Cultural exchange and friendships crossing the language barrier
The Japan Trip

Who doesn’t want to make friends all over the world? Prizewinners are invited to Japan for not only the awards ceremony, but also the Japan Trip, a program in which they can experience Japanese culture and Toyota craftsmanship.

Welcome to Japan!

The Japan Trip is an exciting program that lets the World Contest winners experience many different sides of Japan.

It’s not just a sightseeing tour, but an expression of Toyota’s commitment to inspiration through hands-on experiences. Exposure to different cultures can be a life-changing experience for promising young people like our contest-winners, and the trip also gives them the chance to meet other participants from many far-away places. It’s a unique chance for them to reach across the language barrier and make friends all over the world through shared experiences.

In 2015, contest-winners spent three action-packed days in Japan. We chronicled their experiences in a video so you can share in their excitement.

Learning about Toyota’s history and new technologies

One of the trip’s highlights was a visit to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in Nagoya. This museum introduces the mechanism and history of automatic looms, which are how Toyota Motor Corporation got its start. The exhibits were especially interesting for the preteens in the group. We could see their curious young minds at work as they learned about complicated machinery.

Another high point was MEGA WEB, Toyota’s theme park in Tokyo, where the Awards Ceremony was held on the morning of the second day. After the ceremony, there was plenty of time for the kids to try out the many popular attractions like personal mobility vehicles, off-road vehicles, and various simulators. The younger children in the group could hardly contain their excitement!

But one of the most unforgettable parts of the trip was the Tokyo Bay dinner cruise! The participants gasped when they got their first incredible night view of Tokyo Bay. Against this stunning backdrop, they enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner while having fun talking to their new friends from around the world. Not sharing a common language didn’t stop the kids from eagerly asking each other questions and sharing their answers. Sometimes the guide who was translating could barely keep up! At the end, the children passed around their Japan Trip brochures to exchange contact information and promised to stay in touch after returning to their home countries. We hope that these new friendships crossing language barriers and national borders will last forever!

Making one-of-a-kind T-shirts

All good things must come to an end! With the Japan Trip drawing to a close, children who’d looked nervous on the first day but become fast friends by the second evening were now dreading having to say goodbye. They wanted to make the most of their last day in Japan and last chance to make memories together.

In the morning, the children took part in a program offered by the Tama Art University Lifelong Learning Center. With plain white T-shirts as canvases, they used a variety of patterned cloth pieces to represent their “summer in Japan.” The room was full of budding young artists, so it quieted down quickly as they became immersed in their work. But the mood was friendly, with older children offering to help younger ones who were having trouble cutting the cloth pieces. Finally, their one-of-a-kind T-shirts were complete! They checked out each other’s work, and some even changed into their new T-shirts right away. There’s nothing like the pride of sharing something you made with your new friends!

In the afternoon, the children headed to Tokyo’s Asakusa district. After visiting Sensoji Temple and strolling down Nakamise Shopping Street, they went for a rickshaw ride and tried making traditional Japanese candy. The candy was a big hit! Called kaminari-okoshi, it consists of small rice puffs mixed with starch syrup and then shaped. Not knowing what to expect, the children’s eyes widened at the crunchy taste of the unfamiliar treat. Their handmade kaminari-okoshi were not just delicious snacks, but a souvenir of their special time in Japan.

That night was the farewell party. The children were giddy with excitement at the chance to wear real summer kimonos! The theme was “a traditional temple festival,” so they tried out the shooting games and traditional candy crafts often seen at Japanese festivals. Although the party was only supposed to last two hours, no one wanted to leave. There’s no doubt this was an experience none of the participants will ever forget!