Until the 1850s, Japan was a land shrouded in mystery. When it opened its ports to Western trade, it soon became an inspiration for European artists and writers who were looking for a breath of fresh air in Western art and literature. A wave of Japonisme, or the love of all things Japanese, swept up artistic and fashionable Westerners. Artists like van Gogh (who declared that all his work was “founded on Japanese art”) amassed collections of Japanese art. Operas like “Madame Butterfly” and musicals like “The Mikado” became the rage on European and American stages. At the same time in a period of less than fifty years, Japan underwent an extraordinarily rapid industrial and political modernization. By the early twentieth century, Western styles and techniques had been assimilated into the work of most Japanese writers and artists. Since the 1950s, influences in art, fashion, and technology have been moving back and forth fluidly, playing an essential role in defining contemporary global culture.
This eleven day, short-term study abroad program during spring break gives students the opportunity to examine first-hand Japan’s impact on Western culture, from its glorious past to its current ultra-modern culture. Students study the profound impact Western culture has had on Japan and how this mix of cultures has influenced the world we live in today.
The trip began last this week in Kyoto, center of the Japanese empire for a thousand years, followed by an excursion to Nara, Japan’s most ancient capital, home to wandering sacred deer and the oldest and largest wooden structures in the world. After a day-trip to Hiroshima to contemplate the terrible consequence of two cultures clashing, students stayed overnight in a traditional Japanese inn on the sacred Shinto island of Miyajima, a peaceful paradise. The journey finishes in Tokyo, a city that combines reverence for traditions with a passion for life inspired by technology. The goal of the program is to expose students to the culture and history of Japan, from imperial court life and sushi to anime and Studio Ghibli; from ancient and feudal Japan to the emergence of Japan as a technological juggernaut of Asia.
If studying in Japan or with other unique international programs interests you, visit Marist International Programs for more information.