Tokyo, Japan

Japanese Pop Culture: Anime, Manga & Gaming

Program Suspended for Summer '21
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Explore three creative industries — anime, manga and gaming — in the hub of pop arts and culture.

It’s hard to think of a place more passionate about pop culture. In Tokyo you’ll find multi-story arcades, galleries, cinemas, libraries, shops, and museums dedicated to gaming and your favorite pop art forms. On this 3-week cultural immersion, you’ll follow both tracks (one after the other) to gain a broad knowledge of all three creative arts and industries.

Track 1 – Japanese Art: Anime, Manga, and Traditional Arts

Manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) have become a global phenomenon. What’s the draw for fans and creators? What makes them so compelling and unique? In classroom sessions you’ll study manga and anime up close, comparing and contrasting them with traditional art forms. In interactive workshops, you’ll engage with professional artists and create artistic works of your own. On field trips in the city, you’ll visit museums and cultural sites related to your studies, and learn about careers in the anime and manga industries from insiders.

Track 2 – Japanese Video Games: History and Design

Study up on the classics — from Pac-Man and Pokemon to Super Mario and Final Fantasy — and learn about game design, evolving technology and industry careers. You’ll start from the beginning, tracing the history of video gaming in Japan from the “golden age” in the 1970s through the different generations of consoles to the current renaissance.

In the classroom you’ll learn about game design, balance, and mechanics, as well as different approaches to game studies. Fun interactive exercises include critical analysis of your own video game playing in motion. Out in the field you’ll visit sites of cultural interest and learn about careers in the industry (offerings run far wider than just coding!). Hands-on projects include video game marketing and design.

Your Home Base & Beyond

You’ll live at the Tokyo Central Youth Hostel (TCYH), where you’ll start the day with your choice of Japanese or Western style breakfast foods. From there you’ll head off to exciting classes, workshops and group activities designed to expose you to as many aspects (artistic, technical and business) as possible. As for lunch and dinner, Tokyo’s got you covered with countless options for both local and foreign cuisine.

The Takeaways

  • Gain Knowledge

    Gain knowledge of the history and development of anime, manga, and video games.

  • Develop Skills

    Learn introductory level theory and develop skills needed to critique forms of Japanese popular media.

  • Certificate

    Earn a Certificate of learning in Japanese Pop Culture.

Location & Culture

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From multi-story gaming arcades to animal cafes (with live cats, dogs, owls, and even miniature pigs!), Tokyo is a one-of-a-kind blend of retro, new and cutting-edge.

Neon lights and nonstop electronic entertainment make Tokyo a delightfully over-the-top mecca of pop culture. There’s just no place like it.

Japan’s world-class capital city is a fascinating mix of centuries-old tradition and futuristic technology. Teens from around the world are drawn to Tokyo’s legendary pop culture, making a bee-line to its museums, cinemas, manga shops and video arcades. Some of the city’s arcades are more like indoor amusement parks — complete with rides, roller coasters, and haunted houses!  

The hotspot district Akihabara is where anime, manga, retro video games, and electronics mix with cosplay and niche cafes. Other famous attractions include the Tokyo Anime Center and Suginami Animation Museum; Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library Of Manga; the Mega Tokyo Pokemon Center and J World Tokyo; and the Ghibli Museum celebrating Japan’s world-famous anime film studio, producer of award-winning films, such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.

In addition to otaku culture, Tokyo has science and technology museums, beautiful parks and zoos, and of course karaoke. Shoppers can hit the Shibuya and Harajuku districts for trendy fashions and people-watching. Food is big here, and there’s no shortage of options wherever you go. Expand your palate and try a range of Japanese favorites. Get your fill of ramen, soba, and udon noodles, along with yakitori, gyoza and anything you can grill on a stick! In summer it’s easy to find shaved ice treats and other snacks on the go.

Daily Life

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Daily Life

Learn more about daily life on a high school study abroad program.

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  • Housing

    Tokyo Central Youth Hostel (TCYH)

  • Local Support

    Local Coordinator in country and CIEE support staff available 24/7


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Sample Activities

  • Discover Akihabara, the heartland of Otaku culture where stores specializing in anime, manga, retro video games, and electronics mix with cosplay and niche cafes.
  • Unleash your creative spirit in a hands-on manga art workshop.
  • Join Japanese teens for calligraphy or origami workshops at a local high school.
  • Visit the famous Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and other amazing historical sites.
  • Head to the man-made island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, a buzzing teen entertainment hub, and see the ginormous, life-size Gundam statue in action!
  • Make and slurp up your own ramen at Cup Noodles Museum!

Excursions Include

A day trip back in time to “Little Edo,” a former feudal-era castle town in Kawagoe. The architecture, food and atmosphere will transport you back to the Tokugawa Era, while modern highlights like “Candy Alley,” lined with Japanese penny candy shops, spice things up.

An overnight trip to Yokohama, the exciting capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture, to visit landmarks such as the Cup Noodles Museum, Sojiji Temple and the food scene in China Town (the largest of its kind in Japan).

Please note this list of activities is based on past programs and subject to change at CIEE's discretion to both adapt to local circumstances, covid-related measures and restrictions and participant feedback. Our goal when revising itineraries is always to enhance your experience. Every activity is designed to provide you with a deep immersion in your topic, local culture and sights. Get ready for maximum fun!

Ready to change your life?