Discover what it’s like to call the world’s largest metropolitan area home. During your time in Tokyo, you’ll explore the contrast of uber-modern and ancient in a city where bright lights and sleek skyscrapers coexist with one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the world. By volunteering with a local organization, you’ll practice your conversation skills, make meaningful connections, and live everyday experiences that tourists miss.
Participate in a tea ceremony or taiko drumming class; watch a live sumo wrestling match or bunraku puppet theater show; or learn to make sushi or origami. The cultural opportunities are endless! Round out your Gap Year Abroad experience with day trips and an overnight excursion each semester to another part of Japan.
- Increased language proficiency (165 hours per semester of language classes)
- Ability to navigate across cultures (20 hours per semester in an intercultural seminar)
- Certificate of volunteer service (minimum of 18 hours of service)
- Deep understanding of Japanese family and culture through day-to-day experiences with a local host family, vetted and approved by CIEE
- Documented language growth through pre- and post-program language testing
Sample Activities and Excursions
- Make a real difference through volunteering with Second Harvest, an organization that focuses on providing critical services to the city’s poor.
- Learn how to make authentic sushi, bento lunch boxes, waghashi confections, and other traditional foods during cooking classes. Then enjoy tasting your culinary creations!
- While away an afternoon watching anime films with fellow gap program peers. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Laputa are favorite showings at the CIEE Study Center.
- Explore art, history, culture, and science at world-class institutions like the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
- Make origami paper creations, colorful Ukiyo-e prints using woodblocks, or nunozori (sandal-style slippers made from cloth).
- Join in a true Japanese tea ceremony, and come to appreciate the intricacies of one of Japan’s oldest traditions.
- Learn to play the taiko drum, one of Japan’s most popular cultural icons.
- Relax and learn during a day trip to Kamakura or Kawagoe.
- Travel overnight to Hiroshima, Kyoto, or other Japanese cultural destinations.
The CIEE Difference
A Gap Year Experience that Gets It Right
Just the right balance – of structure and independence, of academics and adventure, of serious and fun.
Full Cultural Immersion
Live Like a Local
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in another culture than by living with a local family. Not only will your host family provide you with daily meals and a place to stay, they’ll also introduce you to local customs, and offer support and guidance in an unfamiliar environment.
Our host families are consistently rated as the highlight of the Gap Year Abroad experience. We carefully screen all host families and choose them based on personality profiles and common interests. Through your host family, you’ll build a home away from home and develop relationships that endure long after you’ve finished your Gap Year Abroad program.
Service Learning Options
Make a Difference in Your Own Unique Way
Volunteer work is an essential component of your Gap Year Abroad experience, and a rewarding way to create positive change in your new community. The professional skills you’ll develop along the way will prove valuable for your resume and for years to come.
You and fellow gap program participants will volunteer through the Second Harvest Food Bank in Tokyo. Along with prepping food, loading trucks, organizing materials, cleaning up, or packaging food boxes, you’ll distribute food in Tokyo’s famous Ueno Park.
For a minimum of six hours each month, you’ll give back and gain skills by serving in your local Tokyo community in a meaningful way.
Language & Culture Program
Communicate and Collaborate – Locally and Globally
Full immersion is the most efficient way to learn. With CIEE you can fast-forward your language skills during class time – then put them into practice out on the town. Fun and engaging classes help accelerate fluency so that you can maximize your experience abroad while gaining competitive skills for the future.
You’ll receive 15 hours of intensive language instruction each week at the Intercultural Institute of Japan near the district of Akihabara, famous for anime and manga culture, video games, and electronics. Whether you’re an accomplished Japanese speaker or a beginner, small classes and individualized instruction will improve your skills.
To complement your language classes, you’ll take a course in leadership and Japanese culture through the CIEE Study Center in Tokyo. Then you will take your learnings on excursions to landmarks including the Imperial Palace, Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, and the ultramodern, man-made island Odaiba in Tokyo Bay.
With CIEE, cultural studies classes go much deeper than sightseeing. They enhance your language coursework by adding important context and content. By connecting the dots through this integrated approach, you’ll get a holistic, big-picture education – one that could not be possible in your hometown language lab.
Our coursework is all about experiential learning and intercultural connections. Working with diverse groups expands perspectives and builds critical skills. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, the ability to communicate and empathize with those considered “foreign” is more important than ever.
Out & About
Treks and Adventures
Program Excursions & Independent Exploration
Our Gap Year Abroad programs offer the perfect balance of structured activities and free time. You’ll get to travel and see the country as a group, and still have time for everyday exploration.
Each semester features an overnight trip to a different part of Japan. In fall, you might travel to Hiroshima to view peace memorials and museums. Spring trips often include a visit to the well-preserved city of Kawagoe, known for its variety of traditional Japanese candy shops and attractions including Toki no Kane (Bell of Time Tower).
Day trips include a visit to Kamakura (called the Kyoto of eastern Japan), where you can view shrines, temples, and other historical sites, and enjoy regional cuisine.
Back in Tokyo, there are plenty of group activities for those who want to join in. Learn about Bunraku, a type of traditional Japanese puppet theater; then attend a performance. Or study up on sumo wrestling, a sport steeped in Shinto tradition, and see an authentic match during a day trip in the city. Need a break from the bustle? Relax at the emperor’s Imperial Palace, a bastion of open space and serenity in the middle of Tokyo.
Dates, Deadlines & Fees
Dates, Deadlines & Fees
We want to make sure you get the most out of your gap year abroad experience with CIEE, which is why we offer the most inclusions in our fees.
- Transportation from Narita International Airport
- Luggage transportation service to and from your host family’s home
- A stipend to cover transportation costs from your homestay to the CIEE Study Center and your language classes
- Language classes at the Intercultural Institute of Japan
- A CIEE cultural and leadership course, including class excursions and admission fees
- Volunteering activities
- CIEE-sponsored trips and excursions
- Room and board with a host family, including breakfast and dinner daily
- Costs associated with changing host families midyear (for academic-year students)
- Supervision and support from the CIEE Study Center staff
- Orientations before leaving the United States and upon arrival in Japan
- International medical, travel, and emergency-evacuation insurance through iNext and 24-hour worldwide travel assistance and support services
- Language pre and post testing to demonstrate improvement in the target language.
Academic Year 2016-2017
July 25, 2016*
July 25, 2016*
November 28, 2016*
*Early Bird Discount: Beat the application deadline by a month and get $400 off.
*Prices are subject to change. Your price will be locked in when CIEE receives your complete application and program deposit.
- Students must be a high school graduate in good academic standing
- Must demonstrate – on their application and during an interview – maturity, flexibility, adaptability, good character, and readiness to face the challenges of living in a different culture
- Must be at least 17 at time of departure
- Are not required to have previous language experience
The CIEE Study Center staff in Tokyo is responsible for supervising and supporting CIEE participants throughout their stay. Students also have access to a support coordinator in our corporate headquarters in Portland, Maine. This coordinator acts as a liaison between the Tokyo Study Center and the student’s family in the United States.
Study Center staff members maintain regular contact with students throughout the semester or Academic Year 2016-2017 and monitor their language progress and how their homestay and volunteer placements are going. Study Center staff members become familiar with students and have a large role in the CIEE experience.
CIEE Gap Year Abroad participants join an online predeparture orientation, led by CIEE Study Center staff members in collaboration with staff members in Portland. In addition to providing logistical information, this orientation helps students set realistic expectations and goals, and gives students and parents an opportunity to ask questions.
Students participate in a second orientation after they’re met by CIEE staff members at the airport in Tokyo. This in-country orientation introduces students to their new city, public transportation, their host families, and classmates. During orientation, students stay at a hotel near the CIEE Study Center. Faculty and staff will review the academic program and discuss health and safety – including during a visit to the Life Safety Learning Center to learn about earthquake safety. CIEE staff members also provide advice on adjusting to the new language and culture.
About the City
About the City
Tokyo is absolutely unique – you have to experience it to believe it. It’s unbelievably crowded and congested, with a population of roughly 13 million, yet extremely clean and safe. Trains run on time, space is used in creative and ingenious ways, and the variety of shopping and entertainment available is astounding. Japan might be considered the vending machine capital of the world (There are even vending machines on Mt. Fuji!), yet customers in stores are treated royally, and clerks try to be as helpful as possible. Despite the crowds in Tokyo, it is possible to find quiet oases, pockets of nature to enjoy, and vestiges of the past, if you know where to look.
Meet the Staff
Meet the Staff
Darren Biggs has a B.A. in media arts with a minor in Japanese from the University of Arizona in Tucson. After graduating, he participated in the JET Program and lived in Okayama prefecture for two years. Upon completing the JET Program he went on to work in Japanese-English translation, interpretation, and language instruction for several years. Darren joined the team in October 2013 after receiving an M.A. in global studies from Sophia University.
Student Services Coordinator
Hiroko Watanabe has a B.A. in international studies with a minor in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She lived in the U.S. for 10 years. After graduation, she worked for a Japanese company in the U.S. and a French company in Japan as a translator/bilingual assistant for staff and their families. As a native of Harajuku, Tokyo, Hiroko provides valuable local knowledge, which enhances the program and student experiences.