Not all of our educational tours contain a community service element, but all provide a cultural exchange that fosters global citizenship and greater inclusivity and respect for those from differing backgrounds. In our series ‘Learning Programs with Life-long Impacts: DET in…’, we took a look at special itineraries we designed in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This time we delve into how our sports (specifically a rugby) tour in Japan builds cultural competence and sensitivity, while bringing tons of fun to the table (or field, in this case).
We spoke to one of our Travel Designers, Hanh Nguyen, to find out how our Educational Travel team has made this 10 days/9 nights rugby tour more than just about scrums and tackles.
Why Japan for a rugby tour? The country has long been known for its rugby prowess and typically ranks within the top 10 national rugby teams in the world. The 10-day tour takes students to three of Japan’s most famous and loved cities: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Here, they visit three of the country’s 2019 Rugby World Cup stadium venues, including Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Higashiosaka, the oldest rugby union stadium in Japan.
These awe-inspiring visits are coupled with a few training sessions and friendly matches with local club or school teams. What makes these matches and trainings great is that students learn the unique ways of rugby in Japan and make friends along the way. After one such match the visiting students will also enjoy free talk with an expert on the history and rules of rugby in Japan. The tour is designed to encourage communication and bilateral learning, so that your group doesn’t just hone in their athletic skills, but enhances their cultural intelligence, too.
Beyond the active experiences, students also visit plenty of historical and cultural sites. From shrines to night markets and a calligraphy lesson in-between, this program involves more than just tossing a ball around. We believe that travelling internationally to another country to play sports should be immersive and meaningful.
1. Your sport is played differently around the world
We often assume that standardised sports like rugby are played the same way all over the world. But sport is, more often than not, influenced by socio-political and cultural factors. To learn how these factors influence the sport and those who play it, the best way is to personally experience it in a tour like this. Visiting groups will learn about the unique training regiments, schedules, career expectations and desires of local Japanese rugby players, and gain a whole new insight into their favourite sport.
2. Cultural sensitivity
Japan’s uniquely polite and collectivistic culture is one that often inspires curiosity. While visiting students get to engage in their sport, they are also introduced to the traditions, norms and values of Japanese society. After each friendly match that your visiting group plays with a local Japanese rugby club, they spend time socially interacting with the local team and getting to know players personally.
That broadening of horizons and exchange with others will ultimately lead to greater openness and tolerance for others. Your students will likely learn from people who live, work and play entirely differently, and still warmly welcome those from different backgrounds. This cultural exchange is also mutual, and local Japanese rugby players benefit too from learning about other cultures.
Asia is no stranger to sports like volleyball, football and badminton. But rugby? Whilst it may be gaining interest in other Asian countries, the fascination and love of the sport is limited here to Japan.
The student groups we expect will be interested in this type of tour are those who don’t have a minor liking of the sport, but have been playing it for years and have a true passion for it. As such, the tour is designed for players of a typically intermediate or advanced level, and junior to senior high school students. And why go all the way to Japan? To get new insight into the sport and learn about it from the perspective of those from different backgrounds and attitudes.
It’s no secret that some of our markets (think the UK and Australia) are BIG on rugby, so it only makes sense for us to offer something that meets that demand. The experience of such a tour also has the potential to propel high school players later on as they apply for scholarships at universities. The added abroad experience can be an application booster. What better place to be able to list than Japan, the famous hub of rugby in Asia.
Of course, we don’t limit our sports-themed tours to just rugby. This itinerary is one that can be adapted to different sports and in different destinations. Discova can create tailor-made educational tours around other sports, themes or topics for your agency and/or the schools/organisations that you serve.
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