Japan Discovery and Service
$5,695 + Airfare + $600 RailPass
Jun 27 – Jul 13, Jul 13 – Jul 29
Session 2, Session 3
9, 10, 11, 12
|Who can go on this trip?||
Students from around the world!
Tokyo, Enoshima, Tohno, Nikko, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Miyajima
|Optional group flight there:||
Los Angeles to Tokyo
|Optional group flight back:||
Tokyo to Los Angeles
Join TFT on this journey to the Land of The Rising Sun! Japan is full of ancient cultures, strong traditions, and technology of the future. Perform meaningful community service in Tono – an area devastated by the Tsunami of 2011. You will enjoy a cultural exchange with teens from a local high school, spend a day in the rice fields and engage with the people who call Tono home.
In addition to our service work you will feel the evocative sites of Hiroshima, be enthralled by a national Sumo wrestling tournament, taste the best Sushi of your life and be part of the scramble at the world-famous Shibuya crossing. From the flashy cityscape of Tokyo to the peaceful temples of Kyoto and the majesty of Mt. Fuji, Japan will astonish even the most well-traveled students.
On this trip you will:
- Earn 20 hours of service credit volunteering with a local community on a variety of projects, including a cultural exchange at a Japanese high school
- Visit the Ghibli Museum, Miyazaki’s world famous anime museum
- Eat the best sushi of your life at the Tsukiji Fish Market!
- Become the next karate kid with a lesson in traditional Japanese martial arts
- Get a bird’s eye view of the largest city on earth from the top of the Tokyo Municipal Building
- Participate in a traditional tea ceremony (the best way to learn about Japanese culture)
- Relax in a traditional Japanese hot spring
- Shop the incredible markets of Tokyo and Kyoto
- Drum away to your hearts content at a traditional Taiko lesson
- Spend a night out in Tokyo doing what the locals do–sing your heart out at karaoke
- See the famous Toshu-gu shrine; a UNESCO World Heritage site and home of the “See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil” monkeys
- Experience the visceral realities of war and learn about the dangers of nuclear proliferation at the Hiroshima Peace Museum
- Visit the great Torii gate at Miyajima’s Itsukushima Shrine, one of Japan’s most famous views
- Ride the high speed rails in a nation of trains. No country does trains like Japan!
- Enjoy amazing and beautiful food in a country where cooking is an art form
- Try to spot a Geisha or Maiko in the traditional city of Kyoto
DAY 1: DEPART LOS ANGELES (FOR THOSE WHO OPT TO TAKE THE GROUP FLIGHT)
DAYS 2 – 5: TOKYO
Our adventure begins amidst the bustling streets and sparkling lights of Tokyo. Visit Miyazaki’s animation studio where classics like Princess Mononoke, Laputa, and Totoro were created. Hit up the famous Akihabara area, home to video games, anime, and manga, and shop in the colorful Harajuku District. Head to the top of the government building for incredible views of the city and stare in awe at Shibuya Crossing, the busiest street crossing in the world! Wander through the world famous Japanese fish market and visit several stunning shrines. And no trip to Tokyo would be complete without tasting everything this bustling city has to offer, including ramen, sushi, and teppanyaki!
DAYS 5 – 11: NIKKO AND VOLUNTEERING IN TONO
After exploring fast paced Tokyo, it’s time to slow it down a bit by journeying up north to the sacred site of Nikko to visit the Toshu-gu Shrine. After marveling at Nikko’s iconic red bridge, we will enjoy a relaxing hike through the tranquil countryside to discover the natural beauty of Northern Japan.
The charming town of Tono is home to Japanese mythology and folklore, including the mysterious Kappa water fairies! After hearing some traditional Japanese tales (and maybe even going on a kappa hunt!) we will participate in a variety of sustainability projects, as well as a special cultural exchange with a local high school. We will spend time shadowing the students and discovering what a typical day is like in a Japanese high school. You will have the chance to join them in a variety of their classes, including English class where you may be helping them with presentations or other projects! You can expect to form valuable friendships with these students and learn more about the Japanese language and culture.
To cap off our time in Tono, we will visit the area devastated by the 2011 tsunami. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past, discover what current efforts are being made to get the area back to normal, and look towards the future. Students will leave Tono feeling like they had a true cultural experience, as well as the opportunity to see first-hand the impact a natural disaster can have on a community and learn ways to assist in relief efforts.
DAY 11: Nagoya
Enroute to Hiroshima we will stop in Nagoya to learn more about a well known traditional Japanese art…Karate!
We will visit a local dojo where you will learn from certified instructors and even be assisted by some of their regular students! This is a great opportunity to get hands on with this well-loved Japanese art and interact with the locals. You will learn a variety of moves, including kicks, strikes, stances, and even how to chop a piece of wood!
Our karate class is meant to be fun and a way to further explore Japanese culture. No skills are necessary to participate. Students who are currently practicing Karate at home are encouraged to show off their moves!
DAYS 11 – 16: HIROSHIMA AND KYOTO
Our last two stops bring us to Hiroshima and Kyoto. Hiroshima today is dedicated to bringing peace to the world, a direct result of the destruction the atomic bomb brought to it during WWII. During our time here we will have the special opportunity to meet with a local survivor and hear his or her perspective on this tragic event. Every year our students are moved by hearing such a personal and emotional story, and come away with a greater understanding of the effects of WWII. In past years, our groups have even had the unique opportunity to be interviewed and featured on the local news for our global perspective!
In Hiroshima we will also visit the stunning island of Miyajima. This island is home to the symbolic “floating” Torri gate that appears to be gracefully standing in the water during high tide. On Miyajima we will enjoy wandering through a local food market and also explore some of the natural beauty the island has to offer. Miyajima also happens to be home to a plethora of friendly deer. Don’t be surprised if one (or several!) comes up to you looking for you to pet them. Don’t worry, they don’t bite!
After Hiroshima it’s on to Japan’s cultural gem: Kyoto. This charming city is famous for its beautiful temples and shrines and we will have several days to explore its stunning golden temple, tranquil rock gardens, and ornate palaces.
Our time in Kyoto will also be very interactive. After learning about Geishas, we will go for an evening Geisha walk to spot them strolling about the historical city center. We will experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and learn exactly what is involved with this ancient art. We will also enjoy a fun and exciting Taiko lesson, where we will learn to play these traditional Japanese drums with instructors in a fun and easy to learn format. To cap off our lesson we might even have a drum battle!
Kyoto will also include plenty of opportunities to shop and play arcade games. Students who are brave enough will also be able to showcase their singing skills at a local karaoke hotspot!
DAY 16-17: Last day in TOKYO
After leaving Kyoto we will have time for one last day in Tokyo to see whatever we may have missed the first time around before heading home. Whether it is shopping, exploring more temples, more arcade time, or getting in a few more bites of our favorite Japanese delicacies, our last day will be the perfect way to cap off an unforgettable journey.
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Tokyo we stay at a centrally located hotel, close to the metro and major sights, perfect for exploring the city. In Nikko we stay at a peaceful inn on the riverside conveniently placed for exploring the UNESCO world heritage sights of the area. Our accommodation in Tohno is a lovely hotel right in town. In Hiroshima we stay at a traditional Ryokan, walking distance to the world-famous landmarks. Our accommodation in the heart of historical Kyoto is a well-situated three star hotel.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a trip.
Do most travelers go by themselves?
Yes, in fact over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new BFFs on another TFT trip the next summer!
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students generally like most on this program?
Students love this trip because they get to explore Japanese culture in so many ways! Japanese food, anime, sumo and other cultural forms are very popular in other parts of the world, our students love exploring them in their home country and comparing them their experiences with them at home. Students are also often deeply impacted by the community service portion of this trip which both gives back to the community and is a tremendous learning experience.
What is unique about this program?
This program offers unique insider access to both the old and new of marvelous Japan through an itinerary planned to maximize the cultural experience and executed by TFT’s experienced and energetic team. The volunteer experience and its surrounding setting are truly once in a lifetime.
What is included?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, chaperones and guides, trip related activities, trip related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not Included: (not intended to be an exhaustive list) Airfare, rail passes, visas & visa application fees, beverages other than tap water, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not trip related such as movies, clubs and the like, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the trip description such as damage to hotels, excess baggage fees and the like, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances such as transportation strikes, natural disasters and the like, personal and medical expenses.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this trip’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the trip starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on trips that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.
Who are the counselors on the trip?
The Trip Director for every trip is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.
It is the job of the counselors to keep the trip fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Trips may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
All of our staff members attend a week long training session every May to prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.
What is the average group size?
At Travel for Teens, our trips typically fall into 3 different size categories.
Small: 7-14 students where 14 is the maximum.
Medium: Average is between 14-21 students with 21 as the maximum. Large: Trips 21-35 students. These are our largest trips.
Typically Japan Discovery and Service falls into the small range, but trip sizes differ from year to year.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Most of our Asia programs are designed specifically so that participants can combine them with other trips in the region as well as Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. If you are connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the trip and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.
What is the food like on this trip?
In a word – Delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
Japanese cuisine is light and flavorful, it is meant to be eaten with the eyes as well as the mouth. Like many countries, Japan has a national cuisine and also has local specialties in each province. A basic in the Japanese diet is rice, they eat it with almost every meal and it tastes great. While many foreigners think of Sushi first (and we will have some of the best sushi on earth!), it is just one of many awesome Japanese foods. Seafood is definitely an important staple of the Japanese diet, but dishes containing pork, beef, and chicken are also common. Japanese also like to eat a lot of vegetables, they serve them steamed, grilled, or fried (Tempura). Ramen and other dishes involving soba, udon, or other noodles are also there for the tasting. Most dishes are easy to eat with chopsticks if you want to give it a try!
We also love to have Bento (Japanese lunch boxes) while we are out on the town from time to time, they are delicious and a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this trip?
We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group nearly always. Everyday we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. We do offer some free time to do some shopping, for example, in defined areas that we are very familiar with. If participants are ever shopping by themselves within these defined areas they go in groups and for no more than an hour. On this trip, the group will have some free time to explore some of the safe pedestrian areas of Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohno, Hakone, and Hiroshima. A counselor will always be nearby when participants have free time in each city and a lifeguard certified counselor whenever students are in the water.
What kind of Visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters Japan does not need a visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!