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Japan Study Group

Director Spring 2018: Dai Yamamoto, Associate Professor of Geography and Asian Studies

The Japan Study Group is a spring semester program centered in Kyoto, Japan, intended to provide Colgate students with the opportunity for intensive language study and stimulate individual exploration of Japanese society and culture. Students will spend most of the four-month program living with host families, studying both in formal classroom settings and on field trips as well as at the grass roots level. The group will depart for Japan in late January and will begin formal intensive language courses at a private language school in Kyoto. The program will end in late May.

This study group has not been designated to satisfy the Core Global Engagements requirement. Students will need to meet the Global Engagement requirement by enrolling in a designated course offered on campus.


Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan, is a millennium-old city rich with traditions and historical monuments. Located near the metropolis of Osaka, it provides access to both traditional and modern Japan. The headquarters of Nintendo sits among sake breweries and family-run workshops specializing in traditional goods while above it spread the grounds of a serene Zen Buddhist monastery. Host families are generally located in the outlying districts of the city where living space is less tight, and in some cases students may have long commutes to and from class. This, however, is the norm for a large proportion of urban Japanese. Additional sites for the study of rural Japan include the Azumino region in Nagano, a scenic countryside overlooking Japan Alps, and Kashiwazaki, a small city on the northwest coast of the main island.


Students normally enroll in two of the following language courses taught by the staff at the Kyoto Japanese Language School (KJLS): 

Intermediate Japanese II (JAPN 202Y): For those who have studied through JAPN 201 (Intermediate Japanese I) or equivalent before arriving in Japan. Classes meet 3.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for five weeks.

Intermediate Japanese II (JAPN 291Y): A continuation of 202Y. Classes meet 3.5 hours a day, three times a week for six weeks.

Advanced Japanese II (JAPN 302Y): For those who have studied through JAPN 301 (Advanced Japanese I). Classes meet for 3.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for five weeks. 

Advanced Japanese II (JAPN 391Y): Continuation of 302Y. Classes meet 3.5 hours a day, three times a week for six weeks. 

All students will enroll in the following two courses, taught by the Director.

JAPN 481Y Topics in Japanese Cultures--Cultural Geographies of Japan (Professor D. Yamamoto):
This course explores how people and social groups construct and modify, and interpret and attach meaning to particular places, spaces, and boundaries in the context of contemporary Japan. Japan offers an interesting case in which how everyday spaces are organized differently from those of the west. We draw conceptual tools and empirical examples from the field of cultural geography as well as its related fields such as folk culture studies, sociology, and anthropology. The course includes lectures, discussions, and site visits. Texts and class discussion are mostly in English but some elementary knowledge of modern standard Japanese for everyday use is assumed. Discussion includes how the use of language in a variety of forms reflects the current state of the society and culture in Japan. [This course counts as an elective for Japanese major, Geography major/minor, and Asian Studies major/minor (all pending approval).]

GEOG 315Y Sustainable Livelihoods in Asia (Professor D. Yamamoto):
We are living in the world of growing uncertainty filled with various “shocks” such as natural disasters, financial crises, and development projects, and more insidious “distress” via climate change, excessive industrial specialization, and demographic transitions. This course focuses on how households and communities cope with, resist, adapt to, and challenge these large structural “disturbances” in locally specific and ingenious ways in order to take control and enhance their livelihood opportunities and cultural identities. Case studies are primarily drawn from Japan, but other Asian countries are also discussed for comparative purposes. During the Japan Study Group, a particular emphasis will be given to the discussion and applications of field research methods and techniques, including interviewing and mapping, in field trip sites during Japan Study Group (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, and Niigata). [This course offered in Japan Study Group counts as an elective for Japanese major, Geography major/minor, and Asian Studies major/minor, and Core GE (all pending approval)].

Independent Study

One of the two courses above (JAPN 481Y or GEOG 315Y) may be replaced by an independent study with permission of the director. Past independent projects have dealt with architecture, pilgrimage, US-Japan relations in Okinawa, Ainu folklore, English instruction in high schools, and the like.

Field Trips

In addition to field trips to the major historical and cultural sites of the Kyoto areas, Nagano, and Niigata, students will have opportunities to visit Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Kanazawa, and Hiroshima.


(1) Core 167 (Japan) or its equivalent must be completed no later than Fall 2017.

(2) Language Requirements: Japanese 121 and 122 (or the equivalent as approved by the director). Students who complete only Japanese 121 but who show evidence for willingness to explore Japanese culture with patience, diligence, openness, and respect may be considered for participation. 


For details of student expenses on this study group, please see the Student Cost Estimate Sheets on the Off-Campus Study / International Programs website.

Calendar and Deadlines

The deadline for applications to the Spring 2018 Japan Study Group is November 4th, 2016.   All applications are submitted online through Colgate’s Off-Campus Study office (www.colgate.edu/OCS).   Student notification of selections will be made in late December.  Written confirmation of participation is due early to mid-January.

Program Dates

Japan Study Group Approximate Dates: late January to late May, 2018.

Passports and Visas

You must confirm that your passport will remain valid through December 2018. All students participating on the Study Group will be required to obtain long-stay student visas. With participation on this study group comes the responsibility of understanding and complying with the Japanese government’s visa requirements. If you will not be traveling on a U.S. passport it is imperative that you contact an adviser in Off-Campus Study/International Programs, 101 McGregory, and International Student Services, 103C Lathrop, to learn as much as you can about the regulations. For some students there are significant visa requirements to be met that take time, advanced planning, and may incur extra costs.

Informational Sessions

Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 11 a.m. in 107 Lawrence Hall