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International OE

Outdoor Education in Japan



Japan ("Land of the rising sun") is an industrialized Asian country.  Japan's geography is rather unique -- it is not on the Asia mainland, but consists of several volcanic islands.  In total land mass, it is smaller than most states of the USA, but has high population density (about 20 times high than the USA). 

Planning a trip to Japan?
(Frommer's Guide)

Guide to Travel & Outdoors in Japan

Since Japan's defeat in World War II it has reconstructed its economy, incredibly, to have recently for the first time to have outstripped even the USA Gross Domestic Product.

Along with this rapid economic success have come many of the typical problems being experienced in Western societies, such as increases in youth problems and the health consequences of an increasingly sedentary society.  But Japan also has several thousand years of human culture and history (see Timeline of Japanese History and Overview of Japanese History), and thus has some unique focuses in approaching such problems the problems of post-industrial society.  For example:

  • Government structure in decision making (e.g., determining school curricula) is more prominent than in Western countries. 

  • Japanese culture has a long history of relationship with nature and understandings of nature, which are more Eastern than Western.

  • Japan is well-known for its onsen, natural hot-spring baths.

- by Cathy Bernatt, a Canadian adventure educator from Canada who has lived and worked in Japan for over 10 years:

I think that from an outdoors perspective Japan is a magnificent country; it's really beautiful. I've been all over and I guess I have different favorite places at different times of the year. In the fall, for example, hiking in Shiraumedake, in the northern part of the Northern Alps, is amazing. You walk along this very narrow path and there's a sheer cliff on one side and nothing over the edge on the other side. Below you is the Kurobe Dam which is a turquoise color and at peak weekend, when the fall colors are at their best, every step is more beautiful than the one before. It's one of my favorite hikes anywhere in the world.
I think the worst thing about living here is the lack of environmental consciousness or care that people have for their country. When I first came here, I'd go hiking in the mountains and no matter how high I was there'd be garbage everywhere. I couldn't believe it. I know that it's not just in Japan that this happens, but there doesn't seem to be any awareness about it here. It makes me very angry and upset.

Read full article...


Challenge program: Team building in Japan
(University of Michigan, 10 February, 2003)


Outdoor education philosophy in Japan tends to have a more environmental nature, and environmental education is more developed than adventure education.

The Japanese Outdoor Education Society was formed in the 1990's and now has several hundred members. The society produces a national journal and has an active membership who are involved in meetings and professional training workshops.

In 2001, a government-supported symposium on outdoor education was held, with speakers invited from Europe (Werner Michl), America (Chris Cashel) and Australia (James Neill) to offer perspectives on how outdoor education was being implemented for youth.

The "father" of outdoor education in Japan is arguably Dr. Minoru Iida, who did a PhD on experiential and outdoor education in the USA (at Penn State) in the 1970's, under Dr. Betty van der Smissen.  Dr. Iida's (1975) article is still considered one of the major literature reviews in the field of outdoor education.


Japan Environmental Education Forum
National Camping Association of Japan
Japanese Outdoor Education Society


Outward Bound Japan [Japanese]
Project Adventure Japan [Japanese]


Dr. Taito Okamura, Associate Professor, Department of Education, Nara University


More links to Outdoors & Japan...