Landscapes in Transition: Sustainability in Japan’s Rural North

In Landscapes in Transition, students study Japan’s satoyama and consider their future.

Landscapes Japan Field Studies (May/June 2020). Application Deadline: October 11, 2019

The Program

For centuries, rural Japanese have manipulated the natural environment to sustain both humans and biodiversity, creating ecosystems or satoyama of cultivated fields, ponds, streams, forests, villages, and rice paddies. Today, however, satoyama are threatened by modernization and globalization, as industrial agricultural processes replace small scale traditional ones, rural populations age and shrink, rice production decreases in the face of food importation, and cross-border pollution increases. Which solutions will ensure rural Japan’s cultural, social and environmental sustainability?

Students enrolling in Landscapes Japan courses will explore issues related to rural sustainability in core and elective courses in the natural sciences, arts and humanities, and social sciences. While emphasis will be placed on questions around sustainability in Japan’s rural north, opportunities for comparative studies, including with rural sustainability in the Midwest, will be possible.

In late spring/early summer 2020, ten Beloit College students will join students from Akita International University (AIU), the partner for the project, for field studies in Akita prefecture. AIU students undertaking an exchange year at Beloit will be invited to enroll in the program.

To be eligible to participate in field studies, students must have successfully competed a) JAPN/ENVS 280 Landscapes in Transition: Orientation Course and b) at least one additional Landscapes Japan core course. Successful field studies applicants with financial need will be eligible to apply for scholarships to help meet the cost of participation.

It is hoped that eligible Landscapes Japan students will also spend a semester at Akita International University as exchange students, either before or after the field studies.

Landscapes in Japan Core Courses

To be eligible for field studies, students are encouraged to take at least one of the following courses in addition to the orientation course, admission to which is based on acceptance to the field studies.

  • GEOL 100, Earth, Exploring a Dynamic Planet, 1 unit. Instructor: J. Rougvie
  • JAPN 280 Nightmare Japan, 1 unit. Instructor: S. Furukawa
  • JAPN/ENVS 280, Totoro Saves the World: Miyazaki, Nature, and the Popular Imagination, .5 unit. Instructors: S. Furukawa and J. Rougvie.
  • JAPN/ENVS 280, Landscapes in Transition: Japan Orientation, spring 2020. .5 unit. Instructors: S. Furukawa and J. Rougvie. Required for field studies (see above).
  • POLS 246, Global Political Economy, spring. 1 unit. Instructor: P. Toral
  • POLS 255, Global Political Ecology, fall. 1 unit. Instructor: P. Toral
  • SOCI 251, Global Family Issues, spring. 1 unit. Instructor: K. Linneberg


The Field Studies in Japan carry 1 unit of credit.

Elective Courses

  • EDYS 276, East Meets West
  • ENVS 280, Sustainable Cities
  • JAPN 260, Japanese Women Writers
  • JAPN 260, Modern Japanese Fiction


Language Courses

  • JAPN 100, First-Year Japanese I, fall
  • JAPN 105, First-Year Japanese II, spring
  • JAPN 110, Second-Year Japanese I, fall
  • JAPN 115, Second-Year Japanese II, spring
  • JAPN 200, Third-Year Japanese I, fall
  • JAPN 210, Third-Year Japanese II, spring

Interviewing a local farmer.

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