Tokyo | Pre-College

Join us in Tokyo for an insider’s experience of Japan on this Pre-College summer program for high school students. Broaden your horizons with in-depth, field-based seminars as you become part of an inspiring and supportive community of instructors and students from around the world. Choose two seminars and dive into your subject matter through engaging discussions, site visits, and hands-on projects that immerse you in Japanese life.

June 29, 2019  –  July 19, 2019
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Los Angeles
21 days
Typical Group:
30 – 40 students, 5 – 8 staff
$ 7,490 + airfare


  • Meet with top entrepreneurs and develop a business plan
  • Photograph the dazzling neon lights of Shibuya Crossing
  • Visit the whimsical Ghibli Museum with your Anime class
  • Interview local students about Japanese pop culture


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and a Pre-College representative at LAX Airport in Los Angeles, and fly together to Tokyo.  To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Campus Life Tokyo is a study in contrasts, where centuries-old traditions co-exist with cutting-edge technologies, making for a uniquely blended cultural experience. With a population of 13 million, Tokyo is Japan’s bustling capital, and the Greater Tokyo area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. From our residence, experience Tokyo’s distinct neighborhoods, museums, historical landmarks, markets, and food with your seminar instructors and peers. Meet with artists, business leaders, graphic designers, and tech innovators as you discover the myriad ways Tokyo’s dynamic growth defines its success.

Explore Tokyo on this pre-college program

Seminars Choose two seminars — a major and a minor —  and explore Tokyo and the surrounding countryside through the lens of your chosen seminars. Begin with classroom discussions that frame your seminar concepts and identify key issues. Take the learning beyond the classroom with site visits, meetings with local experts, and field trips. Tokyo’s rich historical, architectural, and cultural background makes it the perfect setting for our field-based seminars. Capped at ten students, our dynamic seminars are designed to encourage hands-on, place-based, collaborative learning. Learn to experiment with anime, then draw inspiration from a visit to the Tokyo Anime Center in the Akiba “electric town” neighborhood. Interview young entrepreneurs in the Shinjuku business district about their latest business ventures, or photograph the trends in street fashion in the Harajuku neighborhood for your Photography or Fashion Design seminar. Discover the city’s historical legacy on visits to its many museums from classical art in the National Museum to a light and sound installation at the Sony Museum. Go beyond sushi to discover hidden ramen shops, the difference between udon and soba, and the traditional Japanese sweets known as wagashi with your Japanese Cuisine seminar. At the end of your program, showcase your work in a final project, installation, gallery, or performance. Display your photography or poetry in a pop-up gallery, present your findings from your Marketing & Advertising seminar, or prepare a feast to share with your group.

Afternoon and Evening Activities Explore subjects outside of your seminars, relax, and have fun participating in enriching, afternoon activities. Catch the lively fish auction at the Tsukiji Market, then regain your sense of calm in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Join a tai chi session, attend a kabuki theater performance, or sample the city’s best sushi and ramen. Take part in a traditional tea ceremony or learn calligraphy arts during an afternoon workshop. Interview local teens about the Japanese pop culture scene, emerging technologies, or their views on American culture. The entire group gathers for a community meeting before dinner. After dinner, venture out again in the company of your instructors to experience Tokyo by night. Attend live music shows or a theatre performance, hone your photography skills during a night shoot, or enjoy a night of karaoke with new friends.

Weekend Excursions • On weekend excursions, travel to the surrounding countryside for a break from city life. Visit Kyoto, with its many Buddhist temples and shrines, pristine gardens, and traditional wooden houses, and learn about geisha culture in the Gion district. Discover the breathtaking beauty of Mount Fuji on a trip to the famed volcano, and hike the scenic trails along its base. Weekend excursions offer the opportunity to see a different region of Japan with your peers and instructors.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Tokyo to Los Angeles with your group and a Pre-College representative, then continue on to your final destination.  To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.


Due to the dynamic nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Tokyo.

8 AM Breakfast at our residence
10 AM Meet with your Major Seminar and visit cultural centers and parks in the city
1 PM Lunch out with friends
2 PM Meet with your Minor Seminar
4 PM Take a tai chi class or dance lessons, and attend events going on in Tokyo
5 PM •  Explore different neighborhoods, rest, relax, and regroup at your residence
6:30 PM Community meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule
7:30 PM •  Eat dinner out in small groups, and go to a theatre performance in the city

A chef teaches students to make sushi and other Japanese food on our pre-college program in Tokyo


Choose a major and a minor seminar and get an in-depth understanding of Tokyo and the surrounding area. Majors meet most days and minors meet twice a week. Capped at ten students, seminars are serious but fun, encouraging immersive, place-based learning. Frame your seminar concepts and identify key issues in the classroom. Take the learning beyond the classroom with site visits in and around Tokyo that add context and depth to the course material. Cap off your studies with a final project or installation to share your work.

Major Seminars (click on seminar to read the full description)

Anime & Illustration

Channel your inner otaku in this interactive, hands-on course that introduces you to the world of Japanese anime and manga. Develop your illustration and design skills as you learn from skilled instructors and guest artists steeped in Japanese animation techniques. With the futuristic neon backdrop of Tokyo as your classroom, explore the streets of Akihabara, the central district of the gaming world, or spend an afternoon at a manga café learning about the evolution of drawing styles over the last half century. Interview a curator at the Tokyo Anime Center and study iconic creations from Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and Ghost in the Shell to Princess Mononoke and the Evangelion series, while honing your own critical eye and artistic style. Discuss the evolution of manga — from its ancient aesthetic roots in illustrated scrolls to its contemporary incarnation that appeals to fans of all ages — and investigate how manga presents and challenges Japanese cultural norms. To cap the program, curate an artistic retrospective of a particular artist or studio, create your own storyboard, or explore “outsider” influence on this most homegrown of art forms.

Japanese Language

This seminar is open to students with at least one academic year of Japanese study who wish to improve their language skills by focused study and daily interaction with native speakers. Through informal discussions, language drills, and hands-on activities, students are engaged in Japanese study that is informative and fun. Classroom instruction is kept to a minimum so that students may gain real-life experience practicing their Japanese throughout the city at local markets, museums, and restaurants, where effective language skills are required. With class size limited to 10 students, instructors are able to identify underdeveloped areas in students’ knowledge and to customize exercises that fill the gaps and foster breakthroughs in language acquisition. While not the focus of instruction, learning and practicing key written characters is part of the coursework. Note that placement into Intermediate or Advanced Japanese will be determined based on assessments during the first days of the program.

International Business & Marketing

What makes a business succeed in today’s market and what are the steps taken between identifying a need and opening your (real or virtual) doors? What are key similarities and differences when comparing business management in the West to the way it is approached in Asia? This hands-on course begins by explaining the economic playing field where firms operate, with discussions of supply and demand, regulations and free trade, international trade, and currency flows. Examine Asia’s role and the influence that Japanese traditions and culture have on business practices. Through role-playing, discussions, field trips, and lectures, consider the practical aspects of business, including management, finance, marketing, advertising, public relations, organizational psychology, corporate leadership and culture, and business ethics. Working together as a team, put what you have learned into practice as you research, develop, and pitch your own small business.


Designed for photographers of all skill levels, this course teaches the basics of photography and composition before diving into more advanced shooting techniques and editing instruction. Whether your passion is portrait, landscape, adventure, or abstract photography, build your confidence and nurture your creativity through one-on-one workshops with your instructor and group critiques. Review other photographers’ work, and develop the visual and technical skills to capture the essence of Tokyo and the people and places you encounter. Discuss and explore the implications of digital manipulation in an age dominated by the power of the image, collaborate on projects with other seminars, and curate a gallery showing of your newly created portfolio. Students are responsible for bringing their own digital camera, which should have the option of being operated in manual mode. There is a supplemental fee of $125 for this course.

Technology & Innovation

With robots staffing the reception desks of Canon, 3-D technologies creating zoos and aquariums at the Sony Museum, and high-speed train lines connecting it to the rest of Japan, Tokyo is at the forefront of technology and innovation in the world today. Explore Tokyo through the lens of cutting-edge science and discovery from high-tech toilets and vending machines to innovative robotic exercise equipment. Discover the latest gaming technologies working on Pokémon Go before diving into the world of remote robotic surgery. Participate in creativity brainstorms, hands-on workshops, and discussions with some of the world’s most ingenious creators as you leave the past behind and launch into the futuristic world of technology and innovation in Tokyo.

Minor Seminars (click on seminar to read the full description)

Architecture & Urban Design

From centuries-old Shinto shrines set amid serene urban gardens, to soaring, 21st century skyscrapers redefining the skyline, Tokyo offers a distinctive approach where the traditional and modern uniquely come together. In this survey course, examine how architecture and urban design reflect the evolution of Japanese culture, religion, and aesthetics from the time of the samurai to today. Visit the curious Nagakin Capsule Tower, the most important building from Japan’s avant-garde movement, marvel at the swooping metal curves of St. Mary’s Cathedral, and discover the way light is captured by the undulating steel façade of the De Beers building. Site visits are complemented by design exercises paired with critique sessions and visits with guest designers. Come away with a better understanding of how Japan’s history and culture have shaped the development of its architectural design.

Fashion Design & History

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tokyo redefined its presence on the fashion scene with the emergence of street fashion. In this course, explore street fashion’s historical roots, and the political, social, and cultural factors that helped it take shape. Examine fashion’s role in constructing a uniquely Japanese identity as you visit key sites around the city to learn about Japanese style from Harajuku girls to Japanese preppy to punk-influenced goth. Discuss how trends are born and how, through media and association, they propagate differently in cultures around the world. Then, draw inspiration from Tokyo’s energy to create your own clothing design concepts. Readings and discussions about current issues — such as representations of masculinity and femininity — complement visits to design studios and fashion events. For a final project, produce and present your own design portfolios, research a subject of your choice, or co-curate a group fashion show.

Film & Video

Get a hands-on introduction to video and visual storytelling in this production-oriented workshop. Practice storyboarding, camera operation, sound recording, lighting, direction, and non-linear editing as you collaborate on a series of video projects with Tokyo as your backdrop. Explore the hidden language of cinema by looking at a variety of films, from documentaries to experimental shorts, to gain inspiration for your own projects. Examine the role of Japanese history and culture on the emergence of a uniquely Japanese cinematic style. As a final project, produce a short video to present to your Pre-College community at a culminating film screening. Students should plan on putting in extra time for editing, and may watch some films that are “R” rated. There is a supplemental fee of $200 for this course.

Survival Japanese

For students with little or no background in Japanese language, this seminar allows participants to function at a basic “survival” level in Japanese. A series of fun, dynamic language games and field exercises on such topics as food, greetings, asking directions, transportation, and local culture and etiquette improve your ability to get around and engage with locals, while enhancing your experience in Tokyo. While not the focus of instruction, learning written characters may be part of the coursework.

Japanese Cuisine & Culture

Nothing quite conjures Japanese cuisine like the image of sushi, the quintessentially Japanese meal of seasoned rice combined with a variety of other ingredients, chiefly fish and vegetables. There is much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi, however. In this seminar, the focus goes beyond simply discovering local foods, to delving into the origin of these specialties. Examine parallels between food and art, and discuss the cultural importance of quality, flavor, and presentation. Go beyond sushi to discover hidden ramen shops, the difference between udon and soba, and the traditional Japanese sweets known as wagashi. Take part in a Buddhist tea ceremony and discover how ritual and history are intertwined with eating in Japanese culture. Wake early to explore the lively fish auction at the Tsukiji Market. In addition to short readings and class discussions, visit local markets, attend a cooking workshop, and learn firsthand about regional agriculture. There is a supplemental fee of $200 for this seminar. Please note that while cooking classes may be offered, this course is primarily an exploration of Japanese cuisine and food culture.

What to Expect

Seminars •  Seminars are interactive and collaborative, taking advantage of the vast cultural and historical richness of Tokyo to enhance your experience. You can expect to meet with local and regional experts, artists, entrepreneurs, and guest speakers during the program. Each seminar works toward a final project — a short film, a business proposal, a performance piece, a gallery opening, or a dramatic reading, to give a few examples — which you present to fellow participants on the final night of the program. Parents and families are welcome to attend this final presentation!

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to spend most of each day outside and on the move with your seminar group, and to walk the streets of Tokyo, or explore by foot at weekend destinations such as Kyoto. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • In Tokyo, we stay in a residential hotel in private doubles, triples, or quads, each with bathrooms en suite. Students have access to common space for class and community meetings and socializing. Leaders reside in the same residence as students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day with a full breakfast at our residence. For lunches, seminars or small groups may eat together either at restaurants or head to a local market to shop for a picnic.  Dinners are eaten in restaurants or at our residence.

Ask Us

Call Alex at 802.387.5000 or email

The Pre-College Tokyo program is directed by Alex Bodel. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our summer student travel programs, please get in touch!

Alexandra Bodel

Dartmouth College, B.A., Romance Languages, B.A., Environmental Biology; University of Miami School of Law, J.D.

Originally from Miami, Alex spent childhood summers in Argentina and Uruguay, her parents’ home countries. During college, she studied abroad in Toulouse, France, and Baja, Mexico. After completing her law degree, Alex clerked for a federal judge and worked as a litigator in New York City. She has led or coordinated programs in Spain, Costa Rica, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the Indian Himalaya, Nepal, and Pre-College at Amherst College. Alex directs our Pre-College programs. During her free time, Alex enjoys yoga, running, and relaxing with her family. Alex is fluent in Spanish and proficient in French.