The best part of school, in my opinion, were the field trips. For us, it was generally a day trip which can be done in one day but for Japanese students, their field trips can be much longer. Two nights and three days longer for example. Another great thing about Japanese trips is that there wasn’t an educational justification for taking the trip unlike American schools where trips have to have educational purposes and students must later write about it or do science experiments. Trips for Japanese school students are made so students may enjoy nature, enjoy group life, and generally just enjoy and experience the journey.
A lot of preparation is made before the trip from setting up schedules, reassuring parents, making sure all students are healthy enough to take the trip, and of course packing for the trip. Materials students generally need to bring include several sets of clothes, a hat, school name tag, a jacket, comfortable shoes, rain gear, towel, a knapsack with five or six additional plastic bags, tissue paper, toilet paper, gloves, pajamas, underwear, several pairs of socks, a sweater, toiletries, medicine, pencil, eraser, the guidebook to where they are going, indoor-only shoes, a cleaning rag, an apron, a mask for serving food, a boxed lunch for the first day of traveling to their destination, a pocket songbook, handkerchiefs, a notebook, newspaper, thermometer, something to sit on, water bottle, flashlight, hand towels, colored pencils, a sketch book, postcards, and games.
From one book I was reading, a school trip back in the 90′s for 5th Graders cost 9,000 yen (about $106 USD) with an additional 1,000 yen for souvenir money per student. This included transportation, food, and lodging. Regarding that knapsack I mentioned in the list above, students actually sew that knapsack themselves in home economics class in preparation for the trip. It’s made of sturdy material and from what I’ve read, it’s very durable and can lasts for years. Students are all expected to handle and carry their bags themselves.
Going back to the schedule, each student and parent is given a copy so that all may know what they are expected to do each day. It lists where each child will be sleeping in what room, what duties they were assigned and what days and time they are expected to do them, when they can bathe, their assigned seats during dinner, their bus seat, and what time meals are served. It may sound very rigid but this is so everything runs smoothly, students know what is expected of them, and teachers will not be running around reminding everyone of their duties or what is happening next.
Here is a snippet of a day’s schedule for students on a trip:
6:30 get up, wash, put away bedding
7:00 cleaning assignments, take temperature
7:30 morning meeting
8:00 breakfast, pick up box lunches, outside play
9:00 hiking – a choice of several trails; what to put in the knapsack: towel, jacket, rain gear, lunch, water bottle, snack, gloves, something to sit on, garbage container, toilet paper; in case of rain: activities in the center
3:30 return to Nature Center, milk and snack
5:00 evening meeting, flag lowering
6:30 study meeting
8:00 baths, journal, letters
9:00 get ready for bed
9:30 go to bed
10:00 lights out