This summer program uses the cosmopolitan port city of Kobe as a base, which allows students to travel easily to six other major cities--Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima, and Tokyo--to explore popular culture in Japan. Wedged between the coast and the mountains, Kobe is a global city with a rich history--a site of diplomacy with China since the Nara Period (710-794), a hub of trade with China and other countries since the Kamakura period (1185-1333), and an open modern port for trade with the West since the Meiji period (1868-1912). Currently, Kobe is the sixth largest city in Japan, with a population of 1.5 million. Conveniently located close to other major cities in Japan, Kobe is the perfect place for students to experience the rich cultures of Japan that have been fostered during its long history since the classical period.
Program Activities & Excursions Examples
Travel to the stunning port city of Osaka, known for its architecture and history of merchants. While there, students will get to explore the Dotonbori entertainment/dining district and the Minami fashion district.
In the ancient capital of Japan (710-794), students will explore Todaiji Temple and Museum, and the largest bronze statue of Buddha Vairocana in the world.
In the ancient capital of Japan (794-1185) and a home to today’s innovative and global corporations, students will experience a tea ceremony firsthand and visit Kinkakuju Temple, Inari Shrine, and Kyoto International Manga Museum.
- HIMEJI CASTLE
Students will enjoy visiting an iconic Himeji Castle (built in the 14th century) and will go on the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge World Heritage walking tour.
Students will travel by bullet train to the city of Hiroshima and spend a day learning about US-Japanese relations and exploring the Peace Memorial Museum. They will also visit Miyajima, one of the top three scenic spots in Japan.
In the capital of Japan, students will get to enjoy a variety of experiences, such as the Samurai Museum, Godzilla Head, the Harajuku fashion district, Toyosu (formerly Tsukiji) Fish Market, cooking in Asakusa, a maid café in Akihabara, and the Meiji Shrine.
- Must be a rising sophomore, junior, or senior
- Must be in good academic standing with a 2.0 GPA or higher
Students who successfully complete the program will receive 3 credit hours for one of the following:
- JAPA 413: Popular Culture in Japan
- MFLL 300: Global Texts & Cultures
- ASST 491: Foreign Study
During this 3-week study abroad program, you will actively experience aspects of popular culture in Japan by (1) personally interacting with producers, distributers, and consumers of cultural industries, (2) physically interacting with tangible cultural objects, and (3) critically analyzing signs/symbols/allegories--and will therefore gain insight into some of the pressing social and political problems facing contemporary Japan.
The program is structured to help you:
- Learn social and political ideas, practices, and problems of contemporary Japanese through the lens of popular culture
- Understand an unfamiliar culture as it understands itself
- Comprehend the ways in which cultures negotiate boundaries
- Read and discuss with critical awareness and interpretive sophistication
- Learn to identify, research, and present subjects of interest
- Write with clarity, interest, and concision.
This course explores popular culture in contemporary Japan through genres such as cuisine (washoku), fashion, music, sports (baseball, sumo), fiction (including manga, or graphic novels), film (including anime-animated films), television, and advertisements. By examining various national and global culture industries, this course analyzes the following aspects of contemporary Japan in changing geopolitical and economic contexts: (1) identity formation (nation, ethnicity, race, class, gender, sexuality), (2) memory of the modern Japanese empire, war, the American Occupation, and postwar reconstruction, and (3) contemporary problems such as low marriage and birth rates, karoshi (death from overwork), and an aging population.
Assignments combine primary texts (visual and literary) with secondary critical texts in the humanities (literature, cinema, history, philosophy) and social sciences (food studies, media studies, sociology, anthropology) and related extracurricular activities in seven cities: Kobe, Osaka, Himeji, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima/Miyajima, and Tokyo. Class sessions combine lectures and discussion (including guest lectures by Kobe University faculty and discussion with Japanese students), film viewing and other audio-visual materials, and involve analytical writing exercises.
Topics and Activities in Multiple Cities – Here’s a Sample List:
- Cuisine: Cup of Noodles Museum (Osaka), tea ceremony (Kyoto), Tsukiji/Toyosu fish market (Tokyo), Nada sake district (Kobe), cat café (Kobe), maid café (Tokyo), washoku dining (sushi, ramen, shabu-shabu, kushikatsu, okonomiyaki, etc.), washoku cooking
- Fashion districts (Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo)
- Samurai Museum (Tokyo)
- Sports: Hanshin Tigers Japanese professional baseball game at Koshien (Osaka)
- Manga and Anime: Kyoto International Manga Museum (Kyoto), Godzilla Head (Tokyo)
- Peace Memorial Museum (Hiroshima)
- Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples (Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo)
- Medieval castle (Himeji)
Students will be housed in individual rooms in budget hotels.
Housing is included in the program fee.
Your program costs include: tuition, a program fee, a study abroad administrative fee and additional program-related expenses. The program's detailed cost sheet outlines the fees that are billed to your myUTK account and the estimated out-of-pocket expenses. You should carefully review costs, budgets, and financing when selecting and preparing for your experience abroad. If you have any questions at any step of the process, we encourage you to reach out to the program contacts for guidance.
Funding Your Study Abroad Program
You should carefully review costs, budgets and financing when selecting and preparing for your experience abroad. If you have any questions at any step of the process, we encourage you to reach out to your Programs Abroad Coordinator for guidance.
Steps to Financing Your Study Abroad Program
- Review the program's Costs Sheet to understand the breakdown of program expenses.
- Consider your Financial Aid options.
- Search and apply for scholarships and grants on our Funding Opportunities tab.
- Review your UTK financial aid package and speak with One Stop about applying it to your study abroad program costs.
If you wish to use your HOPE Lottery Scholarship for the summer term, you may be eligible to receive a prorated amount of $1,000 but you must be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credit hours.