Summer Abroad in Japan

The following course was held in summer 2013. Complete information for Summer Study Abroad 2014 will be posted (dates, descriptions, pricing) by December 20, 2013.

Most of us are familiar with the mainstream phenomena that has characterized Japanese pop culture for the past two decades. Manga, anime, and Kawaii (the Cute craze) are commonly known, but the true origins of Japanese aesthetics lie in the traditions of its two indigenous religions, Shintoism and Buddhism.

Shinto gods, kami, are thought to be present in all natural things such as mountains, trees, water, and rocks while Buddhism holds humility and simplicity as a path to enlightenment. These basic tenets can be seen in Japanese art, architecture, design and landscaping and in Zen Buddhist practices such as the tea ceremony.

Japan | In Search of Emptiness & Wabi Sabi

Instructor: Doug Akagi

SF Campus: May 21 & 23
Japan: May 29–June 12, 2013
SF Campus: July 11 & August 8

Information Session

Monday, March 11, 11:15-11:45 a.m.
SF campus, N15

Interested students should contact Doug Akagi to start the approval process for registration.


The quest of this course is to explore Japan’s present day capital, Tokyo, and its ancient capital, Kyoto (794-1868), discovering, recording, and interpreting examples of traditional Japanese aesthetic values.

Students spend 10 days in Tokyo with a 4 day excursion to Kyoto via the Shinkansen, Bullet Train. As with any journey to a foreign place, the first challenge is learning how to navigate the new environment. 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 the focus of the visit is an investigation of traditional Japanese aesthetics, students also explore the compelling surface of Tokyo. For the duration of the stay, the class lives in the question of what ties the old to the new. Each participant is encouraged to create a visual system that is informed by site-specific observations and individual conclusions.

The Outcome

The final outcome of this course may integrate narrative with visual images. It may take any form including print and time-based media. As in the established curriculum of the CCA Graphic Design Program, the outcome will be evaluated on the quality of research, analysis, creative thinking, form giving, and craft.

Note: Collaboration is an option.


Undergraduates: successful completion of Level 3 corequisites (GD3 + Type 3) for graphic design students, completion of sophomore level for students from other majors, and instructor approval
Graduates: instructor approval

In addition, all students must be in good academic, conduct, and financial standing for the 2012–13 academic year.

Course Satisfies

For undergraduates, this course satisfies either a Diversity Studies Studio, Graphic Design Studio Elective, or Graphic Design Investigative studio.

For graduates, this course satisfies a gradwide Elective.

Program Fee

4,750 + $50 summer registration fee

Program fee includes

3 units, housing, breakfast, final dinner, tea ceremonies, garden and museum entrance fees, ground transportation in Japan, and travel/health insurance (see insurance)

Program fee does not include

Airfare to and from Tokyo, most meals

Please make sure you read the related links in full:
Financial Aid
Passport, Visa, and Insurance
Code of Conduct

In-person registration begins on Friday, March 1, for all summer study abroad courses. Students should register no later than Monday, March 25. If spots 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 New Mexico, New York, and Texas Studios) 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