In-person registration began Monday, February 24, for all summer study-abroad courses.

The Japanese concept of emptiness is rooted in the ancient Shinto belief that a void attracts kami or gods, and wabi sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic that locates beauty in an object’s imperfection, impermanence, or incompletion.

Students in this course discover, define, and document examples of these traditional Japanese concepts during 10 days in Japan’s mega-metropolis, Tokyo, and four days in its ancient capitol, Kyoto.

In both cities the class experiences some of the world’s most efficient intra-city transportation systems, using the interconnecting subway and train systems to get to all planned destinations, while visiting over 30 venues that include museums, galleries, temples, shrines, and gardens.

In Search of Emptiness & Wabi Sabi / FULL

Instructor: Doug Akagi
SF campus: May 20 & 22
Japan: May 28–June 11, 2014
SF campus: July 10 & August 21


Although the focus of this course is an investigation of traditional Japanese aesthetics, students also explore the compelling surface of Tokyo and Kyoto.

The Ghibli Museum, 21-21 Design Site, the Tokyo Fish Market, Matsuya Department Store, and Muji’s flagship store in Yurakcho are included among the contemporary attractions.

For the duration of the visit, students live in the question of what ties the old to the new. Each participant is encouraged to create an outcome that is informed by site-specific observations and individual conclusions.

Final projects may take any form, including print or time-based media and are evaluated on the quality of research, analysis, creative thinking, form-giving, and craft.

About the Instructor

Read about Doug Akagi in the fall 2013 issue of Glance »


Undergraduates: Completion of Level 3 corequisites (GD3 + Type 3) by summer 2014 (for Graphic Design majors); completion of at least sophomore level by summer 2014 (for non-Graphic Design majors). Instructor approval (all majors).

Graduates: Instructor approval

In addition, all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2013–14 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates this course satisfies an Investigative Studio, Diversity Studies Studio, or Studio Elective.

For graduates this course satisfies a gradwide elective.

Program Fee

$4,850 + $50 registration fee

Included in program fee:
3 units, housing, breakfast, final dinner, tea ceremonies, garden and museum entrance fees, ground transportation in Japan, and travel/health insurance

Not included in program fee:
Airfare to and from Tokyo, most meals

Please make sure you read the related links in full:

In-person registration begins on Monday, February 24, for all summer study abroad courses. Students should register no later than Friday, March 7. If spaces are available in the course after this date, students may still register as long as accommodations have not been finalized.

All CCA summer study-abroad courses (including the New York Studio and Marfa Fieldwork Project) are coordinated by the Office of Special Programs.


Office of Special Programs
Oakland campus, Ralls 201

Nina Sadek
Dean of Special Programs

Carol Pitts
Operations Manager, Special Programs