Memorable student trips packed with culture, nature, and fun
Last updated: December 21, 2020
Give your students the educational experience of a lifetime with a school trip to Gunma. The prefecture’s beautiful scenery and rural lifestyle provide authentic experiences that can’t be had in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Gunma Prefecture facilitates school exchanges mainly for high school students (ages 16-18), with the opportunity to interact with local students, try cultural activities, soak in onsen, and enjoy an outdoor adventure. Gunma’s convenient location, just an hour from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train), makes it easy to combine with a Tokyo-area itinerary including such sights as Tokyo Disneyland, the historic Asakusa neighborhood, and the well-preserved townscape of Kawagoe.
Students can experience fun, hands-on activities that will introduce them to local culture. To learn about craft and traditions, students can watch the artisans at Daimonya Co., Ltd. crafting Daruma dolls—a traditional symbol of good luck—followed by an opportunity to paint their own. Usaburo Kokeshi offers a similar experience for wooden kokeshi dolls, a classic Japanese figurine. At Takuminosato, a collection of rural villages filled with craft-making workshops, students can participate in activities such as dyeing, woodworking, or traditional mask painting. Making soba (buckwheat noodles) is a particularly popular choice.
Experience local lifestyles with an overnight stay in a farmhouse in Minakami. Talk with the friendly hosts and dine on traditional meals made with ingredients from the surrounding area. During the stay, engage in farm activities like rice planting, rice harvesting, and vegetable picking.
For students interested in design, engineering, or manufacturing, visit the Subaru visitor center in Ota. Most of Subaru’s car factories are located in Gunma, and automobile production is an important part of the area’s modern culture and economy. Student groups can enjoy a tour of the visitor center and see the assembly line in action.
No trip to Gunma is complete without bathing in a natural hot spring—a blessing of the mountainous landscape and a significant part of local culture. Stay in a traditional-style ryokan inn in the picturesque onsen towns of Kusatsu or Ikaho to enjoy bathing, locally sourced cuisine, and sleeping on a futon atop tatami mat floors. Stroll through the town in a yukata robe to become fully immersed in the atmosphere.
Head to Kusatsu’s Netsunoyu for a water-stirring performance called “yumomi.” Because the water is too hot for bathing, it is cooled using long wooden paddles in a rhythmic, dance-like ceremony accompanied by folk songs. After watching, students can grab a paddle and participate in yumomi themselves.
In Ikaho, explore the sights around the town's stone steps. Try local delicasies, tama konnyaku (ball-shaped konjac jelly on sticks) and onsen manju, drink onsen water from a drinking station, see the views from Ikaho-jinja Shrine and enjoy a game at one of the town's retro shooting galleries.
Gunma’s towering mountains, clear rivers, and distinct seasons make it the perfect destination for outdoor adventure. A particular highlight for visitors from areas without cold winters is the ability to play in the snow (usually December–March). Visit one of the many ski resorts for a thrilling day or half day on the slopes. Several resorts provide ski lessons as well as other snow activities.
Come in warmer seasons for guided whitewater rafting trips, which are safe and exciting, and help build teamwork within the group. For a more relaxed pace, students can enjoy picking and eating strawberries, cherries, grapes, or apples (depending on the season) at Kajitsu no Harada Farm and other fruit orchards.
The highlight of a Gunma school trip is a day spent at a local school, connecting with students. The prefecture matches local schools with schools from overseas and arranges students of the same age to interact for a half or full day. The day consists of a welcome party, chatting time, participation in classes and club activities, and a farewell reception. Depending on the host school students exchange with, they can experience Japanese culture, such as tea ceremony, kyudo, or playing the koto. During their time at the school, students can foster friendships across countries through conversations about shared topics: school life, classes, and even video games and social media. The conversations will be in English, with the occasional help of smartphone translation apps.