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Japan - Spring 3-Week 2015



April 22  - May 12, 2015

The Faculty

Cara Constance, Professor of Biology

Kirsten Parkinson, Professor of English

The Course

INTD 28000: Turning Japanese: Japan's Cultural and Genetic Identity (3 credits)


Course Description

What does it mean to be Japanese?  We as Westerners often picture a homogenous Japanese culture -- genetically, historically, culturally, religiously.  In this course we will examine the actual diversity of the Japanese people from their DNA to their cultural and religious heritage.  The course emphasizes the culture of the Japanese people as revealed by literature and the sites we will visit but also what has been discovered at the genetic level about the Japanese population.  We will devote equal coverage to the humanities and sciences during this trip.   


In Tokyo we will explore the Miraikan, The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation to learn about genomics and what it has revealed about the human race and the Japanese in particular, while also visiting a temple, a fish market, and the Japanese legislature.  We will also go to the RIKEN Genomic Sciences Center in Yokohama to learn about an ongoing genomics research project and to interact with graduate students in Japan.  

In Kyoto, we will discover traditional Japanese culture, including the tea ceremony and Japanese handicrafts while visiting temples and shrines tied to key religions in Japan.  

The town of Takayama and its heritage sites will give us a sense of Japanese life in the past as well as of Japan's many holidays and cultural festivals.  

As we grapple with the consequences of the dropping of the atomic bomb during our time in Hiroshima, we consider not only the medical and technological consequences of this event but also how the bomb and its aftermath has influenced Japan's modern historical perspective.

Class Requirements:

Prior to departure, participants will be required to successfully complete a 1-hour orientation course during the spring 2015 12-week session.  This course will focus on essentials, (i.e., what to bring, money, health, dangers, behavioral expectations), Japanese historical and cultural background, and skills to manage cultural adjustment (i.e. language training, adjustments strategies, customs).  Central to these meetings will be the goal of creating a learning community.  Students will be encouraged to see each member of the class as well as the faculty as partners in their learning.  Appropriate values will be discussed and reinforced to make the learning experience abroad as successful as possible for each participant.

During this pre-departure course, each student will be assigned a specific site in Japan, which will be visited.  The student will research the history of the site as well as its contemporary functions and significance in Japanese culture, and contrast its functions to similar sites in U.S. culture.  Students will prepare a presentation to be delivered on-site in Japan, accompanied by a one-page outline distributed to all participants.

Estimated Program Costs

$5,000 above tuition and fees

Costs include round trip airfare, housing, meals, ground transportation and required excursions.  Personal expenses, passport fees and independent travel are not included.  This figure is a good-faith estimate, students might be required to pay an additional amount at the end of the program to cover unexpected or increased costs.

Application packets are available outside the Study Abroad Office (Hinsdale 139)

A $75 non-refundable fee is due upon receipt of the completed application.

Application Deadline

October 17 , 2014

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Majors and Minors Offered

For advising and more information, please contact:

Lisa Bixenstine Safford, Professor and Department Chair

  • 330-569-5307
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  • Gelbke Art