Below is an assorted listing of local nature programs available in Japan (Japanese language only):
Alps Kodomo Kai in Nagano is perhaps one of the most famous of nature and outdoor programs for children of all ages. It is known for its popular summer programs (see also this page) and winter /ski camps that take place in spectacular alpine surroundings (see their photo gallery). Studies have been done on the positive effects on children who attended the programs.
Kodomo Alps is unique in the way they are run in Japan. Unlike the way camps are run in the US where due to the highly litigious environment there are many costly steps taken to ensure high standards and to hire staff and prevent accidents …etc, etc, etc … you will find that Kodomo Alps comes very short of the US standard. The ski camp for example is practically run by high school students and university students (who are themselves experienced skiers but nevertheless amateurs and proper insurance is taken out). The ratio of teacher to student is high at the camp and amazingly, they take kids of all ages and as young as the kindergarten set. Obviously, the camp isn’t for the more protective of you parents who are not used to this idea. Nevertheless, if you get used to the Japanese way of doing things, Kodomo Alps has been around for a very long time, is somewhat of an institution in Japan (and has university studies done on it). “Returnee”-kids can take turns being volunteer camp leaders, so they build leadership skills as well. It is a very popular and operator with a good local reputation and we actually failed to get a place for our son the previous year. The first trip pitched at beginners was a five-day trip is probably the most reasonably priced you can get and the food provided (according to my son) was much better than the usual fare at gashuku and camps. There are also follow-ups for the beginner groups. My son started off with a trip to Nagano prefecture, and is really looking to his followup trip to Hakuba in April, and the final in the set to take place in Shinshu.– A.K.
KEEP camp in Yamanashi lets kids milk cows and hike and more. Says one of our e-community members: “I sent my kids twice on their own. The camp did make attempts to separate groups and siblings (to avoid bullying), to be fair, and the leaders were well-trained. For more info see their website: http://www.keep.or.jp/indexe.html
For a listing of many other local Japanese summer nature programs, refer to our listing of local nature organizations and their nature programs.
Here is a listing of Sanson-ryugaku (mountain village education) short-term summer programs
If you are interested in nature programs for children, you might also be interested in books by Joseph Cornell and the history of the Sharing Nature Program in Japan. According to his Sharing Nature Worldwide website, Cornell is the Honary President of the Japan Nature Games Association, a group of more than 7000 educators who lead and teach Sharing Nature activities and philosophy. Joseph Cornell’s first book, “Sharing Nature with Children”, sold 450,000 copies in 19 languages, sparking a worldwide revolution in nature education and becoming an instant classic. Joseph’s books now serve as popular nature-education resources all over the globe.
Joseph’s next book, “Sharing Nature with Children II”, is a treasury of nature games and activities for adults and children. In it, he introduced Flow Learning™, a powerful process that brings its participants naturally and deeply into inspiring experiences of nature. The companion video, “Sharing Nature with Children,” beautifully demonstrates the Flow Learning technique. (The book and video earned prestigious awards from the National Association for Interpretation.)