Western Michigan University’s Department of Comparative Religion in cooperation with Taisho University in Tokyo has developed a unique summer study abroad program. The Japanese Religion and Culture Study Abroad Seminar (now in its fourth year) is open to students outside of WMU. It is focused on undergraduates but graduate students are welcome to attend. A description of the program together with student comments follows. If you or one of your students is interested in applying, please e-mail Dr. Stephen Covell (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Eri Nishiyama (email@example.com) as soon as possible. The application deadline is February 15th. Application information and program details can be found at http://international.wmich.edu/content/view/754/356*299 . The program runs from May 24th to June 8th.
We begin our stay in the heart of Tokyo. For most of the program students are housed in the classic Japanese style rooms of the priests’ dorms at Zojoji, a centuries old temple located just under Tokyo Tower.
Using Zojoji as our base, we travel each morning to Taisho University for lectures and cultural exchange with Japanese students. Next, we head out to visit the headquarters and training dojo of major new religious movements (including Rissho Koseikai, Kodo Kyodan and Mahikari), ancient temples, and Shinto shrines. We also work into the schedule visits to some of the most famous museums in Japan. Free days have optional trips to shopping districts and parks.
The highlight of the trip is the three-day, two-night excursion to Nikko. The trip begins at Manganji, a training temple and pilgrimage site. Students learn about and have the opportunity to experience a variety of Buddhist practices including sitting meditation, image copying, and the goma fire ceremony. Before leaving Manganji, students hike to its waterfall for a rare chance at waterfall practice. The rest of the Nikko trip is spent enjoying a hot spring resort and touring the famous world heritage sites.
The program is led by Dr. Stephen Covell. Dr. Covell earned his Ph.D. in Japanese Religions from Princeton University and is currently the Mary Meader (Associate) Professor of Comparative Religion and Director of the Soga Japan Center at WMU. Dr. Covell has drawn on his experience and contacts in Japan to put together a behind the scenes tour of Japanese religious life. For pictures and comments from a past trip see http://homepages.wmich.edu/~scovell.
“[This trip] forever influenced my understanding of the depths of religious nature, the ways in which history should be remembered and preserved, and the influences both of these elements can have on present-day culture.”
“In just twelve days, I have learned more and been exposed to more Buddhism than is possible in a lifetime of reading and studying in the United States.”
Stephen G. Covell, Ph.D.
Director, Michitoshi Soga Japan Center
Mary Meader (Associate) Professor of Comparative Religion
Department of Comparative Religion
Western Michigan University
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