Japan Trips

Japan Trips

The Japanese Connections Course and Study Tour

The Japanese Connections Course and Study Tour has been an annual event since 2001. Originally the program was begun with a one-year grant that Mrs. Patricia Burleson and Mr. Kurt Jacobs obtained from the Freeman Foundation. Starting that year and continuing through the spring of 2015, the Freeman Foundation has been very generous in funding the program. 

Prior to that first year, Lopez School had established a sister-school relationship with Ieshima Island Junior High School. The Ieshima Islands are an archipelago of islands in the Inland Sea just off the city of Himeji, very similar to our San Juan Islands located just off the mainland from the city of Anacortes. 

Acceptance into the program is by application, and is usually open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Successful applicants participate in after-school classes and meet several times on weekends. Grades are given for the course and study tour and are dependent upon completion of assigned projects like journal entries, research papers, and project presentations.

Students read two novel-length books and several texts and learn travel and language skills prior to travel in the spring. Our program teaches about Japanese culture and prepares students to look beneath the “cultural iceberg” when they are in Japan. When in Japan, students keep daily journals based on their observations. Upon return, they use their journal entries, reading notes, and memories to respond to reflection questions. The students’ reflections, presentations, photographs and videos are shared within our local community.

For the first 7 years of the program, each study tour took 14 – 20 students. Now, most study tours take 8 students (4 from Lopez, 4 from Orcas) and four teachers:  Mrs. Burleson (director of the program), Mr. Burleson (language and culture specialist), Mrs. Hellar (Orcas teacher), Mr. Behnke and Ms. Terada (Lopez teachers).

To date, the Japanese Connections Program has introduced Japanese culture and people to more than 160 students and 22 teachers from Anacortes, Lopez Island and Orcas Island School Districts. In addition, it has hosted more than 40 students and teachers from the island of Ieshima, our sister-island in Japan. On three separate occasions, it has helped fund study tours from Japan, hosted them on Lopez, and shown them around the state of Washington. Most of these students and teachers had never been out of Japan prior to this.

Our 14 day study tour visits many of the same places each year. The highlights include:

  • Tokyo and surrounding areas such as Nikko. 
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
  • Miyajima Island, off the coast of Hiroshima, where we stay in a traditional Japanese Inn

·         Kyoto with its famous temples and shrines

  • Nara with Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden structure
  • Ieshima Junior High School

Side trips and adventure days are an important aspect of the trip. We usually include two adventure days where students visit places they have researched that pertain to their projects. Students are supplied with a Japan Rail Pass, which covers nearly all rail travel. Teachers carry Japanese cell phones, and can be contacted at any time. Our students have explored all over Japan, from Fukuoka in the far south to Nikko and Mashiko in the mountains north of Tokyo. 

The Japanese Connections Study Tour is grant funded by the Freeman Foundation and is dependent upon those funds to continue. Thus far they have liked our results and have funded us for 15 study tours. Through our project reports and proposals, we hopethey will continue to see the value of the program and we will be able to continue to offer the education and travel this program provides.


April 2015 Facebook page

April 2009 Trip Slides

2011 Trip Slides

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