Japan | Design, Degrowth, Demodern

How would we happily degrow?

How do we design a new future?


Global Summer Studies
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Sado Island, Japan
  • Kiryu, Gunma, Japan
  • Mishima, Japan
  • Nagoya, Japan
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Okayama, Japan
  • Uno, Japan
Summer 2024

Course Dates: Jun 8, 2024 — Jun 29, 2024

Open to RISD students, Brown University students, non-RISD students

2.5 GPA required. Non-RISD participants see eligibility requirements below.

Academic Credits
  • Architecture

Estimated cost—final cost to be announced.

Included tuition, accommodation, in-country transportation, field trips, entrance fees, some supplies, some group meals and international travel health insurance.


About this Travel Course

Course Description

The Industrial Revolution rapidly modernized Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. On the other hand, Japan's modernization began in the late 19th century, with a century delay from that in Europe due to the 200-year isolation of the Edo period. Since the country opened its border in 1854, Japan's growth snowballed and became the world's second-largest economy during the so-called "Japanese Economic Miracle" in the late 20th century. With its peak in 2008, however, Japan's population started to decline, dragging everything else on the same track. Cities are shrinking; rural communities are disappearing; houses, schools, and stores are unoccupied; the economy is stumbling.Moreover, the ultimate comfort, convenience, mass production, and overconsumption became the products of industrial modernization at the cost of environmental degradation and human health threats. Globalization has concurrently led to a loss of cultural identities in many parts of the world, and Japan is no exception. The shrinking society also contributes to a potential loss of tradition and cultural practices.

The architectural critic and historian Kenneth Frampton elaborated the concept of critical regionalism, which refers to the regional styles created with influences of global ideas but personalized by the specific contexts. He claims that the concept of local or national culture is a paradoxical proposition not only because of the current apparent antithesis between rooted culture and universal civilization but also because all cultures, both ancient and modern, seem to have depended for their intrinsic development on an inevitable cross-fertilization with other cultures. He cites Paul Ricoeur, "Regional or national cultures must be ultimately constituted as locally inflected manifestations of 'world culture.'"

During the industrial modernization of the late 19th Century in Japan, the country built infrastructures incorporating Western models and modernized the society at an unprecedented speed. These physical outcomes that formed their built environment reflected the local and global hybridization before the International Styles took over as cities continued to urbanize.

How do we look for cultural identity when global influences are inevitable? What are the opportunities for designers to address degrowth in the pressing environmental crisis? Where do we find cultural appreciation and appropriation in future design approaches? This course claims that those physical outcomes that helped modernize the country may be the more explicit representation of Critical Regionalism. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has named buildings, facilities, machinery, and equipment that represent the process of Japan's industrial modernization as "Heritage of Industrial Modernization" in 1990, certifying 1115 items across the country. Students will visit some of these sites and find the cues in the design of the built forms that reflect the locality and the global influences, which may give insight into how we intervene as designers in the future.


RISD Students

If your current cumulative GPA is 2.5 or above, you are eligible for registration. If your current cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, you must first contact the Registrar at registrar@risd.edu to seek exception to this academic policy.

Non-RISD Participants

If you are a college student currently enrolled in another art/design college or institution around the world, or a professional practicing in the field, you are eligible for registration. We will collect a recommendation/support form from your institution/workplace.

In order to register for RISD Global summer studies, you are expected to have a high level of English (speech, writing, and comprehension) as all coursework and critique is delivered in English.

Attendance Policy

Global Summer Studies are three weeks long and take place in June/July, and you are required to attend all program activities scheduled during the travel course. RISD Global Summer Studies comply with RISD class attendance policy. In case of unexcused or multiple absences, you may be removed from the course, given a grade of “W" (withdrawal) or a grade of “F” (fail).

Withdrawal Policy

Requesting to withdraw from a RISD off-campus global learning program, including RISD Global Summer Studies, prior to the start of the course is highly discouraged and requires a formal process outlined in the RISD course withdrawal policy. It is not possible for a student to drop a RISD Global Summer Studies travel course via the standard Add/Drop process after it has commenced. In the case of unforeseen and extenuating circumstances (and only after students have spoken with the faculty lead and RISD Global for approval to withdraw from the program), students should be aware that no refund will be issued.

More Info

In order to reserve a seat, a non-refundable deposit of $500 is required at the time of application submittal. Students who apply between February 1, 2024, and March 1, 2024, will have until March 1, 2024, to submit full payment. Student who apply between March 2, 2024, and the application deadline, March 15, 2024, will make full payment within 24 hours of the application being submitted. Students that fail to make full payment by their deadline will forfeit their $500 deposit and their seat in the course.

All RISD students enrolled in RISD and other full degree schools/universities are required to remain in good academic standing in order to participate in Global Summer Studies. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for all RISD students. Failure to remain in good academic standing can lead to removal from the course, either before or during the course.

In cases where summer travel courses and studios do not reach full capacity, the course may be canceled after the last day of registration. As such, all students are advised not to purchase flights for participation in Global Summer Studies courses until the course is confirmed.

Apply to Global Summer Studies

The deadline for Global Summer Studies 2024 has now passed.

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1:1 Advising Session

Have questions? The RISD Global team is available to meet for a 1:1 advising session. We can give you more information about your study options, help you figure out which program makes sense for you, and assist you with the application process.

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