Japan Study Trip

Embark on the Trip of Your Life

If you’re ready to take your understanding of organizational excellence to the next level, there’s no experience like immersing yourself in the Japanese kaizen mindset and culture on Katie Anderson’s Japan Study Trip.

You will get insider access to diverse companies and unique cultural experiences that will revitalize your energy and deepen your knowledge. Plus spend the week with an amazing group of other practitioners from around the world.

Don’t miss out on the learning experience of a lifetime!

Submit an application & pay your deposit now to secure your spot!

Upcoming Japan Study Trips

May and October 2022 Dates Just Announced

May 15-21 and October 2-8, 2022

Applications for both tours will open soon.

Sample itinerary and details of your investment can be found here.

Click below to be notified when applications are being accepted for 2022!

** Update June 27, 2021: Due to the global pandemic, the originally scheduled November 2021 has been postponed for 2022.**

Focus on people, culture, and leadership

Led by Katie Anderson, the Japan Study Trip is a high-value opportunity to go see and learn from passionate leaders in the birthplace the Toyota Production System about how they have developed cultures of respect and improvement in their organizations.

You will discover how Japanese companies across diverse industries succeed in delivering greater value to customers through service excellence and product delivery, while developing and engaging their people in continuous daily improvement.

The primary focus of this trip is PEOPLE and CULTURE from frontline engagement to senior leaders setting a clear vision and modeling the way, creating a culture of continuous improvement is all about respect for people and humanity.

Be prepared for an intense and fun week of learning, filled with site visits, facilitated discussions, and conversations with Japanese business leaders, plus plenty of great Japanese food and cultural experiences along the way!

You will come away from this week with a deeper appreciation of the concepts of operational excellence, Lean thinking, customer service, and continuous improvement, and how you can use them to deliver better value to your customers.


I am excited to share my knowledge of Japan and Lean thinking with you!

I had the incredible opportunity to live in Japan for 18 months in 2015 & 2016 and used this time with intention to learn more deeply about Japanese culture, language, and management system practices that Japanese leaders use to develop cultures of continuous improvement and customer service.

You will benefit from my insider knowledge of Japan and the relationships I’ve cultivated since 2015.

Since moving back to the United States in 2016, I continue to spend 4-5 weeks in Japan each year to lead Japan Study Trips and to continue to build relationships, discover new learning experiences, and enrich my own knowledge of Japanese culture so that I can offer you the best learning tour possible.

I started my blog in 2015 a way to share insights as a Lean practitioner living in Japan, and have continued to write about many leadership topics since then. Check out the blog to learn about past Japan Study Trip experiences, company site visits, Japanese leadership, conversations with Isao Yoshino, and more!

I’m honored and thrilled to develop an exciting program of deep learning – and fun – for you.

More about me >>

Embark on the learning journey of a lifetime!

Your experience includes:

We will visit 6 or more Japanese companies during the program, to walk through their organizations and talk with their leaders about their management philosophies and approaches to continuous improvement, strategy deployment, and people development. While the agenda is still being finalized, your experience will likely include the following:

  • Visit an elementary school to interact with school children and learn how fundamental concepts of community and regret of waste are valued
  • See the connection between “top-down” (strategy set by leaders through hoshin kanri) and “bottoms-up” (daily kaizen improvements by the front-line) connect through leadership behaviors and visual management systems
  • Experience the connection between Toyota and their suppliers through pull-systems and just-in-time delivery
  • Visualize how lean production principles such as rapid-changeover (SMED), mistake-proofing, pull, kanban, 5S, one-piece flow, water spiders, standard work, level-loading, and visual management are practiced
  • Witness the precision and customer service of the Japanese railway system that is world-famous for its “7-minute miracle” train turnover
  • Discover how the town of Ashikaga has leveraged 5S and other Lean principles as their method to revitalizing industry AND the human spirit in over 150+ organizations
  • Talk with a female executive of a manufacturing company about her experiences as a female leader in a traditionally male dominated business culture – as well as developing a culture of innovation, joy, and engagement in a factory environment
  • And more still to be developed on the itinerary!

You will have unique access to Mr. Isao Yoshino, a retired 40-year Toyota executive who is the subject of the internationally bestselling book Learning to Lead, Leading to Learn: Lessons from Toyota Leader Isao Yoshino on a Lifetime of Continuous Learning, written by Japan Study Trip leader Katie Anderson.

Mr. Yoshino helped teach the Toyota Way principles to leaders at the NUMMI plant, was John Shook’s first manager at Toyota (and was Shook’s model for the manager character “Sanderson” in the book Managing to Learn), and held critical roles in developing Toyota’s people-centered learning culture. Mr. Yoshino will impart his vast knowledge of Toyota management, hoshin kanri, and people development with you through formal lectures and discussion throughout the the program.

You’ll be able to spend time with Mr. Yoshino in private conversation at meals, on the bus, and at the site visits. This level of access to Mr. Yoshino is not available on any other learning program in Japan!

Learn from Japanese CEOs and senior executives through lectures and discussions. During the program, you will have the opportunity to talk directly with Japanese leaders, and to “go to gemba” with them to see their company’s operations.

Examples of Japanese leaders included in our tours include:

  • Mr. Isao Yoshino – 40+ year Toyota leader (Japan + U.S.) and John Shook’s first manager
  • Mr. Ritsuo Shingo – former Toyota executive, including President of Toyota Hino Motors (China)
  • Mr. Masamoto Amezawa – former Toyota executive, including President of Toyota Kentucky
  • Mr. Teruo Yabe – former President of Tessei (Shinkansen cleaning company)
  • Mrs. Noriko Ogura – COO and SVP of Ogura Metal
  • Mr. Yoshinori Kikuchi – President of Kikuchi Gears or another Ashikaga-based company leader
  • Dr. Satoru Komatsumoto, President of Ashikaga Red Cross Hospital
  • Mr. Umemura – Chairman and founder of Mifune, Tier-2 supplier to Toyota
  • Ms. Toshiko Kawanami – Human Resources Consultant
  • And more!

Katie Anderson, Japan Lean Study Trip organizer, will be facilitate discussions throughout the program to deepen your learning experiences.

Katie will share her insights from living in Japan for 18 months and subsequent trips to Japan, as well as as a leadership coach and consultant who has worked with thousands of leaders around the world to develop learning cultures.

We will discuss the challenges that “typical Japanese” companies have in implementing Lean, and how and why Lean isn’t inherently Japanese but rather a management system that has drawn on the best of both Western and Japanese practices.

Mami Takeda, Japan Lean Study Trip coordinator and interpreter, will also provide additional commentary about Japanese culture, kaizen, and Lean thinking as practiced in Japan.

Enjoy authentic, excellent Japanese food and culture as we travel through Tokyo, Nagoya and Ashikaga.

Breakfast and lunch is included during the program, as well as a welcome dinner and celebration dinner!

During the program, we will include opportunities for other cultural and sightseeing experiences that might include:

  • Strolling the halls of the oldest school in Japan
  • Visiting the “daruma temple” in the town where most daruma dolls are produced in Japan
  • Enjoying Japanese hospitality in a ryokan – relax in the onsen, sing karaoke, and wear a yukata (cotton robe)
  • Tasting wisteria (“fuji”) flavored ice cream at a world-famous flower park
  • Experiencing the high tech service of a “Lean sushi” restaurant
  • Interacting with local school children during their lunchtime
  • Wine tasting at Coco Winery
  • And more!

Choose to enrich your week with other experiences not included in the formal program

Optional group dinners are a great opportunity to enjoy conversations with other passionate Lean practitioners from around the world, or choose to take the evenings off to explore on your own.

You will also have the opportunity to participate in optional experiences during the week that could include (depends on interest and availability):

  • Early morning walks to local temples and shrines
  • Morning jog along the Sumida river or Tokyo Castle
  • Evening out in Toyko

Consider extending your visit to Japan

Extend your stay and witness the Grand Sumo tournament (held in May in Tokyo), visit famous temples and shrines, take part in a food tour, or experience Tokyo nightlife. We can provide suggestions for sightseeing and special experiences in Tokyo.

Add-on additional learning opportunities

We have developed the program to provide you with access to experiences that you could not get on your own. We highly recommend a visit to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in Nagoya, but have intentionally not included it on the formal Japan Study Trip program in order to maximize your opportunity to visit Japanese organizations and talk directly with their leaders.


Japan Study Trip Testimonials

Read detailed quotes and watch video interviews from past trip participants.

Article by Elisabeth Swan highlighting her May 2019 Japan Study Trip experience

“Lean in Japan: Respect for People and Regret for Waste”

Past Trip Highlights

See photos & highlights from past study trips.

May 2019 | May 2018


In the videos below, Katie Anderson talks with Patrick Adams about her Japan Study Trip programs. Patrick was scheduled to attend the May 2020 program that was cancelled due to the global pandemic, however will attend a future trip in 2022!

** Update June 27, 2021: Due to the global pandemic, the originally scheduled November 2021 has been postponed for 2022.**

Concepts We'll Explore

Respect for People
Understand more deeply what respect for people (“hitozukuri” or the art of developing people) means in Japan and how “respect for people” became one of the two pillars of the Toyota Way codified in 2001. Respect for people is the uniting theme across all the organizations we will visit.

Observe how respect for craftsmanship (“monozukuri” or the art of making things) is pervasive in the Japanese culture. Learn how the teacher (sensei) and apprentice (deshi) relationship is essential to developing skills – and developing people.

Understand how respect for learning and reflection is fundamental to Toyota’s success. Discover how Japanese children learn through visiting a local elementary school.

Precision and Kata
Ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train) between Nagoya and Tokyo and be awed by the Japanese focus on precision. This deliberate focus on precision can be seen in the kata (routines) in everyday life, from tea ceremonies to how business cards are exchanged. Learn how precision is an important part of standard work and continuous improvement.

Regret of Waste
Appreciate how the concept of “mottainai” (regret for waste) is a deeply held Japanese cultural value, taught at an early age to children, and how elimination of waste is an essential component of the Toyota Production System and Lean thinking.

Continuous Improvement
Learn how continuous improvement (“kaizen”), the second pillar of the Toyota Way, is incorporated into the daily work of every employee, and the leader’s role in supporting daily improvement. Kaizen is not a “project”, but rather the small ideas that make the organization work a little bit better every day.

See, through multiple site visits and observations of daily life, how Lean principles support and encourage people’s creativity for improvement – and how concepts of joy and fun can be brought into business and factory environments.

Hear how organizations use Lean concepts to improve their business operations and how their mindsets are focused on doing good for their broader community. Learn how one town in Japan has used Lean practices as a strategy to revitalize their community.

Hospitality and Customer Service
Experience the Japanese concept of “omotenashi” (the Japanese term for hospitality and customer service) in everyday interactions. Understand how the concept of service is linked with kaizen to demonstrate respect for customers – and employees.

Organization and Cleanliness
Be amazed at the organization, tidiness, and cleanliness of Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Learn how respect for organization facilitates Lean practices such as 5S, but in no way ensures that 5S is easy!