Overseas Field-based Learning in Tokyo broadens the global perspectives of BSocSc (GES) students

During the seven-day visit to Tokyo, students of the BSocSc (GES) programme deepen their understanding about the three key learning themes of urban development and transformation, environmental technology and disaster management, and Japanese society and culture.

At the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park, students are briefed by curators about how to maintain high alertness during emergency preparation and how to carry out effective disaster management.

Spirits of learning is high throughout the tour even on the road. In the front row are Dr Norman Cheung Kin-wai, left, and Dr Lawrence Ho Ka-ki, coordinator of the trip.

Participating students enjoy the talks and the discussions that followed at the Waseda University and Tokai University, which expanded their knowledge on various historical and cultural topics about Japan.

Environmental crises, including global warming, lack of clean water resources, plastic pollution, air pollution, and so forth, affect humankind on a global scale. To enhance students’ global perspectives of environmental issues, the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Global and Environmental Studies (BSocSc (GES)) programme offered by the Department of Social Sciences and Policy Studies (SSPS) arranges outbound field trips for students to learn how environmental problems are affecting people in other parts of the world and how such issues are addressed by other countries.

Between 11 and 17 December 2023, about 30 third-year students of the BSocSc (GES) programme, and teachers and administrative staff supporting the programme, took part in an Overseas Field-based Learning (OFBL) trip in Tokyo, Japan. This compulsory and credit-bearing field trip was designed to provide students with distinctive learning experience through site visits and exchange with the locals and students. This experience allowed students to acquire knowledge not only from textbooks, journal papers, and classrooms but also through on-site observation and idea exchanges.


Design the OFBL trip in accordance with the three learning themes

“The sites and learning activities were carefully designed following the three distinct learning themes: urban development and transformation, environmental technology and disaster management, and Japanese society and culture,” Dr Lawrence Ho Ka-ki, coordinator of the trip and Associate Programme Leader of the BSocSc (GES) programme, said. Dr Norman Cheung Kin-wai from SSPS, a trained climatologist who has been following climate change issues over the past two decades, helped coordinate the trip.

During the seven-day tour, students visited a number of places that have high educational values in relation to the three learning themes. At the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel in Kasukabe of the Saitama prefecture, the world's largest facility for flood control, students gained insights into how technology can mitigate environmental impact and manage disasters effectively.

Shibuya Crossing is an icon of the hustle and bustle in the capital of Japan. Known affectionately as the “Scramble” due to its chaotic yet lively atmosphere where countless people pass through every day, the crossing is a must-visit destination for urban life observation. During the tour, our students got a chance to experience pedestrian control at high traffic location and how the crossing represents the ultra-modern image of Tokyo.

Apart from environmental infrastructure and urban development, the tour also arranged visits to deepen students’ understanding of Japanese cultural and societal development. One of these was a visit to Showakan, also known as the National Showa Memorial Museum, where historical exhibits about people’s lives during and after the World War II were displayed. Through photographs, news films, audio-visual materials, and music collected from that time, students explored how people lived during the Showa era.

In addition to site visits, students also attended talks given by professors from the Waseda University and Tokai University, two esteemed universities in Tokyo and the East Japan area. The talks were followed by an interactive group discussion session where students of BSocSc (GES) programme exchanged thoughts with students and professors from the two Japanese universities about the common problems faced by Japan and Hong Kong regarding achieving sustainable development goals.

A snapshot taken at Tokyo by members of group three, from left to right, front: Angel Ng Tsz-ching, Ivy Ho Sheung and Leanna Leung Lik Fong. Back: Winnie Luo Wing-yan.

Winnie’s group uses Tokyo Station as the example to explain urban development and transformation. By making use of the underground infrastructure of the station, the redevelopment project of Tokyo Station has provided extra space for a range of urban activities. The group also explores other positive impacts brought by the redevelopment of the station.

Winnie’s group wins the best presentation prize. The award is a key holder Dr Ho bought from the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). The holder is a miniature of the iconic exhibit of the museum, a globe that shows the meteorological transformation of earth. From left to right: Mr Daniel Yeung, Dr Norman Cheung, Leanna Leung Lik-fong, Angel Ng Tsz-ching, Ivy Ho-sheung, Winnie Luo Wing-yan, and Dr Lawrence Ho. Mr Yeung is a teaching assistant of the OFBL course. He is an alumnus from the Department of Social Sciences and a graduate of the BSocSc(GES) programme. He is studying for a doctoral degree at Waseda University, Japan.

A credit-bearing part of the BSocSc (GES) programme

The tour was a credit-bearing part of the programme, so students were requested to divide into separate groups to discuss their observations and experiences, did a presentation on the final day of the tour and submitted a brief report on what they had learnt after returning to Hong Kong.


The tour taught us that despite living in a relatively safe region, it was crucial for us to understand and prepare for potential uncertainties.


“The trip to Tokyo was an enriching experience, providing us with valuable insights into the three key themes. We were particularly impressed about the visit to the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park to learn about emergency preparation and disaster management. Shortly after we came back to Hong Kong, a severe earthquake hit the Noto Peninsula of Japan and caused heavy casualties and physical damages. The tour taught us that despite living in a relatively safe region, it was crucial for us to understand and prepare for potential uncertainties,” Winnie Luo Wing-yan, leader of group three, said.

Participating students found that explorations in Shibuya and Showakan extremely impressive. It helped them gain a deeper understanding of Japanese culture. “The group presentation was a chance for us to consolidate our learning experience. Our group focused on urban development and the transformation of Japan. The evolving trends of the country attracted our attention in particular. This journey, experienced together with professors, administrators, seniors, and fellow students from the BSocSc (GES) programme, was undoubtedly a remarkable one, leaving us with lasting memories and invaluable knowledge”, Leanna Leung Lik Fong, another member of group three said.

The global network of connections with professors and alumni of FLASS’s teaching staff has been pivotal to the success of the tour. “I’d like to thank the assistance from Dr Cheung, other supporting administrative staff and our alumni. Through Overseas Field-based Learning, we strive to train students on how to think from different perspectives. We also aim to equip our students with the knowledge and empathy needed to become adept problem solvers, possess a diverse and comprehensive skill set capable of addressing any challenges in global and environmental development,” Dr Ho said.