Join us in Tokyo for an insider’s experience of Japan on this Pre-College summer program for high school students. Broaden your horizons with in-depth, field-based seminars as you become part of an inspiring and supportive community of instructors and students from around the world. Choose two seminars and dive into your subject matter through engaging discussions, site visits, and hands-on projects that immerse you in Japanese life.

The majority of our Pre-College programs are postponed until next summer. Be the first to know when we announce 2021 dates and new programs: Sign up for our newsletter!

Looking for a program this summer? View our Pre-College Vermont program!

Dates: June 27, 2020  –  July 17, 2020

Eligibility: Completing grades 9 – 12

Duration: 21 days

Tuition: $7,990


  • Meet with top entrepreneurs and develop a business plan 
  • Photograph the dazzling neon lights of Shibuya Crossing 
  • Visit the whimsical Ghibli Museum with your Anime class 
  • Interview local students about Japanese pop culture


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and a Pre-College representative at LAX Airport in Los Angeles, and fly together to Tokyo. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Our Tokyo Campus • Tokyo is a study in contrasts, where centuries-old traditions co-exist with cutting-edge technologies, making for a uniquely blended cultural experience. With a population of 13 million, Tokyo is Japan’s bustling capital, and the Greater Tokyo area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. From our residential hotel, experience Tokyo’s distinct neighborhoods, museums, historical landmarks, markets, and food with your seminar instructors and peers. Meet with artists, business leaders, graphic designers, and tech innovators as you discover the myriad ways Tokyo’s dynamic growth defines its success.

Seminars • Choose two seminars—a major and a minor—and explore Tokyo through the lens of your chosen seminars. Begin with classroom discussions that frame your seminar concepts and identify key issues. Take the learning beyond the classroom with site visits, meetings with local experts, and field trips. Tokyo’s rich historical, architectural, and cultural background makes it the perfect setting for our field-based seminars. Capped at ten students, our dynamic seminars are designed to encourage hands-on, place-based, collaborative learning. 

Learn to experiment with anime, then draw inspiration from a visit to the Tokyo Anime Center in the Akiba “electric town” neighborhood. Interview young entrepreneurs in the Shinjuku business district about their latest business ventures, or photograph the trends in street fashion in the Harajuku neighborhood for your Photography or Fashion Design seminar. Discover the city’s historical legacy on visits to its many museums—from classical art in the National Museum to a light and sound installation at the Sony Museum. Go beyond sushi to discover hidden ramen shops, the difference between udon and soba, and the traditional Japanese sweets known as wagashi with your Japanese Cuisine seminar. 

At the end of your program, showcase your work in a final project, installation, gallery, or performance. Display your photography or poetry in a pop-up gallery, present your findings from your International Business  seminar, or prepare a feast to share with your group.

Afternoon & Evening Activities • Explore subjects outside of your seminars, relax, and have fun participating in enriching afternoon activities. Catch the lively fish auction at the Tsukiji Market, then regain your sense of calm in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Join a tai chi session, try woodblock printing, or sample the city’s best sushi and ramen. Take part in a traditional tea ceremony or learn calligraphy arts during an afternoon workshop. Attend a sumo match, visit an amusement park, or join locals at one of the city’s many gaming arcades. Interview teens about the Japanese pop culture scene, emerging technologies, or their views on American culture. The entire group gathers for a community meeting before dinner. After dinner, venture out again in the company of your instructors to experience Tokyo by night. Attend live music shows or a theatre performance, hone your photography skills during a night shoot, or enjoy a night of karaoke with new friends.

Weekend Excursions • On weekends, travel to the surrounding countryside for a break from city life. Visit an onsen, a traditional Japanese hot springs bath, rent bikes, or explore on foot with your instructors. End your time in Japan with a multi-day excursion to Kyoto, Japan’s former imperial capital. With its many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, pristine gardens, and traditional wooden houses, Kyoto is the perfect spot to enjoy your final days. Learn about geisha culture in the Gion district. Relax at one of Kyoto’s famed zen gardens. Hike scenic trails such as Kyoto’s Bamboo Grove and celebrate your accomplishments with a final dinner.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Tokyo to Los Angeles with your group and a Pre-College representative, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This description represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program. 

Our daughter gained a sense of independence and connection with like-minded peers, something which was lacking in our small community. She also gained the confidence to travel independently in the future.

— Wendy Shook & Jonathan Kemp, Middlebury, VT

A Day in the Life: Tokyo

Due to the dynamic nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Tokyo.

8 AM• Enjoy breakfast with your group at the residence
10 AM• Meet with your major seminar and visit cultural centers and parks in the city
2 PM• Break for lunch out with friends and instructors
4 PM• Visit an arcade or specialty museum, like the Ramen Museum, and explore different neighborhoods
6:30 PM• Convene for Community Meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule
8 PM• Eat dinner out in small groups, and go to a theatre performance in the city


Choose a major and a minor seminar and get an in-depth understanding of Tokyo and the surrounding area. Majors meet most days and minors meet twice a week. Capped at ten students, seminars are serious but fun, encouraging immersive, place-based learning. Frame your seminar concepts and identify key issues in the classroom. Take the learning beyond the classroom with site visits in and around Tokyo that add context and depth to the course material. Cap off your studies with a final project or installation to share your work.

MAJOR SEMINARS (click on seminar to read the full description)


Anime & Illustration
This interactive, hands-on course introduces you to the world of Japanese anime and manga. Develop your illustration and design skills as you learn from skilled instructors and guest artists steeped in Japanese animation techniques. With the futuristic neon backdrop of Tokyo as your classroom, explore the streets of Akihabara, the central district of the gaming world, or spend an afternoon at a manga café learning about the evolution of drawing styles over the last half century. Interview a curator at the Tokyo Anime Center and study iconic creations from Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and Ghost in the Shell to Princess Mononoke and the Evangelion series, while honing your own critical eye and artistic style. Discuss the evolution of manga—from its ancient aesthetic roots in illustrated scrolls to its contemporary incarnation that appeals to fans of all ages—and investigate how manga presents and challenges Japanese cultural norms. To cap the program, curate an artistic retrospective of a particular artist or studio, create your own storyboard, or explore “outsider” influence on this most homegrown of art forms.
Communications & Marketing
Expert communicators are essential to every successful organization, from government agencies to tech startups, multinational corporations to nonprofits. Whether you’re considering a career in marketing, public relations, speechwriting, business, journalism, or beyond, this seminar is designed to develop and hone your skills in effective communication and marketing concepts. Learn how to convey complex ideas coherently; how to create audience personas; how to develop and present value propositions to potential customers or investors; how to engage an audience with appeals to emotion and logic; how to tell an effective story; how to summarize business objectives; how to structure a speech; and more. Use real-world case studies of marketing campaigns and develop an understanding of the metrics used to rate success. Discuss how emerging communication platforms such as social media and video and messaging apps, and apply proven strategies to emergent trends.
International Business & Trade
What makes a business succeed in today’s market and what are the steps taken between identifying a need and opening your (real or virtual) doors? What are the key similarities and differences when comparing business management in the West to the way it is approached in Japan? This hands-on course begins by examining the economic playing field where firms operate, with discussions of economic concepts such as supply and demand, regulation and free trade, international trade, and currency flows. Examine Asia’s role and the influence that Japanese traditions and culture have on business practices and methods. Through role-playing, discussions, field trips, and lectures, consider the practical aspects of business, including management, finance, marketing, advertising, public relations, organizational psychology, corporate leadership, and business ethics. Put what you have learned into practice as you research, develop, and pitch your own business idea or trade proposal.
Japanese Language: Out of the Classroom
This seminar is open to students with at least two academic years of Japanese study who wish to improve their language skills by focused study and daily interaction with native speakers. Through informal discussions, language drills, and hands-on activities, students are engaged in Japanese study that is informative and fun. Classroom instruction is kept to a minimum so that students may gain real-life experience practicing their Japanese throughout the city at local markets, museums, and restaurants, where effective language skills are required. With class size limited to 10 students, instructors are able to identify underdeveloped areas in students’ knowledge and to customize exercises that fill the gaps and foster breakthroughs in language acquisition. While not the focus of instruction, learning and practicing key written characters is part of the coursework.
Designed for photographers of all skill levels, this course teaches the basics of photography and composition before diving into more advanced shooting techniques and editing instruction. Whether your passion is portrait, landscape, adventure, or abstract photography, build your confidence and nurture your creativity through one-on-one workshops with your instructor and group critiques. Review other photographers’ work, and develop the visual and technical skills to capture the essence of Tokyo and the people and places you encounter. Discuss and explore the implications of digital manipulation in an age dominated by the power of the image, collaborate on projects with other seminars, and curate a gallery showing of your newly created portfolio. Students are responsible for bringing their own digital camera, which should have the option of being operated in manual mode. There is a supplemental fee of $125 for this course.
Technology & Innovation
With robots staffing the reception desks of Canon, 3-D technologies creating zoos and aquariums at the Sony Museum, and high-speed train lines connecting it to the rest of Japan, Tokyo is a global leader in technology and innovation. Explore the city through the lens of cutting-edge science and discovery, from high-tech toilets and vending machines to innovative robotic exercise equipment. Discover the latest gaming technologies behind Pokémon Go before diving into the world of remote robotic surgery. Visit the Toyota Mega Web and learn about the incredible technology that Toyota is developing for future cars. Participate in creativity brainstorms, hands-on workshops, and discussions with some of the world’s most ingenious creators as you leave the past behind and launch into the futuristic world of technology and innovation in Tokyo.

MINOR SEMINARS (click on seminar to read the full description)


Fashion Design & History
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tokyo redefined its presence on the fashion scene with the emergence of street fashion. In this course, explore street fashion’s historical roots, and the political, social, and cultural factors that helped it take shape. Examine fashion’s role in constructing a uniquely Japanese identity as you visit key sites around the city to learn about Japanese style from Harajuku girls to Japanese preppy to punk-influenced goth. Discuss how trends are born and how, through media and association, they propagate differently in cultures around the world. Then, draw inspiration from Tokyo’s energy to create your own clothing design concepts. Readings and discussions about current issues—such as representations of masculinity and femininity—complement visits to design studios and fashion events. For a final project, produce and present your own design portfolios, research a subject of your choice, or co-curate a group fashion show.
Film & Video
Get a hands-on introduction to video and visual storytelling in this production-oriented workshop. Practice storyboarding, camera operation, sound recording, lighting, direction, and non-linear editing as you collaborate on a series of video projects with Tokyo as your backdrop. Explore the hidden language of cinema by looking at a variety of films, from documentaries to experimental shorts, to gain inspiration for your own projects. Examine the role of Japanese history and culture on the emergence of a uniquely Japanese cinematic style. As a final project, produce a short video to present to your Pre-College community at a culminating film screening. Students should plan on putting in extra time for editing, and may watch some films that are “R” rated. There is a supplemental fee of $200 for this course.
Japanese Cuisine & Culture
Nothing quite conjures Japanese cuisine like the image of sushi, the quintessentially Japanese meal of seasoned rice combined with a variety of other ingredients, chiefly fish and vegetables. There is much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi, however. In this seminar, the focus goes beyond simply discovering local foods, to delving into the origin of these specialties. Examine parallels between food and art, and discuss the cultural importance of quality, flavor, and presentation. Go beyond sushi to discover hidden ramen shops, the difference between udon and soba, and the traditional Japanese sweets known as wagashi. Take part in a Buddhist tea ceremony and discover how ritual and history are intertwined with eating in Japanese culture. Wake early to explore the lively fish auction at the Tsukiji Market. In addition to short readings and class discussions, visit local markets, attend a cooking workshop, and learn firsthand about regional agriculture. There is a supplemental fee of $200 for this seminar. Please note that while cooking classes may be offered, this course is primarily an exploration of Japanese cuisine and food culture.
Sports Business: Olympics 2020
The business of sports is on full display as Japan makes final preparations for the Summer 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. What are the impacts and benefits of hosting the Olympics? Your case study, both past and present, is right outside your door as Tokyo was also host to the 1964 Games. Examine the infrastructure investments for the ‘64 Games—which led to a new train line, the Shinkansen Tôkaidô, as well as new highways and sporting venues—and consider the long-term impacts of these investments on surrounding neighborhoods. What does it take to host thousands of elite athletes and fans from around the globe in and around the Olympic Village? Delve into aspects of sports business beyond ticket sales and community impact, such as sponsorships and licensing rights. What other opportunities exist in the market for entrepreneurial minds to profit from Olympic crowds? Compare and contrast Tokyo’s 1964 and 2020 planning, investments, and experiences as Olympic host. How have the Olympic Games changed during this time span? Take note of Tokyo’s particular investments this time around and, as a group, forecast effects of the 2020 games, as well as ideas for future Olympic host cities.
Survival Japanese
For students with little or no background in Japanese language, this seminar allows participants to function at a basic “survival” level in Japanese. A series of fun, dynamic language games and field exercises on such topics as food, greetings, asking directions, transportation, and local culture and etiquette improve your ability to get around and engage with locals, while enhancing your experience in Tokyo. While not the focus of instruction, learning written characters may be part of the coursework. Emerge with a better grasp of Japanese and a sense of confidence navigating Tokyo.
World War II & Today
Not long after the 20th century’s first devastating war, World War II shook the world to its core and shaped much of today’s global geopolitical landscape. Japan in particular was devastated by atomic bomb strikes on the industrial cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and just days later by the firebombing of Tokyo, where more people died than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The memory of the war and its toll lives on in the minds of Japan’s older generations and in the country’s historical landscape. In this course, consider the legacy of WWII in Japan through guided readings, engaging discussions, and field visits. Examine the political landscape that created the conditions leading up to WWII, and trace Japan’s role in the world’s deadliest conflict. Visit the Yushukan war museum and consider how museums function as subjective representations of history. Discuss the choices made in representing the history of the war from both Japanese and U.S. perspectives. Make an overnight trip to Hiroshima, a moving experience, to enhance your understanding and coursework. There is a supplemental fee of $150 for this seminar, which covers the overnight trip to Hiroshima.

What to Expect

Seminars • Pre-College seminars are interactive and collaborative, taking advantage of the vast cultural and historical richness of Tokyo to enhance your experience. You can expect to meet with local and regional experts, artists, entrepreneurs, and guest speakers during the program. Each seminar works toward a final project—a short film, a business proposal, a performance piece, a gallery opening, or a dramatic reading, to give a few examples—which you present to fellow participants on the final night of the program. 

Afternoons & Evenings • Outside of seminars, each day on your Pre-College program brings new adventures and a variety of activities from which to choose. Head to a unique specialty museum, explore Tokyo’s neighborhoods, learn tai chi, attend a sumo match, and more.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer program. You can expect to spend most of each day outside and on the move with your seminar group, and to walk the streets of Tokyo, or explore by foot at weekend destinations such as Kyoto. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • In Tokyo, we stay in a residential hotel in private doubles or triples, with bathrooms ensuite. Students have access to common space for class, community meetings, and socializing. Leaders reside in the same residence as students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day with a full breakfast at our residence. For lunches, seminars or small groups may eat together either at restaurants or head to a local market to shop for a picnic. Dinners are eaten in restaurants or at our residence. Please note that lunches are not included in the tuition.

Lucas had such a great experience! We had heard great things about Putney and we couldn’t agree more. We will be the first to sign up our younger son for the Tokyo program in 2022.

— Alyssa & Adam Shapiro, New York, NY