shaped islands which partially protected the town during the tsunami, and hike up local hills to get a wide view of Matsushima Bay. We also tour the temple and grounds of Zuiganji, and visit its mausoleum caves built in the 13th century.
Day Eleven (Sendai)
Today, we explore issues with demographics and aging. We visit a nursing facility to speak with residents and nurses, meet with “home helpers,” who provide assistance to patients all over the area, and visit a child-rearing support center, which provides support to new mothers and young children.
Day Twelve (Minami Sanriku)
We spend this day doing informational interviews about disaster preparedness. We tour Minami Sanriku, which was affected greatly by 2011’s tsunami, and talk about the preparedness drills that they performed, understanding that they were susceptible to a tsunami. We learn about their early warning systems and visit a school to experience the tsunami drills that the students have to practice.
Day Thirteen (Sendai)
The northeast of Japan produces food for the domestic and export markets, and on this day, we visit a farm for one of Japan’s luxury foods: designer beef. We experience how the pampered cattle live, and talk with the ranchers about what it takes to differentiate and market a specialty product like beef. While we’re in Yamagata, we also get to experience an ephemeral summer treat, a giant field of sunflowers, before heading off to climb the 1,015 stone steps of Yamadera Temple, perched at the top of a Mountain.
Day Fourteen (Shiogama)
Today, we explore Japan’s fishing industry. We begin the day with a trip to Shiogama Shrine, overlooking Shiogama Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond, which offers blessings to the many fishing ships who call at the port. Next, we browse the cavernous Shiogama Fish Market, where we speak with fishermen and vendors to gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the fish industry to Japan. We also add to our new knowledge of fish with a sushi making class, utilizing some of the fresh catch from the market. We spend our last evening together back in Narita City, where we first got to know each other as a group. After a thorough review of the trip, we take the opportunity to do last-minute shopping, before finishing the evening in a Japanese way: sharing a meal and then singing karaoke together.
Day Fifteen (Travel back home)
International flights home.