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Harvard Summer Program in 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

  • Date

    June 7, 2024 to August 3, 2024

  • Apply By

    January 25, 2024

  • Cost


  • Housing


About the Program

The Harvard Summer School Kyoto program allows you 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 city and the region, the program approaches Kyoto as an extension of the classroom laden with opportunities for cultural engagement and experiential learning. In addition to participating in a uniquely crafted curriculum, you will have ample time to explore Kyoto on your own and develop new friendships.

Program Structure

You take two classes during the eight-week program. Field excursions to relevant historical and cultural sites in the Kansai region are complemented by hands-on, experiential learning opportunities intended to deepen intellectual engagement with the course content. You will spend the summer living with a host family in the Kyoto area, offering further avenues to cultivate local connections while being immersed in the rhythm of Japanese daily life.

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 little or 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 and Harvard College Professor, 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, Harvard University
4 credits
UN, GR Limited enrollment.

The human body and its afflictions were traditionally conceived very differently in East Asia and in Europe. This course will trace the fascinating history of these differences and explore their implications for medicine and health today. Why do notions such as qi and practices such as acupuncture seem so exotic in the West when they were taken for granted for nearly two thousand years in East Asia? Conversely, why did the Western conception of the body come to place such emphasis on muscles, a concept unknown to traditional Chinese medicine? How did contrasting beliefs about food and health shape different culinary practices and gastronomic tastes? Our course will take advantage of being conducted in Japan to teach through direct experience how studying foreign and past conceptions of the body can enable us to inhabit our own bodies in surprising new ways.

Where You'll Live and Study

Kyoto is a historically rich and culturally vibrant city that offers a wide range of opportunities to deepen one’s understanding of Japan and its place in the world.


For the eight-week program, you will be placed in a homestay with a local host family. You will have a private room. Most meals will be provided by host families. Access to a kitchen, laundry facilities, and a telephone may also be arranged between you and your host family. Host families live within commuting distance of the university. The program will provide commuter passes for use traveling to campus and for course-related field excursions.


To apply, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student
  • Be in good academic standing

Students enrolled at any accredited university are welcome to apply. See the How to Apply page for more information.

The Summer 2024 application is now closed. All admissions decisions will be released on March 1.

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 in early March.

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, etc.)

Interviews may be requested at the discretion of the program. Please note that this program requires letter(s) of recommendation as part of the online application process, which must be submitted by the application deadline. Apply early to ensure that your recommender has time to submit your letter(s).

Be sure to read about the funding options available for Harvard Summer School Study Abroad programs.

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

Cost & Expenses

Additional Information