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Summer Research in Tokyo: People, Nature, and the Environment
Tokyo, Japan (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Summer
This program is currently not accepting applications.
Partner Institution/Organization Homepage: Click to visit
Restrictions: Princeton applicants only
Program Description:

People, Nature, and the Environment: Summer Research in Tokyo

The relationships between PEOPLE, NATURE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT have long been a central theme in the literature, philosophy, religion, and art of East Asia. They are also central political, social, and economic issues for the region. And they therefore represent rich opportunities for important research from a wide variety of disciplines. This six-week summer program is designed specifically for rising juniors and seniors who are preparing to begin their research for their junior papers and senior theses. We welcome a wide variety of proposed projects, from images of nature in classical landscape painting to the environmental consequences of China’s Three Gorges Dam project, from Korea’s organic farming movement to the representations of the wilderness in Miyazaki Hayao’s Princess Mononoke.

During the program, students will have the opportunity to benefit from Princeton’s partnership with the University of Tokyo, particularly with the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia. With resources and scholars covering the region, and often focusing on different perspectives and questions than those that animate American discussions, the University of Tokyo provides a superb environment for research and study for students dealing with these complex issues.

While in Tokyo, students will be in a program led by Dr. Haruko Wakabayashi of Princeton’s East Asian Studies Department, which includes weekly seminars held with University of Tokyo students inviting guest lecturers who will discuss their research topics and methods related to the theme of “Nature and the Environment.” These seminars are designed to help students build perspectives from a variety of disciplines and develop research questions. Each student will also have the opportunity to meet with and receive feedback from scholars in the field.  In addition, the weekly research meetings will tailor discussion to the questions and concerns of individual students. Students will also go on field trips to sites associated with nature and environment in and around Tokyo and in the Tohoku region, which suffered massive damage during the earthquake/tsunami of 2011, as well as the environmental, social, and economic repercussions of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

No knowledge of Japanese language is required. Students outside of the field of East Asian Studies who are willing to acquire comparative perspectives are also encouraged to apply.

This program has been generously funded by Princeton and Tokyo Universities as part of the project, “Toward Immersive Asian Studies: A Collaborative Undergraduate Exchange Program for the Todai-Princeton Partnership,” initiated by Professors David Leheny (Princeton University, East Asian Studies) and Jin Sato (University of Tokyo, Institute of Advanced Studies on Asia & Visiting Professor, WWS).

The program is not a course and will not generate course credit, but it will be an invaluable opportunity for those with research interests in the region.


All Princeton sophomores or juniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. This program may be especially useful for students in Anthropology, Art & Archaeology, Comparative Literature, East Asian Studies, History, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Sociology, and the Woodrow Wilson School, though we will welcome applicants from any department if the program may be helpful to the development of their planned independent work. Although we expect some focus on East Asia, we welcome applications from those students interested primarily in American engagement in the region as well.  

Applications include:

  • A resume
  • An internal Princeton transcript
  • Essay questions
  • 1 letter of recommendation from a faculty member who knows your academic abilities


The program will cover the vast majority of the costs of participation, including airfare, accommodations at the University of Tokyo, and program fees.


Students will stay in on-campus housing at the University of Tokyo.

The University

The University of Tokyo, usually known as "Todai" was established in 1877 as the first national university in Japan. As a leading research university, Todai offers courses in essentially all academic disciplines at both undergraduate and graduate levels and conducts research across the full spectrum of academic activity. The university aims to provide its students with a rich and varied academic environment that ensures opportunities for both intellectual development and the acquisition of professional knowledge and skills.

The Setting

Tokyo began as fishing village called Edo and grew by the 16th century to the largest city in the world. Today Tokyo, still the largest metropolitan area in the world, is often considered one of the three economic centers of the globe along with London and New York City. As the political center of Japan, it hosts the Japanese national government and the Imperial Palace. Also known as a center for academic life the city holds numerous universities, such as Todai, and several national archives for researchers including the National Diet Library and the National Archives.

As you might expect from a city of this size, the cultural life in Tokyo is wide ranging and diverse. Tokyo has museums of all kinds from the Tokyo National Museum, specializing in traditional Japanese art to the National Museum of Modern Art near the Imperial Palace. Theater and music possibilities cover the spectrum as well, from noh and kabuki venues to large popular music venues like Nippon Budokan arena. Once cherry blossoms bloom in spring, many residents gather in Ueno Park, Inokashira Park, and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for picnics under the blossoms. Harajuko, a neighborhood in Shibuya, is famous for its popular culture scene and cosplay. Sports options abound with baseball and sumo being two very popular among locals.

Dates / Deadlines:
This program is not currently accepting applications. Please consult the sponsoring department's website for application open dates.
This program is currently not accepting applications.