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Sapporo, Higashikawa, Tokyo, Japan

Program Description

Japanese children score very high on tests, but what does their school day look like? How does the Japanese Education system actually work? What does it take to be a teacher in Japan? What are the differences between the Japanese and American educational systems? These are a few of the questions you will be able to answer after spending time in the local schools of Higashikawa.

Every day in Higashikawa, you will have the opportunity to observe classes, interactions and routines of a Japanese school. You will assist in English lessons, present about the United States, and introduce games and activities prevalent in American elementary schools.  In addition, students will meet with local education leaders to discuss educational policies, standards, accountability and arts education. These community leaders will include members of the Board of Education, the Mayor of Higashikawa, representatives from the GLOBE and Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programs.

You will also have the opportunity to experience numerous traditional Japanese cultural activities, including: tea ceremony, kimono wearing, Japanese pottery, onsens (Japanese hot baths/springs), kendo, taiko drums, and the world-renown cuisine. While spending time with your host family, you will also be able to experience daily life in Japan.

Before arriving and after leaving Higashikawa, you will visit Sapporo the home to settlements of the indigenous Ainu people historical merchant capital of Japan, and Tokyo Japan’s busy capital, which mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples.

As an aspiring teacher, it is important to study and compare educational systems from various different cultural viewpoints. This trip will give you that opportunity and provide you with horizon-broadening experiences in a different culture.

Challenge your stereotypes and assumptions about Japan and its people. It will be a once in a lifetime experience.

Location Description

You will spend two weeks in Higashikawa, Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the northernmost island in Japan with beautiful, untouched nature and natural treasures. Higashikawa is known as the Town of Photography and is the gateway to the Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest in Japan. It encompasses a massive cluster of volcanic peaks, rolling highlands, and scenic gorges, with the highest peak in Hokkaido, Mt. Asahidake. Higashikawa is one of the most progressive towns in Japan, putting a lot of effort into developing international partnerships and is becoming a leader in global education.

After leaving Higashikawa, we will visit Tokyo. Is there any city in the world today more intriguing than Tokyo? Other capitals may be more beautiful, more cultured, more sane—better, without question, at serving their function as preserves of art and history. But Tokyo is no museum. It is a laboratory. The air pulsates with a spirit of experimentation.

Before arriving Higashikawa, we will visit Sapporo. Sapporo is the fifth largest city of Japan by population, and the largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. It is the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture and Ishikari Subprefecture. Sapporo is known for its fabulous skiing and annual Sapporo Snow Festival featuring enormous ice sculptures and is the birthplace of miso ramen. While in Sapporo we will visit its numerous parks and participate in the Yosakoi Soran Festival, the annual dance festival.


Pat Kennedy | | Early, Elementary, Reading Education

Una Volkova | | Early, Elementary, Reading Education


In Sapporo and Tokyo students and faculty will be staying in hotels/ryokans.  In Higashikawa, students will spend 3 nights with host families. Higashikawa Town Hall owns a guest house where students and faculty will stay for the remaining nights.  Students will stay in double rooms. Internet access will be available in the hotels/ryokans and the Town Hall guest house. 

While in Higashikawa schools, lunch will be eaten at school and will be paid for by program funds. While staying with host families breakfast and dinner will be provided, at no cost the participants. While staying in the guest house cooking facilities are available, we will prepare our own meals and will have Japanese cooking lessons.  Supplies for these meals will be covered by program costs. There will be weekly group meals at local restaurants to discuss educational philosophy and teaching strategies witnessed in the local schools. These meals will be paid for by program funds.

While in Sapporo and Tokyo we will eat authentic Japanese meals at local restaurants. For these meals students will be given a stipend or group meals will be planned and paid for by program funds. 

Additional Items to Consider

A valid passport is required of U.S. citizens. No visa is required for tourists who intend to stay in Japan for less than ninety days.

Though the situation is improving slowly, many places in Japan do not readily accept credit cards. It's important to have enough cash on hand when traveling around Japan. 7-11's in Japan have international ATMs that allow cash withdrawals from foreign bank accounts.

​Tentative Itinerary

June 11-13 in Sapporo

June 13-27 in Higashikawa

June 27-30 in Tokyo

​An informational meeting will be held for interested students. Contact Pat Kennedy for details.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

No language requirement

Prerequisite: Completion of undergraduate program or permission of the instructor.

Rising seniors and graduate students

This program is best intended for IDLS majors minoring in education.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short Essay 
  • Interview with Program Director
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


ELED 501: Cross Cultural Study of Elementary Education in Japan (3 credits)

ELED 510: Comparative Study of Creativity in US and Japanese Schools (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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