Japan | Design Culture – From 263 Years of Isolationism to International Influence

This class is a broad-based exploration of the remarkable contemporary international influence of Japanese art and design including: the architecture and interior design of Pritzker Prize winning architects as well as historic temples; the historic illustrations of Katsushika Hokusai and those of internationally popular anime and manga; the minimalist landscape designs or rock and moss gardens; and the sculpture of Noguchi.

We will trek across Honshu -- the largest and populous of the Japanese islands, which includes Tokyo. We will visit the dedicated Art Islands of Naoshima - known for the Benesse Impressionist paintings of Claude Monet, and Teshima, site of the famed concrete shell that is the Teshima Museum.


  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Kanazawa, Japan
  • Kobe, Japan
  • Osaka, Japan
  • Takamatsu, Japan
  • Awaji, Japan
  • Naoshima/Teshima Islands, Japan
Summer 2025

Estimated dates—final dates to be announced.

Course Dates: Jan 7, 2025 — Feb 5, 2025

Open to RISD students, Brown University students

2.5 GPA required. First year students are not eligible for this course.

Academic Credits
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Architecture
  • Interior Architecture

Estimated cost—final cost to be announced.

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


About this Travel Course

Course Description

In search of the contemporary global influence of Japanese art and design, we will trek across 7 Japanese cities: Tokyo—the capitol city, Kanazawa, Kyoto—the cultural capitol, Kobe, Awaji, Osaka, and Takamtsu.

We will visit the dedicated Art Islands of Naoshima—known for the Benesse Impressionist paintings of Claude Monet—and Teshima, where we will experience the ethereal concrete shell of the Teshima Art Museum. And while in Awaji, we’ll stay overnight in the Ando-designed Yumebutai Awaji Hotel and tour his Hompukuji Water Temple; a highlight of our experience of his architecture.

This is an exceptional opportunity to experience the best of Japanese design culture with our community of creatives.

Among other exposures, we will


  • The Tokyo Toilet Projects completed this year; 17 public toilets designed by leading Japanese designers
  • Anime and Manga in the Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo, home of Otaku culture
  • Harakujo Fashion in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo
  • SunnyHills; Kengo Kuma’s masterpiece
  • The architecture of Austrian artist, Hundertwasser, le Corbusier, Renzo Piano, Herzog & de Meuron, Raphael Vignoli, and Japanese Pritzker Prize winners Shigeru Ban, Toyo Ito, SANNA, and Tadao Ando, among others.

Tour the offices and discuss the professional practices of:

  • NIKKEN, the largest and oldest architecture firm in Japan
  • Gensler; the Tokyo office of the largest U.S.-based architecture firm in the world; we will have a conversation with the American-born principal in charge of that office about the cultural differences between project delivery methods of Japan and the United States
  • Kokuyo Furniture Company, where we’ll meet with their commercial furniture designers

Explore the collections of:

  • 21st Century Museum of Contemporary by Ryue Nishizawa.
  • Nezu Museum 21_21 Design by Tadao Ando and Issy Miyake
  • National Art Center by Kisho Kurokawa
  • National Museum of Western Art by LeCorbusier
  • Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
  • Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum
  • Fashion designer, Koshino Hiroko’s House designed by Tadao Ando
  • Toyama Glass Art Museum designed by Kengo Kuma and featuring the glass art of RISD alum and emeritus professor Dale Chihuly

    Course Objectives

    • Explore Japanese cultural influences on contemporary art and design
    • Study responsive and resilient design strategies in natural and man-made environments, as well as cultural preservation, in Japan
    • Identify and articulate Japanese design tenents, ancient and contemporary
    • Analyze Japanese design details and fabrication techniques

    Learning Outcomes

    • Develop a personal library of design details and fabrication techniques
    • Document cultural progression of design forms and production technologies
    • Identify Japanese cultural influences in global design and entertainment
    • Document sustainable design strategies and material selection


    To participate in RISD Global Summer Studies, all students are required to stay in RISD- provided housing for the duration of the course.


    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 before March 31st will have until April 1, 2023, to submit full payment, and new application submissions starting April 1 must make full payment by April 14, 2023. 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 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.

    Schedule an Appointment


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