Syllabus and Application form



ANT302 & POL304 (Undergraduate)

AG545 & AG546 (Graduate)

Total Credits: 4


Takeshi Ito

Tak Watanabe

Course Staff


This is a field-based course for students who wish to learn about environmental issues in contemporary Japan.  Through hands-on study of local initiatives in Tokyo and Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, the course will examine the complex interaction between human society and the natural world.  The focus is on rivers and how they, as part of the hydrological cycle, interact with human and non-human communities.

This course is a case-driven, solution-centered practicum in which students are confronted with actual environmental problems that our society faces.  Through fieldwork and lectures, students will learn about how legal, economic, political, social, cultural institutions shape and are shaped by ecological systems — the interaction between the biotic (the living organisms) and the abiotic (water, atmosphere, minerals) components.  Students will meet government officials, scientists, community leaders, and industry experts who are at the frontlines of solving complex environmental problems.

The course is divided into two parts.  The first part, which will take place in Tokyo during the spring semester, will consists of lectures, group work, and field trips in Tokyo.  It will introduce students to environmental studies and prepare them for the field study in Hokkaido.  The second part will take place in Hokkaido for one week and consists of field-based learning and research.  

The language of instruction is English.  Japanese ability, while useful, is not necessary.  

The course is offered jointly by the Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA) and the Graduate Program in Global Studies (GPGS).  The course is made possible due to the financial and administrative support of the Office of Academic Affairs.  


This year we will explore the issue of rewilding salmon in Eastern Hokkaido.  In the domestication of salmon and the destruction of their habitat that are currently underway, Hokkaido is at the center of a global debate over fisheries, river engineering, and wilderness protection.  We will study this keystone species as an opportunity to restore not only the ecosystem but also society’s relationship with nature.     


This practicum is open to all students at Sophia University, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels.  

To join this course, students must apply for the course and undergo a screening process.  Student acceptance is based on student statement and academic transcript.  As a course offered by the FLA and GPGS, students will need sufficient English language proficiency.  There is a limit to the number of students we can accept for the course.  

Please note that by applying for this course, the student is also acknowledging the risks involved in the course’s field component and agreeing to participate in all parts of the course.


The planned field trips in Tokyo and Hokkaido will require students to be outdoors.  It is important to know that there will be a risk of discomfort and physical injury in outdoors settings.

We may trek in mountains and wetlands, walk through dairy farms (with cow dung), take boat rides, and handle small creatures such as insects, oysters, and fish.  There are risks of insect bites (mosquitoes, horseflies) including Lyme disease (deer ticks), and encounters with other, potentially dangerous wildlife (deer, snakes, bears).  Much of this practicum will be held in the summer season.  This means that we will contend with humidity and heat, which may cause heat exhaustion.   

While students do not need outdoors experience or farming background to take this course, we ask students to be aware of these dangers.  The staff will take measures to prevent accidents and prepare for possible accidents through insurance, a medical kit, and the university support system.  

For reasons of safety, students will be required to buy clothing and footwear, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, hat, rain gear, and rubber boots.  Details will be given during the course meetings.


Undergraduate students will register for the following two courses in the Faculty of Liberal Arts.

 1) ANT302  Human Ecology: Rivers 1 (Mondays, Period 5)
Prof. Watanabe, 2 credits

 2) POL304  Human Ecology: Rivers 2 (Mondays, Period 6)
Prof. Ito, 2 credits


Masters students will register for the following two courses in the Graduate Program in Global Studies:

 1) MZAG545  Human Ecology: Rivers 1 (Mondays, Period 5)
Prof. Ito, 2 credits

 2) MZAG546  Human Ecology: Rivers 2 (Mondays, Period 6)
Prof. Watanabe, 2 credits

Doctoral students will register for the following two courses in the Graduate Program in Global Studies

 1) DZAG545  Human Ecology: Rivers 1 (Mondays, Period 5)
Prof. Ito, 2 credits

 2) DZAG546  Human Ecology: Rivers 2 (Mondays, Period 6)
Prof. Watanabe, 2 credits


The Hokkaido part of the course begins and ends in Kushiro.  Students must arrange for their own travel to and from Kushiro.  In Hokkaido, we will travel by a chartered bus and stay at local inns that provide meals and lodging.



The course fee is paid at the start of the course to Sophia University.  It covers the following expenses in Hokkaido: bus, accommodations and most meals (students will need to pay for a few lunches).  

Lodging  (5 nights) ¥25,000

Other fees ¥25,000

Bus, insurance, meals, internet access, course materials (printing), field equipment (medicine, equipment rental), course t-shirt, facilities fee



These expenses will be handled by students on an individual basis.  The estimate is as follows:

Travel to Kushiro and Back (Air, Ground)   ¥2~40,000

Gear (boots, rain gear, hat, etc) ¥10,000

Books, other travel costs ¥10,000


To register for this course, all Sophia University students must submit a completed application to the office of the Faculty of Liberal Arts (Building 10, 4th floor).  

Please also email the application to the course email account:  

The application is due by Tuesday, April 10th, 2pm.  We will send acceptance emails to students by the beginning of the course adjustment period.

The application must include the following:

  1. A copy of academic transcript
  2. Statement Essay (400~500 words)
      Tell us about  your background and explain why you are interested in learning about the natural environment.


Students must attend all designated classes and participate in all field trips.  Each student will engage in their own projects and present their work.  Student are also expected to contribute to the course blog and submit a final report at the end of the practicum.

The final grade will be based on four criteria:

  1. Class Participation & Attendance: Participation & attendance is mandatory.  This includes completing all readings and participating in class discussions.  During the Hokkaido field trip, students must participate in all meetings and activities.  
  2. Projects and Presentations: Students will work on projects and present their work.  
  3. Blog Posts: Each student is required to compose a few posts for the course blog.
  4. Individual Essay: Each student will write a short essay about the course.  The topic is your choice, but we would like to know what you learned, how the course may have impacted your study and career plans, or suggestions for improvements.

Note: Academic misconduct, including plagiarism, will result in the automatic failure of the course. The professors also reserve the right to prevent a student from joining the Hokkaido part of the course, if the student is determined to be unfit for the practicum.  


Students are asked to sign up for the following: Moodle to share files (including the readings), Line to communicate, and for our course blog.  Readings and other course materials will be announced during the pre-course meetings.


SCHEDULE (tentative)


April 10 (Tue) Application Due

April 11 (Wed) Notify application results

April 16 (Mon) First class

Course Meetings during Spring Semester
Mondays, periods 5 & 6 (5:00 ~ 8:30pm)
First Class: April 16 (Mon)
Field Trips & Special Lectures in Tokyo (TBA)


Jul 31 (Fri) Kushiro to Akkeshi
Gather in Kushiro & Bus to Akkeshi
Topic: history and ecology of Akkeshi
– Lecture by Town Fishery Division Official & Archivist

Aug 1 (Sat) Akkeshi
Location: Akkeshi Marine Station
Topic: Estuary Ecology and Fishery
– Prof. Nakaoka (Hokkaido University)
– Oyster hatchery & farm tour

Aug 2 (Sun) Kushiro
Location: Kushiro Seaport and Tsurui Village
Topic: Development of Fishing Rights and                   Red-Crowned Crane Conservation
– Mr. Saka (Kushiro City Fishery Cooperative Association)
– Mr. Hayashi (Salmon Propagation Association)

Aug 3 (Mon) Kushiro
Location: Kushiro River
Topic: River Restoration and Rewilding Salmon
– Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
– Kushiro Salmon Society

Aug 4 (Tue) Kushiro
Location: Lake Shirarutoro
Topic: Fish in the Kushiro river system
– Dr. Nomoto (Kushiro City Museum)
Workshop: Restoring the Wetland, Reviving Salmon

Aug 5 (Wed) Kushiro
– Japan Wild Bird Society (Ito Sanctuary)

Class ends in Kushiro at noon

Aug 10th – Due Date for Final Report



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s