Summer Institute: Studies in Japanese Popular Culture

Program Overview

Photo above by Stuart Isett (

Based at Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) in central Tokyo, the Summer Institute of Studies in Japanese Popular Culture is a program for undergraduates who wish to focus their academics on studies of Japanese popular culture. The program will run from May 17 through July 30.

This unique program is designed to introduce students to various aspects of Japanese popular culture, including the inter-related fields of art, music and design, and analyze their collective expression in mass media and youth subcultures. Summer Institute courses include Anime in Japanese Popular Culture, Manga in Japanese Popular Culture, Japanese Popular Culture, and Youth and Deviant Subcultures in Japan. Although courses focus particularly on contemporary popular culture, they are contextualized by broader perspectives on Japanese society and culture, with anthropological and sociological analyses of identity, media and contemporary social problems in mass society. The courses are comparative in nature, and are informed by academic discourses on globalization (the diffusion of cultural innovation in popular culture) and the influence of popular culture, both in Japan and abroad. Students also have the option of studying Japanese language as one of their courses, commensurate with their level of language proficiency, assuming the language course does not have a time conflict with other desired program courses.

Students enroll in three of the courses offered, for a total of nine or ten credits. Courses are taught by distinguished faculty and are conducted in English. Japanese language proficiency or previous Japan experience is not required.

Japanamerica by Roland Kelts / The Otaku Encylcropedia by Patrick W. Galbraith

In addition to lectures and class discussions, the program also includes group field trips to art and anime exhibitions, participation in special public events related to media/popular culture (including clubs and concerts), as well as a wide variety of art and film-related events and activities.

Because this program takes place during the regular summer session at TUJ, students also have the opportunity to participate in university-organized field trips and excursions that are of general interest to students of Japanese culture.

TUJ is home to the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS), which sponsors special programs devoted to Japanese contemporary culture and language, as well as a lecture series. During the summer, the ICAS will produce a major academic conference devoted to popular culture, with prominent scholars and authorities participating and lecturing in the program courses. Previous conferences aligned with course curricula have included: "Youth and Imaginative Labor: East Asia and Beyond," "Digital Youth in East Asia," "Youth Work in Contemporary Japan" and "The Politics of Popular Culture." Participating scholars associated with these conferences, who have lectured at TUJ in the Summer Institute and the ICAS lecture series, have included such noted authorities as Donald Richie, Alex Kerr, Anne Allison, Ian Condry, Frederik Schodt, Robert Whiting, David Leheny, Mizukoshi Shin, Patrick Macias, Koichi Iwabuchi and Kaichiro Morikawa, among others.


  • Asian Studies 2000: Special Topics in Asian Studies I: Manga in Japanese Popular Culture (3 credits)
    This interdisciplinary course offers a thematic study of manga, which are increasingly viewed as an established form of visual culture and constituting a global subculture. The course deconstructs manga as textual artifacts of Japanese pop culture, drawing from the fields of history, art history, anthropology, sociology, literature and film. During each class, a new issue related to manga is examined to give valuable insight into key aspects of Japanese culture. It is expected that students learn to make critical analysis of this literary genre through contextualizing its production as well as consumption in Japan and abroad.

    Topics include the art historical origins of manga; the variety of manga characters, genres and their relation to social and technological development; the comics and rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s, and the birth of the otaku subculture; the relation of manga to computer games; and their adaptation in contemporary Japanese TV and cinema. The course considers works by Osamu Tezuka, Shigeru Mizuki, Hayao Miyazaki and Taiyo Matsumoto, among others.
  • Asian Studies 3000: Special Topics in Asian Studies II: Anime in Japanese Popular Culture (3 credits)
    The rich and varied world of Japanese anime (animation) has produced some of the most important cultural products to appear in Japan in the postwar period, and has established itself as a part of global popular culture. Students are expected to critically examine the themes and representations in anime works in relation to the historical and socio-cultural contexts of postwar Japan, in order to gain insights into how and why it has gained global significance as a subculture.

    Topics to be covered include the historical development of the production and reception of anime, in relation to media, visual arts and technology; the themes, characters and representation in major works; and their symbolic meanings in the Japanese as well as global context. The course includes analyses of major anime producers such as Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mamoru Oshii and Reiji Matsumoto, among others. Each class is based on close readings of specific anime, supported by texts, lectures, discussions, presentations, interviews with directors and background documentaries.

    The film culture of Tokyo offers students ample opportunity for exploration and study. Course field trips may include visits to anime production studios, festivals/conventions devoted to anime, and meetings with prominent anime producers at their site of production.
  • Anthropology 3310: Problems in Sociocultural Anthropology: Popular Culture: Japanese Popular Culture (3 credits)
    Cross-listed with Asian Studies 3000: Japanese Popular Culture. Note: Students may not register for two Asian Studies 3000 courses in the same semester.

    This seminar examines contemporary popular culture, highlighting the representations and performative aspects of everyday lives in contemporary Japan. The course looks at the global attraction of Japanese popular culture as well as how Western popular culture is 'localized,' focusing in particular on manga, anime, fashion, music, TV and sports. Students also critically consider the impact of mass media (music, film, TV, cybercultures and innovative modes of communication, such as cell phones) on youth globally as well as on Japanese society. Visual representations of Japanese society and its emerging cultural diversity are also examined in relation to written representations and everyday reality. All of these topics are examined from the perspectives of gender, historical context, as well as symbolic meanings given to respective representations and practices. Students are encouraged to reflect on their everyday experiences in Tokyo and to gain anaytical perspectives into their experiences throughout the course.
  • Sociology 2130: Selected Topics in Sociology: Youth and Deviant Subcultures in Japan (3 credits)
    Cross-listed with Asian Studies 2000: Youth and Deviant Subcultures in Japan. Note: Students may not register for two Asian Studies 2000 courses in the same semester.

    This seminar addresses the convergence of youth and popular culture, highlighting the performative aspects of youth subcultures in contemporary Japanese society. The course examines how youth and popular culture are situated in relation to mainstream institutions, and discusses how alternative modes of cultural interaction develop alongside and in opposition to the defining cultural values of mainstream society. The course looks at the intensive communities of on-line cybculture and digital media networks; racial and political representation in Japanese Hip Hop and Punk music; the style subcultures of Goth[Lolita]; Cos-play and their subcultural networks; and examines how youth culture embodies and creates new forms of cultural innovation in these various realms.

    In addition to examining the frontiers of evolving youth culture, the course contextualizes these novel subcultures by examining how Japanese society polices illicit behavior, using examples such as the Yakuza's role in society, sexuality, drug use and juvenile delinquency in the context of contemporary social change. Students also examine how counter-cultural priorities are being articulated through emerging media and transglobal networks, leading to novel forms of mediated identities and practices that defy institutional control.

Both Anthropology 3310/Asian Studies 3000 and Sociology 2130/Asian Studies 2000 offer experiential opportunities to understand Japanese youth culture on its own terms through qualitative research projects. Taking advantage of TUJ's central-Tokyo location and association with popular culture networks in art, media and design, both courses include ethnographic site visits and lectures by noted authorities on Japanese popular culture.

As one of the three courses, students may enroll in a Japanese language course at the appropriate level. Course levels are confirmed by faculty assessment once students are in Japan. Japanese language courses typically offered include:

  • Japanese 1001: Japanese Elements I (4 credits)
    Beginning Japanese for students who have had little or no Japanese language study. This course introduces some basic but useful conversational expressions, the two sets of syllabic symbols, some 30 pictograph-kanji, and most fundamental grammatical rules.
  • Japanese 1002: Japanese Elements II (4 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 1001, or equivalent.
    A continuation of Japanese 1001, this course focuses on learning new sentence structures and vocabulary. An additional 50 kanji (beyond Japanese 1001) and some basics for different levels of formality in conversation will be introduced. Students are required to write short compositions and letters.
  • Japanese 1003: Beginning Oral Japanese (3 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 1002, or equivalent.
    A bridge between beginning and intermediate Japanese levels, this course emphasizes vocabulary building and the use of spoken Japanese through situational conversational practice. Tests will be in the forms of listening and reading comprehension and structured interviews. An ability to read and write hiragana and katakana is required, as is a mastery of most basic grammatical rules.
  • Japanese 2701: Intermediate Japanese I - TUJ (4 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 1002, or equivalent.
    Japanese 2701 is the first of TUJ's intermediate Japanese language courses. It adopts an integrated approach to develop students' communicative competence for everyday communication. In addition to the course work and assignments, students are strongly recommended to spend at least one hour per week at the language lab.
  • Japanese 2702: Intermediate Japanese II - TUJ (4 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 2001 or 2701, or equivalent.
    Japanese 2702 is the second of TUJ's intermediate Japanese language courses. It adopts an integrated approach to develop students' communicative competence for everyday communication. In addition to the course work and assignments, students are strongly recommended to spend at least one hour per week at the language lab.
  • Japanese 2003: Oral Intensive Japanese II (3 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 2002 or 2702, or equivalent.
    A bridge between intermediate and advanced Japanese levels, this course focuses on vocabulary acquisition in a variety of conversational situations. Throughout the semester, several vocabulary quizzes and structure tests will be given, while the final exam will be in the form of interviews. Students are required to complete one project involving various communication activities outside the classroom.
  • Japanese 3000: Special Topics in Japanese I (3 credits)
    Prerequisites depend on topic.
    Topics vary and may focus on aspects of the language, literature or culture of Japan.
  • Japanese 3001: Advanced Japanese I (3 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 2002 or 2702, or equivalent.
    A focus on Japanese sociocultural studies, including the levels of formality in writing and conversation. There are approximately 300 kanji and 600 kanji idioms to review or to learn. Students are required to write a number of essays and make oral presentations.
  • Japanese 3002: Advanced Japanese II (3 credits)
    Prerequisite: Japanese 3001, or equivalent.
    A course focusing on intercultural studies. Students review or learn some 300 kanji and 600 kanji idioms, conduct a descriptive survey of a cultural aspect, and report on the results.

Temple students who successfully complete this program automatically satisfy the World Society (GG) requirement of GenEd.


The faculty for this program have diverse experience and academic expertise which complement each other, so that the courses are integrated into a structured academic program that explores the multi-faceted varieties of Japanese popular culture. The Institute faculty are:

  • Roland Kelts (MA, Columbia University, Fine Arts) is the half-Japanese American author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S. and the forthcoming novel, Access (Penguin). He is also a contributing editor and writer for Adbusters magazine and A Public Space literary journal, and a columnist for The Daily Yomiuri. He has taught at New York University, The University of Tokyo and Sophia University, and has delivered speeches on contemporary Japanese culture at numerous institutions across the U.S., Japan, Australia and the U.K. His writing appears in Psychology Today, Animation Magazine, Bookforum, Vogue, The Village Voice and other publications, and he is a contributor to the collections A Wild Haruki Chase, Playboy Fiction, Gamers, Kuhaku, Art Space Tokyo, Zoetrope and others. He is the editor in chief of the Anime Masterpieces screening and discussion series and a frequent contributor to National Public Radio.
  • Patrick W. Galbraith (Ph.D. Researcher, The University of Tokyo, Information Studies) is a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the impact of material conditions on fantasy, specifically how shifts in modes of capitalism and consumption impact otaku culture in Japan. He has worked as a freelance journalist specializing in Japanese popular culture since 2004, which culminated in writing The Otaku Encyclopedia and co-founding He contributes to Metropolis and Otaku USA Magazine. He also offers a professional weekly guided tour of Akihabara.
  • Sachiko Horiguchi (Ph.D., University of Oxford, Anthropology) is an assistant professor in anthropology at Temple University, Japan Campus. She is the only anthropologist who has successfully conducted long-term field-based research of hikikomori (socially withdrawn youth), with particular focus on the social construction of the hikikomori problem and changing notions of the "self" in contemporary Japan. She has published in both English and Japanese on hikikomori and has taught at Sophia University and in the exchange program at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
  • Kyle Cleveland (Ph.D., Temple University, Sociology) is the Summer Institute director, and is an administrator and associate professor of sociology at Temple University, Japan Campus. As the founding director of the university's Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, he has supervised special programs in Japanese popular culture and visual media studies, organized a lecture series, and produced events and symposia related to contemporary political issues. Through the Wakai Project, he organizes a series of events in which students, scholars, activists and media collaborate to address how globalization is affecting youth culture in Japan.

Application Procedures and Deadlines

Japan-based students (including local TUJ students) and students applying from non-U.S. overseas countries may apply directly to TUJ in Tokyo through TUJ Admissions Counseling at or 0120-86-1026.
Application is consistent with general procedures, and students may enroll up to the beginning of the semester.

Students who reside in the U.S., and who are coming as study abroad students via US-based institutions must register through Temple University's Office of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses in Philadelphia. Please see their website Open in New Window icon for more information.

Current TUJ Students

Current TUJ students must meet the same prerequisite to enroll in regular Upper Level courses.
Prerequisite: C- or better in English 0802/0812/1002/1012

Tuition and Fees

Below are the tuition and fees for Japan-based students (including local TUJ students) and students applying from non-U.S. overseas countries. For students who reside in the U.S., and who are coming as study abroad students via US-based institutions, please see the website for Temple University's Office of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses Open in New Window icon.

Budget Item Fee Notes
Application Fee ¥15,750 (Japan-based)
¥18,250 (Overseas)
Applicable only to new, non-degree-seeking one semester students
Tuition ¥539,400 - ¥599,000 Based upon total of 9 to 10 credits
3-credit course ¥179,700 Substantive content courses are 3 credits
4-credit course ¥239,600 Japanese language courses are 3 or 4 credits
Media Fee ¥8,400 per course Applicable only to 3 credit substantive courses; not applicable to Japanese language courses