TAIPEI -- The most popular destination for overseas school trips among Japanese high schools was Taiwan in the 2016 school year, with the number of students traveling to the island increasing nearly 12 times in the past 10 years, knocking the United States off from the top excursion spot.
The Educational Tour Institute, a Tokyo-based public interest incorporated foundation that conducts research on school trips every year, has analyzed and released the data for the 2016 school year. Some 262 Japanese high schools chose Taiwan as their destination, with 41,878 students traveling to Japan's southwestern neighbor, while 254 schools -- 36,661 students -- visited the United States, including the islands of Guam and Saipan, for excursions.
The number of students traveling to Taiwan spiked roughly 11.8 times compared to the 2006 school year, when the figure stood at 3,552. This is the first time Taiwan became the most popular destination for overseas school trips for both the number of schools and students.
Kazuhiko Kida, the institute's international division head, says Taiwan has become popular among Japanese high schools because of its pro-Japanese attitude and safe environment for travelers. He added that another major reason for its attractiveness was the relatively low travel expenses for Japanese schools.
In contrast, the number of high school students making a trip to South Korea for excursions dropped from 23,197 in the 2006 school year to 3,246 in 2016. The figure halved in the 2014 academic year after the April 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry, where scores of South Korean high schoolers on trips died.
The figure for mainland China also fell over the 10-year period, with 14,031 high school students going there for school trips in the 2006 school year, compared to 3,398 in 2016. Cancellations of school trips to China increased in the 2012 academic year following a series of anti-Japan demonstrations in China sparked by the Japanese government's move to nationalize the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Ginga Gakuin Senior High School in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, says that ever since its school trip destination was changed from China to Taiwan in 2012 after concerns were raised by parents, the school has been sending its students to Taiwan every year. "Taiwan seems to be pro-Japan. The students can tour around the island without any worries," a school representative commented.