50 Years of Cultural Exchange: The History of CIEE in Japan

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CIEE Alumni

Photo for blog post 50 Years of Cultural Exchange: The History of CIEE in Japan

This September, CIEE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of U.S.-Japanese exchange programs. Learn more about the history of CIEE Japan through these photos, and if you’re in Tokyo, attend our event at American Center Japan in October 2015.

CIEEJ group photo2

Photo credit for all photos (unless otherwise noted): CIEE Study Abroad in Japan blog


 CIEE’s office in Tokyo opened as the second CIEE overseas office in March 1965, in order to develop exchange programs for world peace and understanding between the U.S. and Japan. It received strong support and cooperation from prominent organizations, including the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the America-Japan Society of Tokyo (AJS), and International House of Japan. The first program jointly co-sponsored and administered by AJS and CIEE for the following thirty years was named ‘Summer Study in America’(SS).


Some of the organizations that CIEE Japan has partnered or collaborated with since 1965.

 In this program's first session, a charter flight took off for the U.S. early in the morning.  Included among the passengers were 102 young Japanese students participating in the new program. It consisted of English language learning sessions at U.S. universities and post-session cross-continental travel. The participants experienced the vast landscape and warm hospitality of host families during homestays on their way to the departure city.

Responding to the rapid growth of potential participants, the program was re-designed for university students and young business people separately in 1971.

CIEEJ blog_group photo statue


The third United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON) emphasized the need for increased travel opportunities for Japanese scholars of America, American scholars of Japan, and teachers of both languages. The American Embassy in Tokyo encouraged CIEE to develop plans for an in-service training program for Japanese teachers of English. CIEE Japan then submitted a proposal in 1967 to the Ministry of Education, whose officials quickly approved the plan and wrote a letter of recommendation to all the prefectural boards of education.


165 teachers from Japanese junior and senior high schools departed for the U.S. to take part in a two-month program. This initiative lead the Ministry of Education to launch sponsored training programs, with CIEE’s assistance, in 1978, and these programs have continued to the present day.


CIEE introduced School Exchange Services (SES) to Japan. SES was created in 1970 in a joint effort by the U.S. and France in cooperation with the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages for high school students. It rapidly expanded to other countries in Europe in the following year.


CIEE took over the initial work done by the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (JUSEC) and assisted the Ministry of Education in the national Mombusho English Fellows (MEF) project, which later grew to become the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) in 1987.

CIEE Japan’s work not only including programs for sending Japanese citizens to go abroad, but also for bringing international students to Japan, as a true exchange organization. In the 1970's, in cooperation with the Japan Society in New York, CIEE administered a program in Japan for American educators. The two-week program consisted of a homestay, a ryokan-stay, Kabukizazen, and a five-day intensive study of Japanese society and culture in cooperation with the faculty of Kyoto and Doshisha Universities.

Sophia sign


The Cooperative Japanese Business and Society Program (CJBSP) for U.S. university students started at Sophia University this summer.


Sophia University and the CIEE Study Center continue to work together to host more than 150 students from U.S. universities annually. Read what CIEE alumni have to say about their experience with CIEE in Japan: 


“Never before has my wanderlust spirit felt so energized as it does now. Even as I sit here writing this, I still cannot believe this will be my home for the next four months. And, despite only being here for one week so far, I already feel like this is where I am supposed to be.” – Shelah Larson, CIEE Study Abroad in Tokyo student


Photo credit: Teresa Fong

“As a recent alumna, I have been so influenced by my time in Japan with CIEE. I decided to go into international education because I realized how important study abroad is!”-Teresa, CIEE Study Abroad Tokyo Alum, JET program English Teacher


“I was quite fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity to study in Japan. Because of this, I learned a great deal about a completely different culture from that of my own.”-Daniel, CIEE Study Abroad Tokyo Alum, Teacher in Asahi, Chiba, Japan


If you're a CIEE alum in Japan, attend our 50th Anniversary Alumni Event at the American Center Japan in October 2015.