Tokyo - Language & Culture


36 locations available

Program Description


Why Tokyo?

Tokyo is a city uniquely its own. It can appear straight from the future with its ultramodern skyscrapers, bright lights, and technology. Mix that with well-maintained and cherished traditions, like tea ceremony, festivals, and kimonos still worn in the streets, and you have a glimpse of Tokyo. Explore all of this and more in this one-of-a-kind city.

What You'll Study

Expand your understanding of Japan by immersing yourself in the language. At Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS), you take a 6-credit language course specially designed for IES Abroad students (with the option of taking up to 10 credits of Japanese). You'll also take English-language area studies courses focusing on popular culture, economics, history, political science, and contemporary society. KUIS is a modern and vibrant university with an international faculty and state-of-the-art facilities.

KUIS is located within walking distance of the IES Abroad Center in Makuhari, a modern city in Chiba prefecture, which is in the greater Tokyo area (just 30 minutes from downtown Tokyo). The area around the Center has easy access to public transportation, and offers many public amenities, like shopping and dining, a movie complex, a game arcade, parks, the beach, and open spaces to relax and hang out.

A good way to practice your language skills while getting to know Japanese culture is through your housing option. Live in a homestay with a host family or live in a residence hall or apartment with Japanese university students and young professionals. Both options allow you to get to know the Japanese way of life and make local friends. You can also enroll in the Social Organization in Japan with Field Placement course, which provides you with first-hand experience in a Japanese organization. Spend one day per week as a participant-observer at a local business or not-for-profit organization, and then share your experience in a seminar course to learn more about Japanese culture. With sufficient language ability, you can audit a Japanese-taught digital communications course at Digital Hollywood University. Possible course disciplines include Film, Animation, and Video Game Design.

Daily Life

We want you to feel at home in Tokyo, so we do everything we can to help you integrate into life in the city. Check out our IES Abroad Tokyo Center newsletter to see what our current Tokyo students are up to. Our E-pal program introduces you to a local student before you even arrive. Through your E-pal, you will have the chance to practice speaking Japanese and meet up for events as you get settled in. We also take you to places in and around Tokyo that you might not experience on your own.


Our mission is simple: to provide you with the best study abroad program possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences. We offer unique courses that explore Japanese language, history, and culture through an in-depth and hands-on approach. World-class professors and course options enhance your academic experience and provide you with new perspectives each day in class. You must take 15-18 credits per semester. Courses are worth 3 credits unless otherwise specified. Create your own academic experience by selecting from the following required and optional program components:

  • Japanese language course (required, 6 credits)
  • Japanese language electives (must be placed in 300-level Japanese or higher, 2 credits each)
  • English-taught IES Abroad area studies courses or KUIS area studies courses (9-12 credits)
  • Field placement and required seminar


This is a list of potential course offerings. After you are accepted, you will see a list of final course offerings in your MyIESabroad account.


  • JP 101 Japanese in Context: Novice Abroad I
  • JP 201 Japanese in Context: Novice Abroad III
  • JP 301 Japanese in Context: Emerging Independent Abroad Ⅰ
  • JP 401 Japanese in Context: Independent Abroad I

NOTE: IES Abroad reserves the right to cancel a course due to insufficient enrollment or circumstances beyond our control.


  • AN 310 - Gender and Family in Japan (Fall, Spring)
  • AN 343 - Japanese Manga and Animation (Fall, Spring)
  • AN 362 - Japanese Popular Culture: Past and Present (Fall, Spring)
  • SO/AN 391 - Seminar: Social Organization of Japan (Fall, Spring)


  • AR 351 - The Arts and Society in Japan (Fall, Spring)
  • US/AR 353 - Architecture, Urban Planning, and Development in Modern Tokyo (Spring)

Asian Studies

  • AS 320 - Japan Through Film (Spring)

Cultural Studies

  • CU 221 - Dialogues on Difference Seminar (Fall, Spring)


  • EC 320 - The Contemporary Economy of Japan (Fall)

Environmental Studies

  • ES/HS 339 - Environmental History of Japan (Fall, Spring)


  • ES/HS 339 - Environmental History of Japan (Fall, Spring)
  • HS 336 - History of Tokyo (Fall, Spring)
  • IR/HS 340 - History of Japanese International Relations (Fall, Spring)

International Relations IR/HS 340 - History of Japanese International Relations (Fall, Spring) Japanese

  • JP 321 - Listening Comprehension (Fall, Spring)
  • JP 323 - Writing Letters & Email: Personal & Business Communication (Fall, Spring)
  • JP 326 - Reading Modern Fiction (Fall, Spring)

Marketing MK 325 - Key Features of Japanese Marketing Strategy (Spring) Sociology

  • SO 310 - Contemporary Urban Society in Japan (Spring)
  • SO 363 - Introduction to Japanese Society and Culture (Fall)
  • SO/AN 391 - Seminar: Social Organization of Japan (Fall, Spring)

Urban Studies

  • US 355 - Understanding Tokyo Through Photography (Fall)
  • US/AR 353 - Architecture, Urban Planning, and Development in Modern Tokyo (Spring)

Field Placements

Field Placement is a highlight of our Tokyo program. As one of the requirements for the IES Abroad course, Social Organization in Japan, this weekly placement will get students out into a variety of Japanese organizations. Enrolled students will spend one day each week in a field placement experience as a participant-observer at local businesses, non-profits, or governmental organizations. These placements allow you to directly observe Japanese social and work interactions and to experience the local culture. In the accompanying 3-credit seminar course, you discuss your experiences, complete assignments, and learn more about society and culture in Japan.

Placement Examples:

  • Japanime (a publishing company)
  • Design Festa
  • The Japanese Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement (OCCUR)
  • Akasaka Hikawa Shrine
  • Sugano Elementary School

Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the Field Placement Program. The IES Abroad Tokyo program is dedicated to immersing students in Japanese culture and encouraging them to think deeply about what they experience. The goal is that you understand and experience Japanese culture and society from a Japanese perspective. Toward this aim, students are invited to participate in the Center’s Field Placement Program. Please read the information and instructions in this section carefully. This is not an internship program. The IES Abroad Tokyo student is a learner engaged in a form of ongoing ethnographic research, the core focus of which is the meaning of actions and events to the people within the social setting the student seeks to understand. The goals of the Field Placement Program are as follows:

  • Through a facilitated seminar, to encourage students to collectively share and reflect on field placement experiences as a basis for recognizing, understanding, and explaining the social organization of Japan.
  • To discover the “real world” social organization of Japan as it is naturally exhibited, without imposing a particular framework or theoretical preconception as to what will or should be found.
  • To develop basic skills of ethnographic inquiry through conducting weekly participant observation, journal writing, and shared reflection.
  • Through weekly field research, to learn how to describe interactions within a social setting and the outcome of these interactions, and to discover the meanings interactions have for the people being studied.
  • To develop a greater awareness of one’s ethnocentrism and how these tendencies block the understanding of cultures other than one’s own.
  • To become more interculturally competent.
  • To be more patient, objective, and introspective cultural explorers, appreciating the idea of cultural relativism when seeking to understand Japanese social organization.

The Field Placement Program participants must register for the SO/AN 391 seminar, Social Organization of Japan. The seminar meets once every other week for a total of seven, three-hour sessions. Each student is responsible for creating an extensive portfolio of the experience/research that, together with other materials, includes a learning contract, a reflection paper, a final academic paper, and a culture learning journal. To further guide the experience, each student will set at least three learning goals for the placement and state the methods he/she will use to achieve each goal. Students earn 3 credits for the seminar. As part of the seminar, students are assigned to field placements in Japanese organizations where they work as a participant-observers every Wednesday for 8-10 hours. In doing participant-observation for ethnographic purposes, you have dual goals of engaging in activities appropriate to the situation and observing the activities, people, and physical aspects of the situation. Please bring at least one set of business-level clothing for your placement. You will need to step outside your defined cultural backgrounds, to set aside socially inherited ethnocentrism, if only for a brief period, and to comprehend the world from the viewpoint of others who live by different meaning systems. Students are encouraged to discover the cultural assumptions Japanese people use to organize their behavior and interpret their experience. What meanings do these interactions have for the Japanese? Rather than collecting data about people, you are to learn from the people in your field placement, to be taught by them. You are not an agent of change. Placement Information Complying with specific placement requests is difficult, if not impossible. IES Abroad Tokyo staff works very hard to find placements that achieve the objectives of the course and that also match the research interests of the student. While course objectives take priority, the staff will do everything possible to find the type of placement that each student wishes to have. You should not expect to be placed with particularly high-profile or high-prestige organizations. However, the staff have been very successful at finding good placements that meet both the goals for the course and students’ expectations. This would not be possible without the students’ cooperation. If you have unanswered questions about the field placement, contact your IES Abroad Advisor.

Academic Year Students

Students at IES Abroad Tokyo for a second semester who wish to participate in the Field Placement Program for a second time will have the option of conducting an independent study in lieu of the seminar course. This independent study must be approved by the course instructor, the IES Abroad Center Director, and the student’s home school. Should IES Abroad be asked to arrange an independent study tutorial, the cost incurred will be borne by IES Abroad. Though the focus of this tutorial need not be limited to Japanese social organization, focus of the placement should remain true to the foundations of ethnographic research. Priority in field placements will be given to first-semester students.


With permission from the Tokyo Center Director and the KUIS instructor, you may enroll in English-taught area studies courses at KUIS that are 1.5 credits per course. Offerings vary each semester, and the course schedule is determined by KUIS shortly before the start of each semester. For this reason, it is not possible to preregister for these courses before you arrive in Tokyo. Past courses have included:

  • Anthropology
  • Communications
  • Culture Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • History
  • Political Science
  • Sociology

NOTE: KUIS reserves the right to cancel a course due to insufficient enrollment or circumstances beyond its control.

Partner Institution(s) Kanda University 神田外語大学

Founded in 1987, KUIS is a private university dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in International Studies, Foreign Languages, Intercultural Communication, Japanese Culture, and Linguistics. It is a modern and vibrant university with an international faculty and state-of-the-art facilities. The University enrolls approximately 3,100 graduate and undergraduate students; all students study a second language. It features modern computer facilities, library, sports and recreation center, and cafeteria.


Residence Halls

Live with Japanese university students and young professionals— each hall is configured differently. They are single-sex, privately managed, and offer single rooms with shared common spaces and bathrooms. The residence halls offer a meal plan that provides breakfast and dinner from Monday through Saturday (no meals are provided on Sundays or public holidays). The cuisine features typical Japanese set menus. There is also a common kitchen for student use, and rental refrigerators are available for student rooms for an additional cost.


Live with a host family and forge life-long friendships while you learn about Japanese customs, manners, and cuisine. Accommodations vary by placement. Hosts provide breakfast and dinner seven days a week. Homestay opportunities may be limited.


Whether staying with a host family or in a residence hall, you likely commute 40 to 90 minutes, as do most Japanese residents in the Tokyo area. If you have particularly high commuting costs, you will receive a monthly subsidy from IES Abroad.

Student Life


The program begins with a specially designed, three-day orientation that introduces you to the IES Abroad staff, your fellow students, KUIS, and the city of Makuhari in Chiba, as well as exploring parts of Tokyo. Topics such as academics, emergency plans, housing, transportation, and health and safety are covered during these three days. Additionally, CORE™, IES Abroad’s Comprehensive Orientation & Re-entry Experience, begins during orientation and continues throughout the semester with activities focusing on cultural adjustment, goal achievement, and preparing for the return home.

Extracurricular Activities & Cultural Events

Redefine the way you live and learn in Tokyo through our cultural events, such as:

  • Art & Culture Series - Special classes and demonstrations are held throughout the semester for you to experience the traditional arts of Japan. These may include ikebana (flower arranging), shodo (calligraphy), furin (glass bell making), origami (paper folding), sado (tea ceremony), and chochin (paper lantern making).
  • Guest Speaker Series - Distinguished speakers are invited each semester to address IES Abroad students. Past presentations have included “A Brief History of Gender and Sexual Minorities in Japan” and "Japan in the Asia-Pacific: The Politics of Identity"

University Clubs & Events

IES Abroad students in the Japanese Language Intensive Program have access to all KUIS facilities and receive a KUIS student ID that entitles them to student discounts on museum entrance fees, the cinema, theatrical performances, and rail travel. While you’re in Tokyo, joining a club or program is a great way to meet local students and practice the Japanese language. Here are a few recommended ways to get involved:

E-pal Program – Partner with a Japanese student as “E-pals” to help you meet local students. You are introduced to your E-pal via email one month before the program begins. Your Japanese E-pal then meets you after arrival and serves as your cultural resource throughout the term. We strongly encourage you to sign up for an E-pal and start your cultural and linguistic preparation before departure.

Student Council – Students at the Tokyo Center elect an IES Abroad Tokyo Student Council, which receives funds to be used for student events. Past councils have held photo contests, sponsored softball games with Japanese students, headed fundraising drives to benefit local charities, and hosted holiday parties.

Eligibility Requirements

  • 18 years of age
  • In good standing at your home school
  • 2.75 cumulative GPA or better on a 3.0 scale (GPAs under 2.75 will be considered on a case-by-case basis)
  • Sophomore, Junior, or Senior standing when program begins
  • Prior Japanese language knowledge is not required for the program but is strongly recommended. Beginning Japanese students should have a basic working knowledge of hiranga and katakana alphabets before the program begins.
  • Non-U.S. citizens: Native English fluency or test scores demonstrating English proficiency, including IELTS scores of 7.0 or above or TOEFL certificate with a score of 575 or above for paper, or 90 or above for internet.

Passport & Visa Requirements

A passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the end date of the program, with at least two blank pages is required. A student visa is required to enter Japan. Upon admission, you will receive more information about the application process and any related fees. The visa application process for non-U.S. citizens can be extremely lengthy, please contact us for more information.

Last updated November 2019

About the School

Everything we do is about the IES Abroad student. Our profoundly passionate team of study abroad professionals believes in creating once-in-a-lifetime educational adventures that transcend expectation ... Read More

Everything we do is about the IES Abroad student. Our profoundly passionate team of study abroad professionals believes in creating once-in-a-lifetime educational adventures that transcend expectations. Our goal is to rock the world of some 6,000 study abroad students every year. Read less
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