Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project

Having small kids in a big city like Tokyo must be difficult, with so little "real" nature where they can play and enjoy wild things. I can't imagine how parents manage...

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


〒407-0301 山梨県北杜市高根町清里3545 
TEL:0551-48-2114 FAX:0551-48-3575


Tom O said…
Know this is most likely stating the obvious but excellent projects like this should be more available within Tokyo itself. If a lot of schools are planning trips to the likes of KEEP lets hope it doesn't get overrun!

Surely one thing would be to look into promoting the rooftop options (ie also that of honey) that seem to be on the increase, and making it hands on. Within the large metropolis that is indeed Tokyo there has to be more access to the 'real' world. Promoting sustainability via concrete a tad muzukashii!! Still, lets be very grateful that Keep is there to be inspirational.
Martin J Frid said…
Tom, thanks for the comment. Yes, there are similar activities in Chofu, west of Tokyo. But I think we need to get the kids away from concrete & roof top gardens and just let them enjoy "nature" and the great view and the kind people at KEEP.
Tom O said…
I'd be there all the time if I was in Japan with kids, two hours or not from Shinjuku!! I can think of another place in Yamanashi that I'd go to (again) too. Then, again with that Tokyo 'option' for me it would have to be somewhere not too far from Satoyama. Where its nearby (hey, maybe I'd even own it!) and it becomes part of their package growing up. Eating food where they have made an actual contribution to what's in the bowl. I really would want them to breathe (ie think of where I am right now! Sea to the south, inaka just to the north nado.)

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