Japan Study Tour


Program Dates: October 4-13, 2024
Open to: VIA alumni, family members, and friends; anyone interested in an educational exploration of Japan
Location: Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo
Application Deadline: July 21, 2024 (first come, first served - spaces are limited)

Join VIA’s Executive Director, Kazutoh Ishida, along with other VIA alumni, family, and friends for a one-of-a-kind study tour in the Kansai and Kanto regions of Japan!


The tour will include site visits to ancient capitals Kyoto and Nara, as well as Koyasan where VIA used to hold our volunteer trainings, and Tokyo. Highlights of the trip include visiting historical sites such as Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Todaiji Temple, and Asakusa; experiencing traditional Japanese culture; learning about current social issues; visiting VIA’s partner schools; and meeting with VIA supporters and alumni.

Meet the Trip Leader

Kazutoh Ishida, PhD: Kazutoh was a participant on VIA’s American Language & Culture (ALC) program in 1991 when he was a university student in Japan. He joined the VIA team in 2005 to manage programs in Silicon Valley and has served as Executive Director since 2017. As a native Japanese, he is excited to introduce the beauties of traditional Japan as well as its contemporary culture.

Tour Registration

Spaces are limited to ensure an optimal travel experience. Registration will be confirmed on a first come, first served basis until July 21, 2024, or the program is full, whichever comes first.

Continue reading below to learn more about the tour, or click the blue APPLY button if you’re ready to register. After clicking the APPLY button, you will be taken to the registration portal to create a user account. This will allow you to save your progress and return to continue your application at any time.

Click on the section headings or ( + ) circles below to view more content:

Participation Costs

The $4,900 program fee covers items listed below and also includes a non-refundable, tax-deductible $500 donation to VIA.

Please note that VIA does not currently offer registration fee discounts and/or travel funding for study tours.

Costs included:

  • Domestic travel within Japan
  • Lodging for a total of nine nights
    • Lodging will be arranged for two participants per room
    • $500 additional fee for private room for duration of the trip
    • Special accommodations can be arranged for families traveling with children (submit details in your registration form)
  • Some group meals
  • Most entry fees, guided services, organization and site visits

Costs Not Included:

  • International Airfare (est. $1800)
    • We recommend booking flights to arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX) on October 4th by 12:00 PM and to depart from Haneda International Airport (HND) or Narita International Airport (NRT) in Tokyo on October 13th or later.
  • Visa fees, if applicable (US passport holders do not need a visa to enter Japan)
  • Admission to some historical landmarks and cultural sites (est. $150)
  • Some meals (est. $200-300 per person)
  • Shopping and other personal expenses
  • Travel and medical insurance (est. $30-70)*

*Travel & Medical Insurance Coverage

We require all participants to maintain health insurance coverage while traveling abroad. Please check with your insurance provider to understand what coverage you may or may not have while overseas. You can choose to enroll in your own insurance plan and provide proof of coverage. VIA can also arrange comprehensive travel health insurance coverage for US citizens through iNext’s Comprehensive Ultimate Plan with Standard Political & Natural Disaster coverage at an additional cost (see policy details).

If you choose this option, you will be enrolled for the minimum 11-day period (October 3-13, to allow for transit time), at an additional cost of $28.65 for travelers 60 and under or $67.81 for travelers over 60 years old. You will have the option to purchase additional Trip Cancellation & Trip Interruption coverage and/or extend your travel dates after initial enrollment.

Personal Health Expenses

Participants are responsible for any medical testing, care, or additional travel costs associated with infection and treatment, including, but not limited to, the cost of modifying, extending, or cancelling any lodging or transportation arrangements before, during, or after the program.

Registration Fee Payment & Cancellation Policies

Invoice & Payment Deadline

After VIA confirms your registration details, you will receive an invoice from VIA’s finance department with instructions to complete the payment in early July.

Deposit: A $500 non-refundable deposit is due within one week of the invoice issue date. You will receive a receipt for this amount as your tax-deductible donation.

Complete Payment: Full payment is due 30 days from the invoice issue date. If your invoice is issued 30 days or less before the tour start date, full payment is due when you receive the invoice.

Participant Cancellation

VIA will return 50% of the registration fee, less the deposit, 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 registration fee. Partial refunds will be considered in extenuating circumstances.

Tour Modification or Cancellation

VIA may cancel the tour at any time prior to or during the tour if travel and in-person activities are not possible due to natural disasters, including pandemics. You will receive a full refund if the tour is canceled at any time prior to the tour start date, less the deposit.

Travel Tips

  • We strongly encourage participants to pack and travel lightly as the group will be making several trips to different cities across Japan. We recommend one suitcase that you can manage to carry around a residential block and up/down a flight of stairs. Not all public transit stops have elevators.
  • Dressing modestly, such as at least knee-length skirts / shorts, long pants, and shirts covering your shoulders, is recommended to be respectful of the local culture, especially during visits to cultural heritage and religious sites.
  • Temperatures can vary between about mid-50s to mid-70s (fahrenheit) in the fall in Japan, with some rain expected, so bring clothes that you can layer and a light rain jacket and/or umbrella.
  • Please bring cash to exchange and/or bank cards that can be used to withdraw cash internationally.
  • Additional recommended items to bring:
    • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take regularly (check customs regulations if you are concerned about the type or quantity allowed)
    • Sunscreen, sun protection (sunglasses, hats)
    • Comfortable walking shoes
    • Optionally, a pair of shoes to wear indoors only (usually slippers are available)
    • Travel documents (passport, identification, insurance policy info)

Additional travel preparation instructions will be provided to all registered participants in September.

My VIA Japan Study Tour in 2017

Mimi Goldman

On our first date, my future husband Paul talked about his 1966 summer internship with VIA in Vietnam. The experience changed his preconceptions about other cultures as he developed a sense of community with his hosts in Buôn Ma Thuột. He also made lifelong friendships with other participants and strengthened his commitment to VIA and its goals.

When I joined him on a ten-day study tour of Japan that Kazutoh Ishida led in the spring of 2017, I shared new perspectives, friendships, and experiences of VIA’s global reach. We met VIA experts like Dr. Takayuki Oshimi, who illuminated some of the interrelationships of culture and medical care. I also got to know recent VIA participants from Japan, who helped me learn to hold chopsticks politely, read Tokyo metro maps, and discover the treasures within Japanese Seven Eleven stores.

We sampled regional cuisines that ranged from Osaka’s octopus balls to Tokyo’s signature tempura. The study tour scheduled for this autumn takes place in a different season and is more centered on Kyoto and nearby Nara. But I’m sure you will meet unexpected generosity and kindness, as well as surprising experiences.

Tour Itinerary

The study tour itinerary is subject to change any time before or during the tour. Additional details will be added as scheduled activities are confirmed. Participants are welcome to arrive before the tour start dates or continue their travels after the tour ends.

Note: There will be an online pre-departure briefing in September.


Oct 4 (Fri) Kyoto
  • Meet at Kansai International Airport (KIX) at 12:00 PM
  • Stay at Hotel Keihan Kyoto Grande
  • Group welcome dinner in the evening

Oct 5 (Sat) Kyoto
  • Site visits and activities in Kyoto

Oct 6 (Sun) Kyoto
  • Free day

Oct 7 (Mon) Nara

Oct 8 (Tues) Nara
  • Site visits and activities in Nara

Oct 9 (Wed) Nara
  • Visit Koyasan (former VIA volunteer training location)

Oct 10 (Thurs) Tokyo

Oct 11 (Fri) Tokyo
  • Site visits and activities in Tokyo

Oct 12 (Sat) Tokyo
  • Site visits and activities in Tokyo
  • Group farewell dinner

Oct 13 (Sun) Tokyo
  • Check out of Tokyo hotel
  • End of tour; participants continue independent travel or return home

Registration Process

Before beginning your registration form, you will be prompted to create a user account. This will allow you to save your progress and return to continue or make changes to your registration form, even after submission.

You may register up to five individuals at once. We recommend registering multiple people if you would like to pay all registration fees for members of your party together. If you prefer to pay separately, we recommend registering separately.

Please be prepared to provide the following information for each member of your party:

  • Passport information
  • Emergency contact information (can be the same for all travelers)
  • Health information (allergies, immunizations, medications / medical conditions, dietary restrictions, mobility considerations, travel medical insurance preferences)
  • Accommodation preferences (single or shared)

After Registering

You will receive a confirmation email with instructions for next steps, including completing VIA’s Risk Notice & Acknowledgement Form and providing proof of insurance (if not enrolling in iNext). We appreciate your prompt completion of these final steps of the registration process.

After our staff review your registration, they will reach out if they have any questions about your travel arrangements before our finance department issues your invoice (by early July).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the purpose of the tour?
    • The tour is an opportunity to connect with VIA, our participants and alumni, and local communities; meet social impact leaders and organizations currently working with VIA in Japan; and learn about VIA’s new social impact and leadership development initiatives.
  • Where will the tour take place?
    • The tour will start in Kyoto, visit Nara, and conclude in Tokyo.
  • How many days will the tour last?
    • 10 days, inclusive of arrival on October 4th through October 13th. Participants may determine their travel plans after checking out of the hotel in Tokyo on October 13th.
  • Are family members and friends allowed to join the tour?
    • Yes, spouses / partners, children, family, and friends are welcome to join the tour!
  • Do I have to pay for the tour and is there funding or a discount available?
    • There is a registration fee for the tour, as well as other costs not included in the registration fee participants must cover. There is no funding support or discounts for registrants.
  • How many people will join the tour?
    • We are expecting anywhere between 10 – 15 participants joining the tour.