Japan Lean Study Trip

Next Trip: May 10-16, 2020

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.

Isao Yoshino and Ritsuo Shingo are both confirmed to join the May 2020 program, plus you will get insider access to diverse companies and unique cultural experiences. Don’t miss out on the learning experience of a lifetime!

Submit an application & pay your deposit now to take advantage of the early discount!

From Our Participants

“It was one of my best trips in my life.”

“This experience was transformational. I would absolutely recommend the Japan Study Trip to anyone even remotely considering it.”

“Katie Anderson was exceptionally skilled, and her experiential knowledge of living in Japan was tremendous.”

“It was an amazing experience and should be taken by every company board member and high-level executives.”

More Testimonials

Your Experience Includes

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Site Visits Across Diverse Industries

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!

Lectures + Discussions with Japanese Executives

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 past tours include:

  • Mr. Isao Yoshino – 40+ year Toyota leader (Japan + U.S.) and John Shook’s first manager
  • 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!

Exclusive Access to Isao Yoshino & Ristuo Shingo

You will have unique access to Mr. Isao Yoshino, a retired 40-year Toyota executive who helped teach TPS to 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. 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!

Ritsuo Shingo, 30+ year Toyota leader and former President of Toyota’s joint venture in China, has also been confirmed to join our May 2020 trip for two days! He will join us for conversations, site visits, and more. You will have the opportunity to talk with him and ask him your questions.

Facilitated Discussions Led by Katie Anderson

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 Lean leadership coach and consultant who works with individuals and companies around the world.

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.

Food + Cultural Experiences

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 

Arrive by Sunday morning in Nagoya and add-on a visit to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology or the Nagoya Castle. Or arrive a few days earlier and visit the famous temples and shrines of Kyoto or other famous locations in Japan.

Extend your stay in Tokyo and witness the Grand Sumo tournament (held in May in Tokyo), visit famous temples and shrines, take part in a Tokyo 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. Contact Katie Anderson if you are interested in visiting the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology on Sunday before the program commences.


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

Japan Study Trip Testimonials

Past Trip Highlights

See photos & highlights from past study trips.

May 2019 | May 2018


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.

Embark on the learning journey of a lifetime!