Rikuzentakata Project


Program Dates: August 23-31, 2024 Japan Time (including arrival / departure)
Open to: US undergraduate and graduate university students 18 and older (2024 graduates and rising freshmen also eligible)
Location: Ikebukuro, Tokyo and Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture
Application Deadline: Extended to May 19, 2024!

SDGs x Rikuzentakata x YOU

US university students are invited to join a seven-day project-based learning program with students from Rikkyo University (Tokyo, Japan), The University of Hong Kong, and the National University of Singapore to explore the city of Rikuzentakata, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Through guest speakers, site visits, immersive activities, and team projects, participants will learn about the community’s journey of recovery and vision of creating a more sustainable future. Participants will discuss the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and collaborate cross-culturally to present their reflections on sustainable community development.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand social issues in rural Japan through the lens of disaster recovery.
  • Develop a global perspective on community implications of disaster recovery.
  • Explore SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and consider how its targets may be applied in different contexts to develop more sustainable communities.
  • Build connections with peers from the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

This program is facilitated in partnership with Rikkyo University, and in association with The University of Hong Kong’s Centre of Development and Resources for Students and National University of Singapore.

Rikkyo University Logo HKU CEDARS Logo NUS Logo


Rikuzentakata Project Presentation by VIA Programs

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Program Participation Fee: $900

We strongly believe in providing accessible and inclusive learning opportunities. We will consider financial need-based discounts on a case-by-case basis. If you have concerns about the cost of participating, please contact Program Director Yuki Ueda (yuki@viaprograms.org).

Program fee includes:

  • Travel
    • International travel insurance
    • Shinkansen (bullet train) transportation between Tokyo and Rikuzentakata
    • Local transportation in Rikuzentakata for program activities
  • Lodging
    • 4 nights in Tokyo (August 23, 24, 29, 30)
    • 4 nights in Rikuzentakata (August 25, 26, 27, 28)
  • Meals
    • Breakfasts and some group meals in Rikuzentakata
  • Support, Learning, and Connections
    • 24-hour on-site support from VIA and Rikkyo staff
    • Training, lectures, and mentorship from peers and experts, including Rikkyo University faculty, VIA staff, and Rikuzentakata community members
    • Opportunities to expand your intercultural communication skills and build friendships across cultures
    • Connections to an international network of VIA alumni who provide support, inspiration, and opportunities to collaborate

Expenses not included in program fee:

  • Passport application / renewal and visa-related costs, if applicable
  • Airfare to travel to / return from Tokyo (participants are responsible for arranging their own transportation to arrive in Tokyo by August 23 and depart from Tokyo on/after August 31)
  • Local transportation in Tokyo (to/from airport and within city)
  • International phone plan or travel SIM card
  • Most lunches and dinners
  • Personal travel expenses (e.g., transportation to/from your home airport, souvenirs, snacks, etc.)
  • Out-of-pocket medical expenses in preparation for the program, while on-site, or after the program, including but not limited to costs associated with vaccination, testing, or quarantine, if required.

Participants are responsible for any additional travel and lodging expenses if they choose to arrive prior to the program start date or stay after the program end date.

Program Participation Fee Payment & Cancellation Policies

Invoice & Payment Deadline

If accepted to the program, you will receive an invoice from VIA’s finance department with instructions to complete the payment within approximately one week of confirming your participation. Full payment is due 30 days from the invoice issue date. If your invoice is issued 30 days or less before the program start date, full payment is due when you receive the invoice.

Participant Cancellation

VIA will return 50% of the program fee if your cancellation is confirmed at least 30 days before the program start date. If you cancel less than 30 days before the program, we are unable to refund your program fee. Partial refunds will be considered in extenuating circumstances.

Program Modification or Cancellation

VIA and Rikkyo University may convert the program to a virtual format at any time prior to the program start dates if international travel becomes infeasible for US participants. If the program is converted to a virtual format, VIA will return 50% of the program fee. If you choose to not participate in the virtual program, you will not be refunded more than 50% of the program fee. If the program is cancelled entirely or a virtual participation option is not offered to US participants, you will receive a full refund.

Get a glimpse into the projects of past participants!

Participant Perspectives

Though it may not seem like it, there is genuinely so much to be learned about both yourself and the world in Rikuzentakata. I joined the program with the main goal of learning more about sustainable development, but I came away with so much more. New friends, new ideas about myself and the world, and new experiences were all found in Rikuzentakata, and I truly believe that if you are even slightly interested in this program, you should give it a shot!

– 2023 Participant from University of Knoxville, Tennessee

There are not many chances to explore the countryside of Japan with awesome and intelligent people gathered from all around the world. Through this program, I did not just learn about the tsunami, but also about different cultures and new perspectives and in fact about myself too. The people I met in this program were a great influence to me and they motivated me to keep on challenging myself through my university life. The best program!!

– 2023 Participant from Rikkyo University


(The Rikuzentakata program not only allowed us to learn about the earthquake disaster, but also gave us a chance to learn about the state and significance of the local community from many different angles. Although these issues are familiar to me, I have not often thought about them in my daily life, but through this program, I realized that I should think about my own region. Also, interacting with students from overseas was very stimulating. Their ideas and statements were logical, made sense, and were often very persuasive. They motivated me to work harder.)

– 2023 Participant from Rikkyo University

You’ve been given the opportunity to fly across the world, to bond with warm and intelligent students, and have the experience of seeing how communities (and individuals within them) recover and grow from natural disasters. I met friends I plan to stay in touch with, learn from, and see again throughout the rest of my life. I developed a love for Japan and its the amazing communities I would’ve never discovered. If you are in the right place physically and mentally, I would say you should absolutely take the risk and go- I couldn’t be more happy that I did.

– 2022 Participant from Boston University

If you are hesitating to apply this program, I want to recommend you to apply strongly. During the program we shared our opinion actively and work together. This experience will give you new perspective or opinion because we have various back ground. And we learned the real situation in RT from many local people. This program will make you brave.

– 2022 Participant from Rikkyo University

Pre-Departure – May-July

  • Complete pre-departure tasks, including travel preparations, reviewing introductory material about the program themes, and connecting with other participants.
  • Pre-departure orientation call for US students will be held in late July / early August.

Travel & Tokyo Orientation – August 23-24

  • August 23* (Fri) – Arrive in Tokyo
  • August 24 (Sat) – Orientation and team-building at Rikkyo University’s Ikebukuro campus in Tokyo

*Individuals departing from the US should leave no later than August 22, as flying to Japan includes crossing the international dateline.

Rikuzentakata – August 25-29

  • Shinkansen (bullet train) to/from Tokyo and Rikuzentakata
  • Tour of Rikuzentakata city
  • Visits with local enterprises & nonprofits (past site visits include Riku Cafe, Marugoto Rikuzentakata, Waiwai Cafe, and Yagisawa Shoten soy sauce company)
  • Intercultural learning and collaboration with peers from Japan, the US, Singapore, and Hong Kong
  • Presentations and community celebration

Tokyo Wrap-up & Departure – August 30-31

  • Teams present projects to Rikkyo University faculty and staff
  • Program reflection and conclusion
  • Departures from the afternoon on August 31*

*When flying directly from Japan to the US, you will arrive on the same date as your departure.

Participants are responsible for any additional travel and lodging expenses if they choose to arrive prior to the program start date or stay after the program end date.

Participation Requirements

In order to be eligible to participate in this program, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old by August 23, 2024.
  • Be a current student at a US university (including fall 2024 first-year students), or a recent (spring 2024) graduate.
  • Be eligible to receive travel authorization to enter and remain in Japan for the duration of the program.
  • Be able to provide proof of vaccination and/or health status required for entry to Japan or re-entry to your home country that is in effect during your dates of travel. It is your responsibility to confirm which health-related regulations may apply to you.
  • Be willing to undergo diagnostic tests if experiencing symptoms of a communicable illness considered serious by public health officials or if required for site visits by the host institution. A positive test or inability to meet requirements for a site visit may limit your ability to participate in program activities and/or may necessitate self-isolation during the program.
  • Disclose any life-threatening or significant allergies, dietary restrictions, medical conditions or illnesses, and physical limitations as they relate to the program and listed activities.
  • Maintain health insurance coverage for the duration of the program. Enrollment in an international travel medical insurance plan is included in the program fee. If you decline to enroll in insurance offered by VIA, you must submit proof of insurance valid for the program location and duration to VIA staff before your departure.
  • Be committed to participating in all scheduled sessions and completing all activities, both before and during the program, including activities to be completed outside of group meeting times.

Application Timeline (Extended!)

  • May 19, 2024 – Application Deadline
  • May 20-24 – Application Review & Interviews
  • May 27 – Successful Applicants Notified of Acceptance
  • May 31 – Confirm Participation

Application Questions

To see if this program is a good match, we invite you to share your motivations, interests, and experiences in this application. This application includes the following sections:

Personal Information

  • First and Last Names
  • Preferred Name / Nickname
  • Pronouns / Third Person Referral
  • Date of Birth
  • Citizenship
  • University and Major / Field of Study
  • Graduation Month and Year
  • Email Address
  • Physical Location (City / State / Country)
  • Phone Number
  • VIA Affiliation (if any)

Essay Questions

Essays should be no longer than 500 words each. If you choose to compose your essay in a separate document and copy-paste it into the application form, please note that special formatting is not supported (e.g., indentation, bold / italic / underline, bullet points, etc).

  • Japan and Other Cross-Cultural Experience – Describe your experience and/or interest in learning more about Rikuzentakata, a rural Japanese community affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. What are some things that you are hoping to learn or practice by engaging with peers from different cultural backgrounds? Please also share any past experiences and perspectives on cultural exchange.
  • Sustainability and Community Development – Sustainability and Community Development – This program focuses specifically on UN Sustainable Development Goal #11, “Sustainable Cities and Communities.” Read the brief descriptions of the sub-targets of SDG 11, and share which targets you feel a connection to or want to explore further, and why.


  • Applicants who pass the initial screening round will be contacted after the application deadline to schedule an interview with VIA staff over Zoom.

Ready to get started? Click the Apply button below: