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Japan Study Group

Director Fall 2015: Yoichi Aizawa, Professor of Japanese,   Department of East Asian Languages and Literature


The Japan Study Group is a fall 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. Stu-dents 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 August and, after a short orientation period in Tokyo, will begin formal intensive language courses at a private language school in Kyoto. The program will end shortly before Christmas.

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 work-shops specializing in traditional goods while above it spread the grounds of a serene Zen Bud-dhist 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 Himi on the Noto Peninsula, and the island of Chichijima in the Ogasawara chain, 500 miles south of Tokyo in the north Pacific Ocean.


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

Intermediate Japanese (JAPN 201Y): For those who have studied through JAPN 121-122 (Elementary Japanese) or equivalent before arriving in Japan. Classes meet 3.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for five weeks.
Intermediate Japanese (JAPN 291Y): A continuation of 201Y. Classes meet 3.5 hours a day, three times a week for six weeks.
Advanced Japanese (JAPN 301Y): For those who have studied through JAPN 201-202 (Intermediate Japanese). Classes meet for 3.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for five weeks.
Advanced Japanese (JAPN 391Y): Continuation of 301Y. 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:

ASIA 481Y/JAPN 481: Japanese Studies: Living in the Buddhist Heritage of Kyoto-Nara (Professor Aizawa):
This course, offered during the second and third months of the study group (concurrently with Japn 291Y and Japn 391Y), looks at Buddhist heritage of the greater Kyoto area from two perspectives: nationally known temples favored by out-of-town visitors for their treasured artwork, historical gardens and extravagant festivals will be contrasted with smaller, neighborhood temples responsive to local laity. Students will be asked to conduct a survey of contemporary “Japanese Religiosity” by interviewing (in Japanese) visitors to these temples and to study in depth a temple assigned to them for the ultimate goal of publishing an English-language brochure for visitors from aboard. Emphasis throughout the course will be on active participation, including monastic training, pilgrimage to sacred sites, participating in festivals, and private lessons in one of the traditional Zen-related arts, such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, etc. In all of this we will enlist the expertise of local Buddhist scholars and clerics and other professionals involved in preserving Kyoto’s Buddhist heritage.

ASIA 482Y/JAPN 482: The Village Japan (Professor Aizawa):
Taught in the final three weeks of the study group, this course takes place in two contrasting rural settings: the village of Himi on the coast of Sea of Japan and the island of Chichijima 500 miles south of Tokyo in the middle of North Pacific. At both locations, students will intern with local industries, traditional and otherwise, and use their vastly improved Japanese skills to conduct individually designed fieldwork on the theme of “village life and modernity.” Language instructions continue in both settings, focusing on transcribing and translating taped interviews into English.

Independent Study

One of the two director’s courses (JAPN 481 or 482) 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 and Nara areas, students will visit Tokyo and Osaka, Himeji Castle, the Buddhist monastery on Mount Koya, the great Shinto shrine complex at Ise, and the cities of Kanazawa and Hiroshima.


(1) Core 167 (Japan) or its equivalent must have been completed by May 2015. 
(2) Language Requirements: Japanese 121 and 122 (or the equivalent as approved by the director): applications will be accepted from students who do not yet meet the language requirements, but selection for participation in the study group will depend upon timely satisfaction of the requirements.


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 fall 2015 Japan Study Group is Friday, November 7, 2014. Applications are on the Colgate University Off-Campus Study/International Programs study groups’ website and are submitted on-line. Interviews of applicants will be arranged by e-mail and student notification of selection will take place late December 2014.

Program Dates

Japan Study Group Approximate Dates: late August - shortly before Christmas, 2015.

Passports and Visas

You must confirm that your passport is valid through June 2016. All students participating on the Japan Study Group will be required to obtain a Japanese student visa. With participation on this study group comes the responsibility of understanding and com-plying with Japanese government 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 Lathrop, and International Student Services, 103C Lathrop Hall, to learn as much as you can about the regulations. For some students there are significant visa requirements to be met that take time, advance planning, and incur extra costs.

Informational Sessions

Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. in 107 Lawrence Hall