During this program, learn how to capture this iconic city’s creativity—and the enduring symbols of centuries-old Japanese culture—during hands-on classes led by our photo and film instructors, and a National Geographic Explorer. Then hit the streets to photograph the color and motion of Tokyo, play around with stop motion animation, or head to the mountainous town of Hakone in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to capture picturesque views of Lake Ashinoko.


July 23–August 3, 2023
12 days
$ 8,590 + airfare
Departs from Newark
40–50 students, 6–8 leaders


  • Develop your storytelling technique with help from a National Geographic Explorer
  • Attend one of the world’s oldest firework festivals along the Sumida River
  • Display your top images at a pop-up gallery opening in downtown Tokyo
  • Capture the colorful shops and food stalls of the Kami-Kitazawa neighborhood

Meet the Expert

Haruka Sakaguchi, Photographer

Haruka Sakaguchi is a Japanese documentary photographer based in New York City. She was born in Osaka, Japan, and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was three months old. Sakaguchi’s documentary work focuses on cultural identity and intergenerational trauma. Her clients include The New York Times, National Geographic, TIME magazine, ProPublica, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, BBC News, Bloomberg Businessweek, Newsweek and The Washington Post, among other publications. Her long-term project “1945” was exhibited at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo from November 2017-November 2018.


This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

  • Departure
  • Travel Day

Meet your fellow high school student travelers and leaders at the Newark, New Jersey, airport and travel together to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan.

  • Tokyo
  • 10 days

Delve into the art and technique of photography, or learn the skill of film production and visual storytelling while working in small groups with our photo and film instructors, and National Geographic Explorers. Then hit the streets to photograph the color and motion of Tokyo’s unique neighborhoods, from the bustling Ginza district to funky Harajuku.. Visit the Studio Ghibli Museum to learn more about some of Japan’s most influential anime films and the history of the animation process. Practice street photography at the famous Shibuya Crossing or document the vibrant advertising of the buzzing streets of the Akihabara district—a hub for electronics and video games—or focus on the flower blooms and teahouses of the serene Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Interview people you meet along the way as you craft the story you’ll be sharing with the group.

Venture outside the city to the mountainous town of Hakone in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Look for Mt. Fuji’s iconic peak across Lake Ashinoko, photograph the famous Hakone Shrine, learn the technique of time-lapse filming, and visit the town’s many traditional onsens, or hot springs, for a relaxing soak.

In the evenings, review the day’s images, work on editing your photos for the final gallery show or your footage for the final screening, and attend talks led by our National Geographic Explorers. Then head out to document Tokyo at night. Try out slow shutter speeds on crowds passing under the neon lights at Shibuya crossing, and seek out signs of anime and manga adorning the surrounding buildings.

Throughout the workshop, collaborate with fellow students and your leaders to organize and curate an exhibition of large-format prints of the group’s best photos or craft your story for the culminating final film screening. During the final celebration, join your group in sharing the work you’ve all created during your time in Japan.

  • Return
  • Travel Day

Head to Haneda Airport to fly back to Newark with your group.

A Day in the Life: Tokyo

Due to the dynamic nature of this summer program, each day is different and the group remains flexible throughout the program to take advantage of photo opportunities as they arise. Here is a sample day in Tokyo.

  • Enjoy breakfast together with your group at our accommodations
  • Work with your instructors to select the best photos from the previous day’s shoot or storyboard the group plans for today’s shoot
  • Join a group critique led by instructors to discuss each student’s top images or attend a short film screening to gain inspiration
  • Break for lunch and downtime before heading out with your afternoon On Assignments
  • Break into smaller teams shooting in various neighborhoods of Tokyo
  • Eat dinner together as a group back at or near our accommodations
  • Group meeting to discuss the day and learn about the next day’s activities, followed by editing of the day’s work

What to Expect

  • On Assignment Themes

Photography: This program is designed for students to learn photography skills in the classroom and apply them in some of the world’s most iconic and picturesque places. Students benefit from personal guidance from professional photographers and instructors who have extensive experience in the field and working with students. Participate in daily photography lessons, edit-and-critique sessions, and field assignments. Capture the constant motion and vibrant lights of the world’s busiest traffic crossing in Shibuya, the bold styles of the world-famous fashion hub, Harajuku District, and the Zen temples and Shinto shrines of Kamakura, the once political center of medieval Japan. The program culminates with a virtual presentation of the students’ work, and students come away from the program with an improved understanding of camera controls and a solid understanding of how to create successful images.

Film & Video: Designed for students of all skill levels and abilities, students will learn the art of visual storytelling, from storyboarding, script, and equipment to sound, editing, and presentation. Work in a small production team to prepare a short film for a special final screening with the photographers, filmmakers and Explorers of the group.

  • Physical Activity

This is a physically active summer travel program. This photography workshop includes quite a bit of exploring the city on foot.

  • Lodging

During our time in Tokyo, we stay at a large guesthouse, or what is often referred to as a “sharehouse” in Japan. They have small but comfortable bedrooms and a wealth of shared spaces where students can socialize including living and study rooms, meeting rooms, and even a soundproof room with a projector for movie nights.

  • Language

Proficiency in Japanese is not required. However, if you speak and/or study Japanese, you will have opportunities to communicate in Japanese. If you don’t speak Japanese, you will have the opportunity to learn some basic language skills.

  • Meals

The “sharehouse” is equipped with shared kitchens and dining spaces where the group can prepare simple breakfasts and other meals as needed. Many meals will be eaten at restaurants in the city and can be catered to all dietary needs.

Please call our office with any questions about the physical nature of this program or to discuss specific accessibility and accommodation questions.

Explore the Destination

Next Steps

If you have questions or would like to talk further about this program, please get in touch!

Related Programs

  • Photo Workshop


June 28–July 6, 2023
July 9–July 17, 2023
With erupting geysers, endless grasslands teeming with wildlife, and gem-colored geothermal pools, Yellowstone National Park is an ideal setting to explore the field of photography. This summer, venture into this geological wonderland with a team of talented photography instructors and a National Geographic Explorer to document bears and bison, pronghorns, wolves, elk, bald eagles, and…
  • Exploration


Anthropology, Culture, & Tradition
June 26–July 12, 2023
July 12–July 28, 2023
Venture to Norway this summer to experience its stunning fjords and soaring peaks, and immerse yourself in the country’s culture and traditions. Norwegians have a storied history of connecting with the natural world and their kinship with the Earth is infused into many aspects of daily life. Choose either the Photography or Anthropology, Culture, &…
  • Exploration


Climate & Geology
June 25–July 8, 2023
June 30–July 13, 2023
Iceland is a country of extremes, where geysers and lava flows coexist with powerful waterfalls and calving glaciers. Located at the edge of the Arctic Circle, much of the island remains under ice, yet it is also one of the planet’s most volcanically active countries. This summer, travel to the Land of Fire and Ice…