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Program Description:

Program Overview     

The destination is Japan, and specifically the Kanto region and Tokyo, the largest 'megacity' in the world. The theme is the traditional Japanese diet, "wa" shoku – its origins, history, ways of expressing Japanese life and culture, seasonality, and festivity. Shoku is one of the most easily identifiable Japanese characters, ?--to eat; meal, food--and it combines with "wa," referring to Japan and all things Japanese, to describe the traditional ways of food in Japan. But, now, the Japanese diet is undergoing rapid change, through assimilation, becoming more "yo" (westernized) shoku. Although yoshoku originated with the opening of Japan in the Meiji era, it has by new reached a new level through globalization. This change is not necessarily "bad," but it does represent a fundamental change and an ongoing adaptation to modern life. Studying washoku and yoshoku will provide a window into cultural change.
Tokyo has been the center of Japanese life since the Edo era. All roads lead to Tokyo. The "0 mile marker" for the nation resides in downtown Tokyo. Edo was and Tokyo is the seat of government and culture, has the greatest population density, and is the transportation hub for the nation. During Maymester, our two weeks in Tokyo will offer students abundant opportunities to understand how, in the >70 years of peace following World War II, the Japanese have built an infrastructure that is the rival of the world, and have used it for increased productivity, enjoyment of the outdoors, respect for nature, promotion of tourism, and an unrivaled food system. Tokyo is also a city of trees and parks, shrines and temples and churches, rivers and canals, and museums and stores to delight many tastes. There are even rice paddies in Tokyo. Food is not consumed in isolation, but in the context of the seasons of the year, specific locations, and celebrations. This Maymester course will focus on food, but the experience will be that of Japan at its center, Tokyo. The experience will include trips to the nearby mountains and bay, historical museums, architectural museums and walking tours, visits to graphical/ sculptural/calligraphy/origami museums, botanical gardens, and river walks/bike rides to understand the importance of nature, rivers, and the sea to the life and food culture of Japan. Our fundamental purpose will be to understand Japanese foods, and why Japanese washoku is consider "special" enough to have been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Let's understand washoku!

We will plan our excursions together and we will travel together as a group to the various locations, as this is necessary in a large city like Tokyo, but, once at our destinations, students will have leeway to look and explore independently, then regroup on schedule so we can move on together. For example, in Ueno Park there are several different museums to choose from, while at Jindaiji there are temples, craft shops, outdoor botanical gardens, and a large collection of diverse tropical plants in the conservatory. Students can decide which they prefer and apportion their time accordingly. We will arrange most of our discussions before our visits and in the evening afterwards.

Program Quicklinks     

Housing and Meals
Program Costs
Financial Aid & Scholarships
More Information
How to Apply
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Any pre-requisite courses are established by the faculty leader or department hosting the course.  The following have been listed as pre-requisites for consideration to enroll in this course and travel on the embedded education abroad program:
  • This course is open to students in all majors at the University Park campus.
  • Admission in the course and permission to travel with the group are at the discretion of the faculty leader and/or academic department hosting the course.  Academic standing and disciplinary or conduct issues may impact eligibility.

Housing and Meals

During the embedded travel component, housing will consist of overnight accommodations in a hotel/hostel.

Program Costs

Students pay regular Penn State tuition (either in-state or out-of-state) for the credits associated with the embedded course.  Travel costs, lodging, meals, excursions, and other fees are determined by the program budget which is set by the program leader.  Please consult the program leader for additional information.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Global Programs administers a scholarship that is specifically designated to support students studying abroad on embedded courses.  The scholarship is competitive, and the deadlines to apply are strictly enforced.  Please review the Embedded Programs Scholarship eligibility, deadlines, and application process.

For More Information

For more information about this course, please contact the program leader: A. Catharine Ross by emailing

How to Apply

 The process for enrolling in an embedded course varies according to the instructor and/or department.  The program leader has indicated that in order to enroll in the course and travel component, students must contact program leader.

Studying Abroad with a Disability

Many students with disabilities successfully study abroad each year. Please note that other cultures may have different attitudes and available accommodations regarding disabilities. While we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all program sites and locations, specific accommodations may be arranged in consultation with our office, the Student Disability Resources office, and our partners abroad. To prepare for success, students are strongly encouraged to research the country and program location to consider if and how they will manage their disabilities abroad in advance of selecting a program. Students with disabilities and other diverse backgrounds can begin their research on our Diversity Awareness Abroad page.




Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer-Embedded 2020 08/21/2019
Rolling Admission 05/13/2020 05/26/2020
NOTE: The application deadline date is NOT as it appears above. Please contact the program leader A. Catherine Ross by emailing if you are interested in applying for this embedded program.

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Students will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.

Indicates that deadline has passed