Japanese culture is unique and multi-faceted and has earned a lot of attention and interest from people across the globe. But there is a lot more to learn about Japan’s kimonos and green tea, ramen and sushi, robots, computers, and anime. Luckily, there are short-term summer programs in Japan that you can join where experts in these topics, and even Japanese youth, teach and mentor international students about  Japan, the Japanese language, and their culture.

Short-term summer programs between June to August provide interesting opportunities for international students because different universities focus on creating different experiences for their curriculum. Although these programs usually last for up to a month or more, students don’t just sit inside the classroom to attend lectures all the time. Oftentimes summer programs include excursion trips, group activities, cultural immersions, and even chances to experience staying with a Japanese family. Here are some top universities in Japan that offer short-term study abroad in Japan programs.

Tokyo

Meiji University: Knowing “Cool Japan”

Meiji University offers two summer programs related to Japanese language and culture: Japanese Language Program and Cool Japan Summer Program. The Japanese Language Program includes classroom lectures, field study, and activities, with the program primarily aimed towards Japanese Language Learning. Meanwhile, the Cool Japan Summer Program does not include Japanese language classes but a series of lectures, field trips and workshops on ‘a wide variety of subjects relating to Japan’s contemporary images as well as its traditional culture.’ Some of the Cool Japan Summer Program lectures in the past included talks on Otaku culture, Anime seminar, a history of Japan’s Yokai monsters, and more unique excursions. Lectures are spearheaded by leading researchers and experts in the field, with all the lectures conducted primarily in English. 

Toyo University: Traditional and modern, urban and rural Japan

While Toyo University is in Tokyo, their summer program is designed to examine various aspects of Japanese culture, comparing traditional and modern as well as urban and rural Japan. Toyo Summer Program combines includes classroom activities, field trips, and experiential learning. This includes homestay opportunities in a farming village in rural Japan as well as hands-on agriculture activities. Even in a short period, the program gives international students a rich experience of Japan’s different facets.

Waseda University: Deeper understanding of Japan through the academe

Waseda University’s summer session is a unique opportunity for international students because they offer a wide range of courses that students can take, including business, culture, economics, history, literature and art, politics, and anthropology and society. The unique point of the program is that students encounter Japan in an academic setting by taking courses about Japan, while experiencing Tokyo first-hand. These summer courses have equivalent academic credits and students may transfer these as earned credits for their degrees. Waseda offers classes on the fields of. All these classes, though focusing on Japan, are taught in English. They also offer optional Japanese-language learning classes for beginners, upper beginners, and those in between.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies: Accelerating Japanese Language Skills

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies offers a great program for students who are learning Japanese. Their three-week intensive program provides an opportunity for students to significantly improve their Japanese language skills by staying in Japan and taking classes that are appropriate to their language proficiency level: Pre-intermediate 1, Pre-intermediate 2, and Intermediate 1. The program is designed to “improve the participants’ conversational Japanese skills, applying the knowledge they have acquired.” As they say, speaking a language is an ability, and not knowledge. This means that this program is perfect for you if you already have some knowledge of Japanese grammar and vocabulary but you need to develop your ability to actually use the language.

Yokohama

Yokohama National University Summer Program: Exploring the port city of Yokohama 

Yokohama National University’s (NYU) summer program is only two weeks but is packed with a lot of activities. Students will attend lectures (in English or in Japanese) and experience campus life, while also enjoying cultural activities like learning brush calligraphy and tea ceremony. YNU students also accompany exchange students on excursion trips. The most popular part of their program is their weekend homestay experience. A Japanese family hosts the exchange students, providing a unique opportunity to experience home life in Japan.

Kanagawa University: Hands-on Language Learning for Beginners

Kanagawa University in Yokohama offers a summer program that focuses on intensive Japanese language learning not only by taking classes about Japan but also through hands-on cultural activities, field trips, and experiencing Japanese cultural traditions. The program is perfect for beginners: it is open specifically to students whose Japanese language proficiency is N3 or less.

Kansai Area

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies: Experiencing traditional culture in Kyoto

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies offers the Kyoto Japanese Summer Experience focusing on intensive basic-level Japanese classes while experiencing Japanese culture in the historic city of Kyoto. A unique feature of the program is that each international student in the program is paired with a Japanese student assistant who will support them in their language studies and more. The program’s location is also one of its main advantages. As the former capital of Japan, Kyoto is home to several world heritage sites and is known for its temples and the city’s celebration of traditional Japanese culture. As this short-term study abroad program happens in summer, the curriculum includes participating in one of Kyoto’s most famous festivals, the Gion Matsuri. The program allows students to experience Kyoto beyond the eyes of tourists but with deeper knowledge because of the guidance of lecturers who are experts in these Japanese traditions.

Ritsumeikan University: Deep diving into Japan’s Pop Culture

During summer, Ritsumeikan University offers an intensive Japanese Language program and a Japan Pop Culture Course taught in English. The unique course includes topics on manga, anime, video games, and J-pop and kawaii culture. The program also includes separate Japanese language lessons and four different Japan Studies classes focusing on traditional culture. Also situated in Kyoto, the program balances in-depth knowledge of Japanese pop culture amidst the backdrop of the historic city, making for a unique experience. 

Osaka Gakuin University: Experiencing energetic Osaka and more

Osaka, also a former capital of Japan, is known for its vibrant culture and energy quite unlike any other in Japan. Osaka Gakuin University’s summer program focuses on cultural activities in the big and modern city of Osaka while also getting to experience other areas in the Kansai region. The program includes a day trip in Kyoto and an overnight trip in the nearby town called Kinosaki, a small town famous for their onsen culture (traditional hot spring bath) and preserving traditional Japanese rural architecture. 

Shimane Prefecture

The University of Shimane: Japanese language learning and breathtaking nature

Shimane prefecture is a coastal region in western Japan and is nestled between the Sea of Japan on one side, and the Chugoku mountain range. Studying abroad in Shimane provides an experience of Japan unlike any other. You can explore the unique natural landscape and the rich history of this prefecture through the Japanese Language & Culture Summer Program of the University of Shimane. The program includes Japanese classes, lectures about Japanese culture, activities with Shimane University students, excursions, and field study.


The wide variety of universities and summer programs across Japan ensures that there is surely a program for students who have different backgrounds and interests in Japanese culture. Take your pick and begin your study abroad in Japan experience!

References:

Meiji University website

Toyo University website

Waseda University Summer Session Website

Toyo University website

Yokohama National University website

Kanagawa University website

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies website

Ritsumeikan University website

Osaka Daigakuin University website

University of Shimane website

List of short-term programs in Japan