Yesterday I had the great fortune to visit KEEP in Kiyosato, Yamanashi prefecture. It is just a couple of hours on the train from Shinjuku and there are places to stay. What's so great about KEEP, and why should you bring your kids?
I hope these photos from the center give some ideas. There are also wide grounds with forests, fields and a fantastic view of the Yatsugatake mountains, part of the southern Alps in Nagano.
The KEEP lodges can be rented by families or groups. Most of the exhibits have brief English texts and explanations, and the rangers are really helpful. KEEP also has a popular Forest Kindergarten where the kids spend a lot of time outdoors.
KEEP is located at the Yatsugatake Nature Center with interactive exhibits about the flora and fauna of the Yatsugatake Highlands, the local culture and history of the Kiyosato area, and information about the hiking trails in the area.
The Nature Center holds special events throughout the year, such as film screenings and lectures.
Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project was founded by Paul Rusch, an American who first came to Japan in the 1920s. He chose Kiyosato as a site for the training campground for Christian missionaries:
When he visited Kiyosato for the first time to observe the site and looked the grand scenery of the southern Yatsugatake ridge from the observatory on the top of Mt. Utsukushi-mori, he was overwhelmed by the scenary and could not a speak a word for a while.American Committee for KEEP, Inc. has more details (English):
Current youth programs at KEEP encompass all forms of agricultural and environmental education. Year round programming is designed for all age levels. Students at the primary, secondary, and university levels take part in programs on the environment, farming, and the care of livestock in both day programs and overnight camps. One indicator of the programming's impact is the high number of program participants who end up working in the field of environmental education or nature preservation.
KEEP Japanese website
Stroll Through Yamanashi is a blog with travel guides, photos, and maps