2021 Cass Technical High School Japan Cultural Journey
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What to Expect
Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.
We do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group.
|1||USA - Tokyo||Today the group will depart from the US to Tokyo, Japan.||Airplane|
|2||Tokyo||Say konnichiwa to your Smithsonian Student Adventures Leader, your expert on all things Japan and your travel partner for the duration of the program. At your hotel, throw on a yukata robe, pour a cup of green tea, and put your feet up to relax after a long day of travel. But don't relax too much! Before long we are off to explore the bustling streets of Shinjuku. See people enjoying meals at one of the 200+ eateries in Golden Gai alley or Godzilla towering over buildings in Kabukicho. Have a genuine ramen experience at one of Japan's most popular chains. End the day at the observatory deck on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan office. You may be able to see Mt. Fuji lit by the setting sun.||Super Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho|
|3||Tokyo||After breakfast visit Shinjuku Central Park. Then visit Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. Pass through the Meiji Shrine's sacred torii, a gateway to Japan's traditional architecture. Explore the grounds of the shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji. We'll also check out the heart of Tokyo's fashion and pop culture. Takeshita street, located across from Harajuku station, is lined with many trendy stores and boutiques on every side street. Mingle with chic teens, snap photos of Tokyo's wildest trends, and pick up a few pieces for yourself. You'll get a firsthand perspective on Japanese pop culture from a your leader as he or she guides you through Harajuku's hidden backstreets. Get a hands-on intro to Japanese food culture at a local restaurant. You'll learn to grill up perfect okonomiyaki, a tasty pancake made from eggs and cabbage, piled with your choice of toppings and sauce. Spend an hour walking around Yoyogi park playing with one of the canine residents of the Dog Heart Cafe. Head to Shibuya station and meet Hachiko. Together you can watch the phenomenon that is Shibuya crossing.||Super Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho|
|4||Tokyo - Hiroshima||Say "Say_nara" to Tokyo and depart for Hiroshima. We will be traveling on a Japanese bullet train , which will cut down our travel time from nine hours of driving to five hours through the countryside. Once in Hiroshima, we will go out for an evening of Japanese hot pot for dinner while preparing for our visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with an orientation and overview of the history of the city.||Urbain Hiroshima Central|
|5||Hiroshima||Today, we will visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park , which contains a museum, the remnants of buildings destroyed by the 1945 atomic bomb and monuments to the people killed by this nuclear attack. We'll also make our way to Miyajima , known for Itsukushima ShrineÕs giant Tori Gate which appears to float on top of the water.||Urbain Hiroshima Central|
|6||Hiroshima - Kyoto||We will travel to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan for over 1000 years , to learn about the temples, castles, and districts that make this one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We will stretch our legs by taking an early evening tour of Gion, one of the oldest areas in Kyoto made famous by its old wooden teahouses where practicing Geisha and other artists can still be seen in the neighborhood.||Local Ryokan|
|7||Kyoto||Today we will visit the beautiful Arashiyama. We will take a train ride on the Sagano railway. The train runs along the Hozu river providing amazing scenery. After the train ride we will take a walk through the famous bamboo forest. Near the bamboo forest is the famous zen temple, Tenruji. It has beautiful traditional gardens. After a soba lunch at the scenic riverside Yoshimura students can interact with monkeys that live in Arashiyama mountains. At the top of the mountain, there is a feeding station where students can purchase apples, sweet potatoes or bananas to feed the monkeys. After it gets dark students will take a boat cruise to observe Ukai, cormorant fishing (depending on when the fishing season begins/ends). This is an old practice of fishing using birds and a path lit by fire. Return to the hotel to get some much needed rest!||Local Ryokan|
|8||Kyoto||Head south to Kyoto's green tea capital, Uji, and visit the Phoenix Hall in Byodoin temple. This temple is featured on the 10 yen coin. Visit the Byodoin museum and learn about the temple's history. After viewing the Uji bridge we will head to Fushimi Inari Taisha. Located on the Inari mountain this shrine has more than 5000 bright orange tori gates. Each gate was donated by a Japanese business. Enjoy counting the gates as you climb the mountain, taking in the beautiful scenery. Watch out for fox gods and to visit the mini shrines you'll encounter along the way. In the afternoon stroll down Shijo Dori and check out the many stores. You may be able to find some souvenirs.||Local Ryokan|
|9||Kamakura||Very early in the morning, we will board the shinkansen back to Tokyo. In the afternoon, we will lace up our hiking shoes and explore the bamboo groves of Hokokuji Temple. We will visit Daibutsu, the second largest bronze Buddha in Japan and end the day by taking a well-deserved break from all the movement by relaxing on Yuigahama beach. We'll also enjoy our final dinner together. Last but not least we will sing our hearts out at karaoke before our international flight the following morning.||Super Hotel Shinjuku Kabukicho|
|10||Tokyo - USA||Fly home||Your own bed, eventually!|
Need to Raise Money? We Have You Covered.
Our travelers are provided with funding opportunities that are easy to implement and fun to take part in. Our flagship fundraiser involves selling fair trade, organic, carbon-neutral coffee from a women’s collective in Peru. There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so get started now by clicking the link below!
In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.
Urbain Hiroshima Central Hotel
Attractively located in the Hiroshima City Centre district, this modern, elegant hotel is also conveniently close to the some of the city’s main attractions. Students will be able to put on a kettle of tea and relax in slippers in their rooms between visits to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park or the Atomic Bomb Dome nearby. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
This centrally located, traditional style Japanese hotel with Tatami mats and futon beds immerses students in a cultural experience. Famous for its long established restaurant on site, students will surely enjoy the traditional cuisine of fresh fish in between adventures in Kamakura. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Super Hotel Tokyo JR Kamata Nishiguchi
Start the day here with a traditional Japanese breakfast before setting out to explore Tokyo. This clean, three star accommodation provides modern amenities and a comfortable experience for all guests. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here.
Remember that Walking Tree is not responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.
We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure but travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure but for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure, please contact your Group Organizer/s.
FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.
Host Community and Project Details
What follows is a sample packing list, which will be updated for each program. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.
Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
6 pairs of underwear
Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
T-shirts (some quick dry)
Long sleeve shirts
Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
Comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
Nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions)
Durable athletic/hiking shoes
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Band Aids and Neosporin
Medication in properly marked original container
Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Alarm Clock and watch
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle
1 quick-dry towel
Deck of cards or other portable games
Host family gift
Travelers often contact us regarding what an appropriate gift might be for their student’s host family. Host families are often curious about where our students come from and their families in the U.S. As such, we recommend a simple gift that describes, represents or depicts your home. Well-received gifts in the past have included calendars or picture/coffee table books from your city or state, a framed picture of your family, paraphernalia from a local sports team, toys, soccer balls, school supplies, or something produced or grown in your hometown, like chocolate, local candy, t-shirts, etc. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to worry about this… Anything, no matter its value, will be well received!
At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO
Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government
While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.
Japan Country Director
Pratt Institute – Industrial Design
Alicia was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. At the age of 11, she traveled to the United States to pursue an international education. Today, Alicia resides in Tokyo, Japan with her family where she works as an entrepreneurial and furniture designer. Alicia is good at adopting to new environments and learning new languages and cultures. Outgoing and adventurous, Alicia is passionate about making new connections and helping others in any way she can. Together with her Japanese husband and daughter, Alicia travels throughout different places in Japan. Alicia and her husband both share a passion for finding local treasures and having a good time.
Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.
Blog and Communication
During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program. Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.
Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.
Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.
Standards of Behavior
In order to run a safe and successful program, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with us.
Health and Safety
We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Japan website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.
Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.
Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.
We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.
While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers on program, experience has taught us that travel can come with risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider protecting their trip and travel investment by purchasing a travel protection plan with a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) provision.
To make this process as easy as possible, we have partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry. Begin by taking a few minutes to get a quote here.
IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of the date your initial payment or your deposit for your trip is received. You must also insure 100% of the prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that are subject to cancellation penalties or restrictions and cancel 48 hours or more before your scheduled trip departure date. Please note that CFAR is not available to residents of New York.