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COVID-19 Update: All 2021 Harvard Summer School courses and activities will be offered online.

Harvard Summer Program in Kyoto, Japan

  • Date

    June 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021

  • Apply By

    January 29, 2021

  • Cost


  • Housing


Kyoto, Japan

Immerse yourself in Japanese culture and learn about East Asia and the world using Kyoto as a living classroom.

Program Director: James Robson

About the Program

The Harvard Summer School Kyoto program has a uniquely crafted curriculum that allows students to spend two months in the heart of Japan’s old capital city. Held on Doshisha University’s Imadegawa Campus, just north of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and led by senior Harvard faculty with deep ties to the region, the program uses Kyoto as a classroom for pursuing cultural engagement and historical inquiry. Ample time is provided for students to discover Kyoto on their own while making new friendships.

Program Structure

Students take two classes during the eight-week program. Field trips to significant historical and cultural sites in the Kansai region promote a deeper cultural and critical engagement with the course content. Through individual homestays with Japanese families and engagement with Doshisha University students, participants have opportunities to form lasting ties to Japan.

EALC S-33 and HSCI S-146 count as two semester-long courses (4 credits each) of degree credit.

Noncredit Japanese language instruction with Doshisha staff is provided for students with no previous exposure to the Japanese language.



EALC S-33 Study Abroad in Kyoto, Japan: East Asian Religions—Traditions and Transformations

James Robson, PhD, James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course is designed as an introduction to the study of East Asian religions. It aims to cover the development and history of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Shinto, and various forms of popular religions in a cross-cultural setting. The course begins in India, and moves north and east to China and Japan, at the same time we move (in a meandering way) from ancient times down to the present day. Since this course is being taught in the culturally rich city of Kyoto, it takes advantage of that location to link the course material to specific temples, shrines, and other cultural sites in the Kansai region to provide students with a sense of history as well as a hands-on experience of the lived religions of contemporary Japan. All sections of the course are connected to Japan, since even the Indian Buddhist and Chinese religious developments are discussed in an interdisciplinary and transnational context.

HSCI S-146 Study Abroad in Kyoto, Japan: Medicine and the Body in East Asia and in Europe

Shigehisa Kuriyama, PhD, Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History and Harvard College Professor, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

This course is a comparative historical exploration of the striking differences and unexpected similarities between traditional conceptions of the body in East Asian and Western medicine. Tracing the evolution of East Asian and Western medicine, as well as the relationship between traditional medicine and contemporary experience, students discover the astonishingly deep past that underlies how we conceive our own bodies, here and now. Why did acupuncture become a common practice in China? Why did the Western conception of the body—not only in medicine, but in art—come to place such emphasis on muscles, a concept alien to traditional East Asia? Why is the single most common physical complaint in Japan an ache that has no name in English?  The course takes advantage of being taught in Japan to show through direct experience how embodied life can be imagined in surprising new ways.

Where You'll Live and Study

Kyoto is an ideal city to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and learn about Japan and its global connections.


You stay with a local family, where you will have the best chance to experience the Japanese way of life. You have a private room. Access to a kitchen, laundry facilities, and a telephone may be arranged between you and the family. Families live in safe neighborhoods within commuting distance of the university. The program will provide commuter passes for student to use when traveling between Doshisha’s campus from their homestays.


Each program has unique requirements included in the online application. Beginning your application early is the best way to ensure that you have sufficient time to review and complete the application requirements by the deadline.

You may apply to no more than two programs; if applying to two programs, you will be asked to rank your two applications in order of preference (first and second choice). Any applications submitted in excess of the maximum of two will be automatically withdrawn. You will be notified of your admissions status in each program by late February.

A complete online application includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • A statement of interest
  • Your most recent transcript
  • Program-specific requirements (if applicable; may include letters of recommendation, audio or video submissions, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program.

Harvard College students applying for funding from the Office of Career Services (OCS)Please note that the OCS funding application is separate. OCS funding awards are tied to a specific program, and cannot be transferred to another program.

If you have questions about the application, please contact the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Office by email at

Cost & Expenses

Additional Information