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11 posts categorized "Resident Director"


Yokohama, River Cruise to Odaiba, and Farewells

Saturday, August 16 marked the end of the CIEE 2014 Summer Japanese Studies Program at Sophia University. We are proud of our students for having experienced and accomplished so much during these short four weeks. While balancing coursework with activities and excursions, we are confident that they learned a great deal not only about Japanese culture and society, but also about themselves.

In my last blog entry I wrote about our excursions to Nikko and the Studio Ghibli Museum at the beginning of the program. Since then there have been more activities and excursions, such as the daytrip to Yokohama on August 2. The first stop was Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, located at the tip of Yokohama Bay. It is one of the top aquariums in Japan and is home to the famous Aqua Stadium, where students enjoyed watching performances with dolphins and other sea animals. 

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Following Sea Paradise was a visit to the Cup Noodle Museum. It’s safe to say that just about every college student in the US has eaten their fair share of instant ramen, so it was interesting to learn how cup noodles were invented and how they became popular worldwide. The museum is fun and interactive; one of the main draws is the “My CUPNOODLES Factory” where you can design your own cup noodle package. After decorating your cup and choosing your flavor and toppings, you can watch your cup move down the assembly line and come out as your very own, original, and completely edible cup noodle.

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We wanted to finish the program in a unique and memorable way. On the evening of August 15 we held our farewell celebration on a ‘suijobus’ River Cruise to Odaiba, a modern manmade island abound with shopping, dining, and attractions. On the boat we ate snacks, played games, and handed out prizes and gifts. The weather that evening was fantastic, and the view of the setting sun behind the expansive Tokyo cityscape was truly stunning. As we approached Odaiba we were greeted by the 377 foot tall “Big Ferris Wheel” (Daikanransha), Rainbow Bridge, and the Fuji TV Building with its spaceship-like Spherical Observation Deck. We exchanged farewells after docking near the Ferris wheel. 

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By the end of the program many students were saying that they felt torn about leaving. While they were looking forward to reuniting with family and friends at home, they would also miss Japan and all the friends they made here during their adventures. We were also sad to see them go, but at the same time we are excited to see how our students will apply what they learned while studying abroad to future endeavors. To all of our 2014 Summer Program participants; thank you for spending your summer with us, and good luck with your studies and careers! Ganbatte kudasai!

(Read about Amanda's experience on the program here.)



Yōkoso, CIEE Summer Students!

On the weekend of August 18, 59 students from schools all over the US arrived safely to begin their summer adventure in Japan with CIEE and Sophia University. On the morning of the 19th we had an orientation session at the hotel, and then headed to Nikko. Located in the countryside roughly 78 miles (125 km) north of the capital, Nikko is a popular getaway for many people living in Tokyo. 

Our first stop in Nikko was the famous Toshogu Shrine, built in 1617 in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three ‘great unifiers’ of Japan. It is also the final resting place of the late shogun, whose dynasty ruled Japan for 265 years until 1868. The fifty-five buildings are decorated with lacquer, gold, vibrant colors, and elaborate relief carvings. Toshogu is designated as a World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful shrines in the country. Although the weather wasn’t ideal, the students still enjoyed exploring the shrine complex. Toshogu 01Toshogu 02Toshogu 03

Later that day we checked into the Mikazuki ryokan, which is famous for its indoor onsen (hot spring). After taking some time to unwind we dressed in yukata (summer kimono) and enjoyed a beautiful and delicious Japanese dinner. This was followed by another orientation session and a few icebreaker activities.Dinner 03Dinner 02Dinner 05Dinner 04

The following day we visited Edo Wonderland, a recreated feudal town filled with ninja,samurai, and geisha! We watched action packed ninja demonstrations and beautiful geisha performances, played traditional Japanese games, and visited museums. After Edo Wonderland we visited Ryuzu no Taki Waterfall and Kegon no Taki Waterfall, and then headed back to Tokyo.

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Group photo in front of the entrance to Edo Wonderland

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Students posing with a ninja after an exciting performance

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Elliot was called up on stage to be a part of the geisha show!


After returning to Tokyo we had several more days of orientation and cultural activities, a city-wide scavenger hunt, and a mini-excursion to the Studio Ghibli Museum. Studio Ghibli has produced many wonderful, world-famous films including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Our students were very excited to visit the museum, as many of them are big fans of Japanese animation and pop culture.

Classes started at Sophia University on Friday, July 25.


Studio Ghibli’s animated films are beloved by people of all ages around the world. Here students pose in front of the robot from the movie “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.”



Countdown to CIEE's 2012 Summer Program in Tokyo

July is almost here and the CIEE Study Center is gearing up for another exciting summer program in Japan. On July 19, students from more than 20 colleges and universities across the US will arrive at Narita Airport near Tokyo to take part in CIEE's 2012 summer program at Sophia University. The four week program begins with a week-long comprehensive orientation program, which kicks off with a 3-day trip to Takayama and Matsumoto, in Japan's Shinshu region. After settling in Tokyo, students will visit the Ghibli Museum and have time to explore Akihabara, Harajuku and Shibuya before classes begin at Sophia University on July 27. 
Visit our blog again for updated stories from Tokyo!
Shannon Quinn
Summer Program Director

 Tokyo night[1]
Photo taken on top of Mori Tower by Shannon Quinn 


また来年!See you next summer!

Thank you for visiting the official blog for CIEE's summer Japanese Studies program at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. Our 2011 program came to a close on August 18, and we are already looking forward to welcoming new students to our program next July. 

In the meantime, for updated stories from the CIEE Study Center in Tokyo, please visit to hear from students who are participating in the CIEE academic year program.  
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Reflecting on our orientation week trip to Takayama and Matsumoto

Greetings! This is Shannon Quinn, Summer Program Director, posting on behalf of Kevin In, one of our summer program students. 

Shirakawa-go Gassho no Sato (Photo by Shannon Quinn)



A little bit about me. My name is Kevin In and I currently attend the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. I grew up in San Francisco, California, so for most of my life I have been confined to the west coast of the United States. This summer I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel to Tokyo, Japan, for a summer study abroad session with the Council of International Educational Exchange, or more commonly abbreviated as CIEE.

I've been asked over and over again, “Why Japan?” I could write a dissertation essay on the reasons why I chose to study abroad in Japan, but I'll try and keep it short. The reason Japan attracted me is because I am fascinated by the fusion of Asian and Western traditions found in Japan. The modern-day culture of Japan is a conglomeration of Asian and Western ideals. It's very interesting to me for a country to have the ability to combine two seemingly contrasting traditions into an everyday lifestyle. So please follow me through my journey in Japan this summer, and I hope you enjoy what you read!

First Impressions

I arrived at Narita Airport and stumbled my way along (following the crowd) until I reached my terminal. The culture shock didn’t really hit me until I had to run my fingerprints into the camera with the customs people. The person I dealt with did not speak any English, and I could not speak Japanese, so we fuddled our way through the process through means of gesture.

I met up with CIEE program staff and we made our way to the Marroad International Hotel in Narita. Narita is approximately two hours away from Tokyo so it wasn’t exactly a big city, however, there is a mall called Aeon Mall that is a popular attraction. After I settled my luggage at the hotel, a few other members of the program and I made our way to the mall for our first adventure in Japan. There is definitely a difference between the malls of the United States and Aeon Mall. When we first entered the mall we saw a small Japanese jazz band playing a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that was broadcasted throughout the loud speakers of the mall. They played very well, and there was even a small audience clapping along with the tune.

It was sort of surprising to me that I stood out in the eyes of the Japanese people. Being from Arizona, people usually assume I am either Japanese, Chinese, or Korean without putting much thought into it. However, I could tell that the Japanese people knew I was a foreigner (but I guess walking with a group of Caucasian Americans helped) and greeted me with a look of amusement. Our group of students strolled around the stores and had a blast looking at all the different souvenirs and merchandise. There were a few stores that had an assortment of snacks and candies, ranging from dried squid to pickled fruits to cola-flavored gummy bears. My poor Japanese speaking skills did lead to a few obstacles when I inquired about some of the products.

On day two we began an eight hour bus journey from Narita to Takayama (which I am told translates to Tall Mountain). We were accompanied by an English speaking Japanese tour guide who explained many of the areas we drove by. Our bus first took us through downtown Tokyo (which was congested with traffic on a Saturday morning) and then through the rural areas of Japan. The countryside was AMAZING! I cannot emphasize the beauty of the mountain ranges and lakes enough. It was definitely a different world from the dry, brown desert land of Arizona. I have never seen so much green in my life. It was miles and miles of lush-green forests and rice fields. The drive went by so quickly because I could not get enough of the surrounding nature. There were a few areas along the way that had me worried however; in particular was the drive through the tiny cramped mountain tunnels. When one coach bus makes a corner turn, only to meet another coach going the other direction, it becomes a true display of driving skills (in one tunnel the distance between our bus and the opposing bus was mere inches apart!).

On our way to Takayama we were educated on the culture of onsen, which are Japanese hot springs. We were then told that our hotel at Takayama had onsens for us to try. Needless to say, we were all excited to relax in the hot springs and bathe away our stress. The regulations for onsen usage were also surprising. The idea is to keep the hot spring water as pure as possible, so a complete shower is required before entering the bath. Our group, split into males and females at this point, decided that the outdoor onsen would provide the most eye-opening experience. One particularly weird custom that I found interesting is the taboo that Japan has on tattoos. Tattoos are still commonly associated with the Japanese Mafia, Yakuza, so a few of our group members weren’t able to experience the onsen with us because of their tattoos.

 On day three we set off once again. However, before we left the boundaries of Takayama, we visited the Hida Takayama Matsuri-no-mori, which is a display of the parade floats of the Takayama’s autumn and spring festivals, housed in a bunker-like facility. The floats are kept in an underground cave due to their massive size, which I thought was quite cool. We also took a CIEE group photo (wearing traditional kimono and festival coasts) beside one of the floats.

After we left Takayama, we set course for Shirakawa-go Gassho no Sato village, which is an outdoor preservation museum of the village of Shirakawa in the mountains. This preservation project is fantastic! It’s really hard to describe in words, but it was as if we stepped into a time machine in the coach bus and traveled centuries back in time. The village consisted of about a dozen or so thatched-roof wooden farmhouses that belonged to approximately four or five families. It was incredible to step inside the small wooden houses to see the kitchen, dining area, and home-style shrines of these historic homes. The view of the mountain ranges and trees from the porches of the homes is one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. What I would give for a backyard like that in Arizona!

We continued our excursion and moved onwards to Matsumoto City, arriving at our hotel around 7 pm. Our purpose in Matsumoto City was to visit Matsumoto Castle. The castle was built in the 16th century and is one of the oldest surviving castles in Japan. There is a federal regulation in Matsumoto City that prohibits other buildings from being taller than Matsumoto Castle, which is only six stories tall. The inside of the castle featured displays of antique armory (though I think they may be replicas) used by defenders of the castle from attackers.

Matsumoto was the last stop of our three day excursion through rural Japan. I apologize if the details seem rushed, but there is just so much that occurred that I would end up writing a novel on the experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written.

-Kevin In

Matsumoto Castle (Photo by Shannon Quinn)


2011 Summer Program

July is finally here and the CIEE Study Center in Tokyo is busy gearing up for another exciting summer program. This year, we look forward to welcoming students from 17 colleges and universities.
Before beginning summer session classes at Sophia University, CIEE students will join a week-long comprehensive orientation program. This year we have planned a 3-day excursion to central Japan, with the cities of Takayama, Shirakawa-go and Matsumoto on our itinerary. After returning to Tokyo, we will take a trip to the Ghibli Museum to explore the anime of Studio Ghibli, and have a few days to get settled in before the start of the intensive academic program.
We will update our blog again once the 2011 CIEE Summer Program is underway, but in the meantime here are a few photos submitted by students for last summer's photo contest. Enjoy!
Shannon Quinn
Summer Program Director


farewell dinner

On the final evening of the program we held a special farewell party for participants on a yakatabune, a Japanese-style flat boat, for a sunset dinner cruise. Students enjoyed freshly cooked tempura, a beautiful view of the Tokyo Bay area, and several entertaining rounds of karaoke. It was a great finale to a very enjoyable and successful program! 

Students chat on the upper deck of the yakatabune as we prepare to anchor near Odaiba.


student housing

CIEE summer program participants were housed in Kichijoji, an attractive area less than 30 minutes from campus on the JR Chuo Line. Kichijoji is frequently ranked as one of the most desirable residential areas in Tokyo, due to numerous shopping, dining and entertainment options near the station and its proximity to Inokashira Park.

In addition, this summer, CIEE introduced a homestay program for interested students. Several students took advantage of the opportunity to experience daily life with a Japanese family and develop their Japanese language skills through sharing meals and activities with their host families.

Inokashira Pond at Inokashira Park, a 10-minute walk from the summer program housing



All CIEE students enroll in two 3-credit courses during the summer program. The coursework is quite intensive with two, two-hour long classes daily for fifteen days (including Saturdays!).

In addition to two levels of Japanese, the non-language courses offered this year were:

Contemporary Japanese Economy; Japanese Business and Management; Japanese Theater; Survey of Japanese Religions; Contemporary Japanese Society; Japanese Art; Japanese History: Edo and Tokyo; Comparative Asian Industrial Systems; Japanese Literature and the City; Contemporary Japanese Politics; and Foundations of East Asian Culture.

Classroom scene  
 CIEE Summer 2010 students in the classroom at Sophia University


summer program activities

In addition to our overnight trip to Hakone and Kamakura during orientation, students participated in several CIEE-arranged trips including visits to see Japanese animation at the Ghibli Museum and a Buddhist art exhibition at the Nezu Museum, an evening of Japanese baseball at Tokyo Dome, and a farewell cruise on Tokyo Bay.

CIEE students could also choose to participate in nine different Sophia University-organized events. This summer’s actvities included a visit to Meiji Shrine, a bus tour of Tokyo, a Taiko drumming workshop, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Rakugo storytelling, and Kabuki, Noh and Kyogen performances.

 Baseball game
Students watch the Tokyo Giants challenge thier Osaka rivals, the Hanshin Tigers.