Mt. Fuji between Tokyo and Nagoya. Image Credit: Katie Anderson

Why go to Japan?

There is no experience like going to the source and learning from organizations who have been practicing the kaizen philosophy for decades.

Through your experiences on this study trip, you will discover how Japanese companies succeed in delivering superb quality at the right price, with the short lead-times, while at the same time ensuring high levels of employee and customer satisfaction.

We will also 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.

Be Prepared to be Transformed. 

By joining this study trip to Japan, you will become a different person in just one week. You will experience the “people side” of lean and deeply learn about how the concept of respect is fundamental to continuous improvement and Lean management systems.

Respect for...


  • People

    Understand more deeply what respect for people means in Japan and how “respect for people” became one of the two pillars of the Toyota Way 2001 (continuous improvement being the other).

  • Learning

    Understand how respect for learning and reflection is fundamental to Toyota’s success.

  • Improvement

    Learn how continuous improvement is incorporated into the daily work of every employee. Improvement is not a “project” but the small ideas that make the work a little bit better every day.

  • Precision

    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.

  • Craftsmanship

    Observe how respect for craftsmanship (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.

  • Creativity

    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.

  • Community

    Hear how organizations use Lean to not just improve their business operations, but 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/Service

    Experience the Japanese concept of “omotenashi” (hospitality) in everyday interactions. Understand through visiting service organizations how the concept of service is linked with kaizen to demonstrate respect for customers.

  • 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 by no way ensures that 5S is easy!

Learning and Fun

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 packed in along the way!

You will come away from this week with a deeper appreciation of the concepts of Lean, kaizen, and continuous improvement, and how you can use them to deliver better value to YOUR customers. 

We will visit 5-7 Japanese companies to walk their floors and talk with their leaders about their leadership philosophies and approaches to Lean and continuous improvement.

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 join us for several days of lectures on leadership and conversations with you as we visit Toyota City and other sites.

The learning experiences come not just from the formal site visits, but the rich conversation, facilitated discussions, and networking with your fellow MBOE alumni.

Program Logistics

Airport: Arrive to and depart from Tokyo (either Haneda or Nagoya airport).
Arrive Saturday, May 12 - spend the day and night on your own. Get prepared for an intense and fun week of learning!
Sunday, May 13 - Program officially begins. We will travel together to Nagoya on the bullet train on Sunday, May 13.
Depart Saturday, May 19, or afterwards if you want to extend your stay in Japan.

Price: $7500 and includes:

  • 7 days of accomodation in Tokyo and Nagoya (Saturday, May 12 - Friday, May 19)
  • All meals from Sunday evening - Friday evening
  • All transportation once the program begins on Sunday in Tokyo (including travel to/from Tokyo-Nagoya on the bullet train)
  • Travel, lodging, food, site visit, and other logistics coordination during the program
  • Interpreter and translation services during the program

*You are responsible for your flights to and from Tokyo*

Study Tour Program will Include:

  • Gemba visits to 5-7 Lean and kaizen practicing organizations across diverse industries, including the Toyota plant in Toyota City, a Toyota supplier, organizations in the town of Ashikaga (Japan's "5S City"), and many others. 
  • Visits to the Toyota Museum of Technology and Innovation in Nagoya and the Toyota Museum in Toyota City. 
  • Lectures and discussions with Mr. Isao Yoshino, a retired 40-year Toyota executive who helped teach TPS to the NUMMI plant, and was John Shook's first manager at Toyota. Mr. Yoshino will join us for several days of the tour and you will have the oppotunity to talk with him directly about his experiences at Toyota in the United States and Japan. 
  • Facilitated discussions and experiences led by Katie Anderson, a MBOE coach who lived in Japan for 18 months in 2015-16, and Rick Guba, Director of the MBOE program.
  • Travel by bullet train (Shinkansen) between Tokyo and Nagoya twice and experience the precision and customer service of Tokyo's advance rail system. See the amazing 6-minute turn-over of the train that has become world-famous. 
  • Many opportunities to experience the food, culture, and everyday life in Japan - including a Lean sushi restaurant, a Lean hair salon, and a Lean grocery store!
  • Excellent food and conversations with your fellow MBOE alumni.


Tentative Program Schedule (subject to change)

Saturday 5/12 Sunday 5/13 Monday 5/14 Tuesday 5/15 Wednesday 5/16 Thursday 5/17 Friday 5/18
Arrive in Tokyo Travel by Shinkansen to Nagoya with group Nagoya area Nagoya area Nagoya area Tokyo area - Ashikaga Tokyo area
Day and night on your own Orientation and lecture by Mr. Yoshino Visit Toyota in Toyota City and another site. Reflections and discussion with Mr. Yoshino Visit Toyota Supplier & Toyota Museum of Innovation Site visits to two organizations. Travel by Shinkansen to Tokyo in evening Visit Ogura Metal, a local winery, and one other company Learn about "omotenashi" the Japanese concept of customer service. Site visit to a Tokyo-area comapny. Celebration dinner!

The professional sumo tournament will be held in Tokyo from May 13 - May 27. If you extend your stay or have time on your arrival, it is a cultural event not to be missed! http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnTicket/year_schedule

Your facilitators would be happy to recommend other cultural experiences outside of the formal program in Tokyo, including food tours to hidden parts of Tokyo, the famous Tsukiji fish market, restaurants, cultural sites, and more.