Tama Art University

Student Exchange Program

Tama Art University has concluded student-exchange agreements with numerous leading art universities around the world, and we regularly accept exchange students from our partner schools.

As a destination for international exchange students, the university is highly appealing for various reasons including the following:

  1. Progressive, hands-on classes taught by some of Japan's top artists and designers
  2. Among the most extensive facilities and environment for artistic production in the Asian region, including the Hachioji Library, one of the world's most beautiful libraries
  3. Creative and exciting interactions with extremely gifted and competent students who have passed our very competitive entrance examinations

Tama Art University welcomes outstanding international exchange students who want to gain new perspectives as artists and designers in Tokyo, Japan, a city where history, tradition and culture are in magnificent harmony with world-leading economic and technological development.

For application methods and procedures, please consult the staff of your school's international exchange center.

  • * All classes are basically conducted in Japanese. While some faculty members are able to offer support in English, we strongly recommend that you acquire basic Japanese proficiency before participating in the exchange program.
  • * We are not currently accepting applications from those who attend schools with which we do not have student-exchange agreements. If you would like to enroll in the University as a regular student, please contact our Admissions Office ( nyushi@tamabi.ac.jp).
  • * We are not offering any spring / summer short course at present.

Contact: International Exchange Section ( intl-ex@tamabi.ac.jp)

Student Reports, Year 2016

Barbara Brasileiro

Home school: Aalto University
Accepted: Department of Graphic Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

I’m originally from Brazil, and I moved to Finland to start my master’s studies because I believed in the positive influences and experiences when you are in a new environment. Being accepted in Tamabi took this beliefs to another level, bringing so many inspiring moments and people. This was my first time here, so I was already overwhelmed by so many aspects, and having the chance to be part of the Tamabi life made all ‘over-special’.

I firstly choose Tamabi, for its well known recognition of one of the best art and design schools in Tokyo. Also, the campus facilities are outstanding and to make it even better there is the wonderful Toyo Ito Library I had the privilege to spend hours inside studying. After arriving I found the campus even better with the mood in it being so friendly and full of hard work and focused students. To see so much effort and good work production was really inspiring and stimulating. Also we had the privilege to have some interesting cultural activities for the exchange students.

I learned more about the importance of finely tuned materials and processes to yield desired results for my future designs. I had a great time learning the process of traditional Japanese indigo dyeing and how to apply that to new and interesting materials and processes. I picked up some Japanese, but definitely not enough. The professors are all world renowned designers and was exciting to have them critique my work and teach me new tricks to get inspired and create.

At Tamabi I was able to take graphic creation, Japanese typography and photography courses, using its incredible facilities. The decision of my exchange was made quite fast, because of that, I didn’t have time to learn the language. But my eagerness to come to Tokyo, and to Tamabi were really strong. They believed on me and my communication skills, and I am very grateful for it. Also the staff in the university was kind and helpful. I believe I made the best choice and I was fortuned with an incredible supervisor Yamagata sensei. I was able to make dear friends in Tama that took me to amazing experiences around Japan.

Vilde Tygesen

Home school: Oslo National Academy of the Arts
Accepted: Department of Graphic Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

The university is located in a quiet and beautiful environment. It is easy to access and has so many outstanding facilities, both related to your specialization and to general campus life, such as several cafeterias with a wide variety of cheap and delicious meals, a Takeo paper shop, an art material shop with everything you need and of course the astonishing library designed by Toyo Ito. I studied at the Department of Graphic Design and took several classes in illustration and Japanese typography. One of the biggest differences between Tamabi and my home school was the immense amount of students, often with more than 60 people in one class, contrary to around 7 in Oslo, although both solutions has their pros and cons. I also got the impression that projects at Tamabi usually have a specific final product in mind, while the focus in Oslo circles more around the process and not so much the result. I deeply appreciated the opportunity to participate in exiting cultural activities such as Zen meditation, tea ceremony and lessons in the Japanese language. Even though I can’t say I hadn’t been warned before applying to Tamabi, it is definitely recommended to know at least some basic Japanese before the start of the semester. Still, the staff and students are patient and understanding, and as always, the international office was very helpful and accommodating. Soon, you’ll learn to work around the limitations and to communicate better with a more visual language.

I have most certainly grown from my experience of living in Tokyo and studying at Tamabi, both professionally and personally. When I look back at my stay, I am filled with love and longing for all the amazing people I met and the culture that I got to be a part of, if only for a few months. I am left with so much new knowledge and inspiration which I will continue to apply in my future creative works. In closing, I am grateful for the opportunity to study in Japan and will forever cherish this time. I hope you will too!

Clara Dorfi

Home school: University of Cincinnati
Accepted: Department of Product Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

Some years prior, students from Tamabi came to my school to present their work and tour our school. I was fascinated by the projects and how different their approach to design seemed. When the opportunity came up to study at Tamabi, I was reminded of this. I also wanted to study in Japan because I knew very little about any Asian culture in general and saw this as a wonderful opportunity to expose myself to a completely new culture.

My home university is a large public university, and my program places a lot more emphasis on technical skills and practicality for the workplace. At Tamabi, there is a lot more exploration with projects and themes are much looser. I've felt more of a chance to think conceptually at Tamabi.

The facilities of Tamabi are incredible- plenty of space and equipment available. The cafeterias are also very nice and have good options. All faculty have been very helpful as well! More specifically, I've been able to participate in sponsored studios in my department, which is an incredible opportunity that I am not sure would have been possible at my home institution.

I have learned how to adapt to a completely new environment and culture, and how to work around limitations and with what I have (for example my computer failed early on in the semester, so I worked in the Mac room at Tama). I have learned to communicate better with only visuals and images, and how to design with more cultural sensitivity/awareness.

I would strongly advise for a foundation in the Japanese language. Aside from that, come into the program with an open mind and a positive attitude.

Wesley Bauer

Home school: University of Cincinnati
Accepted: Department of Product Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

I chose Tamabi because when I visited back in 2014, I really saw an interesting and different way of thinking. Not only in the students' work in the product department, but how every person had a great sense of communal awareness, and empathy.

I could go on for hours about the differences between University of Cincinnati and Tama Art University. I am not saying that one is better than the other, but they are two completely different types of education systems. University of Cincinnati is grounded in practical design with great research, confirmed engineering and manufacturing understanding, and real life industrial design work experience. Tamabi has a fantastic tradition of pushing design at its edges and exploring the future of product design. The Tamabi product design program will teach the skills to finely tune materials, color, scale, function, design metaphors, and product story. Not to mention, absolutely excellent cafeterias with a variety of Japanese food options at a low cost. The students of Tamabi are their own breed of inspiring young artists and designers and are what make the program so highly regarded.

I learned more about the importance of finely tuned materials and processes to yield desired results for my future designs. I had a great time learning the process of traditional Japanese indigo dyeing and how to apply that to new and interesting materials and processes. I picked up some Japanese, but definitely not enough. The professors are all world renowned designers and was exciting to have them critique my work and teach me new tricks to get inspired and create.

My advice to future product students studying abroad at Tamabi is to create as much as you can, pick an aspect of Japanese culture you like and dive deep into it (even leave Tamabi every once in a while), and talk to the other students in your studio to get inspired, bounce ideas off each other, or just hang out and get to know them. Also bring a lot of warm clothes.

Katherine Garbutt

Home school: The Glasgow School of Art
Accepted: Department of Textile Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

I chose to study in Japan because I wanted to learn more about traditional Japanese textile techniques. The Textiles Design department has fantastic facilities and the teaching is very “hands on”. In my home University the focus is centered on the design process, while in Tamabi the students learn more through making. The staffs were so knowledgeable and it was great to have the teaching assistants as well as the Sensei (teachers). I learned Katazome, Yuzen, and Rozome techniques which I would have been unable to study in Glasgow. The classes are organized slightly differently as well. In Glasgow we chose a technical specialism; print, knit, weave or embroidery, however in Tamabi the students chose whether they are designing for the body, space or fine art. This gives the students more freedom with the technique they chose and also it focuses their research to a particular field.

The campus at Tamabi is beautiful and it was so nice to watch it change through the seasons. The library was my favorite place to spend time, the building is designed with students in mind and it is a great place to come if you are feeling stuck on a project. All the staffs I met at Tamabi were kind and helpful and every time I needed help it was given with such kindness and patience. There was always something happening on campus, an exhibition or event and it was great to meet people from other departments. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the students who were taking part in the Pacific Rim project (a collaboration with Art Center College of Design in California, US). Their brief for this semester was called “Future Craft” and it was really interesting to hear about what they were working on.

Daksha Salam

Home school: National Institute of Design
Accepted: Department of Textile Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

To say that I’ve always wanted to visit Japan is an understatement. Japan, its people and its culture has always intrigued me. To be more specific, Japanese textile has always been my key inspiration. I came to know about this program from a senior of mine who had gone for the same exchange two years before me. Seeing the vast scope and infrastructure, I wanted to incorporate the values and learning I could take away into my design learning. Here, at the Department of Textile Design of Tama Art University, we were very lucky to have a certain amount of freedom in the classes we chose. We had the option to pick from the three studios: Space, Body and Art. I focused on various traditional dye techniques and one print course that I managed to put in the basics of using a march loom.

Yuzen was my first introduction to the classes at Tamabi. It was a technical class where dyes are resisted on to fabric using rice paste. I was under the guidance of Iyanaga sensei. Koizora (恋空) was the title for my Yuzen project. Koizora would literally mean sky of love in Japanese. Instead of translating it verbatim and showing love in the sky, I wanted to create a pun with the English word of Koi (koi fishes). Koizora was also the first Japanese movie I watched which was the main source of my inspiration. In this class we acquainted ourselves with indigenous Japanese ingredients. We were not only adjusting to the new techniques but we were also familiarizing ourselves with the language, the everyday routine and schedule of a Tamabi textile student.

Learning how to find a balance between being a student and yet trying to manage traveling around Japan and experience Japan from the perspective of a tourist was really interesting. Not having prior knowledge of Japanese was definitely a drawback but it helped me understand and learn visually with minimal conversation. It has been an enriching experience where I got to see the difference in the work culture in comparison to my home university back in India. After this exchange I want to bring in my learnings from Japan into my work in India, where I can incorporate the discipline and the work ethics into my daily life.

Alice Thompson

Home school: Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London
Accepted: Department of Textile Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

Tamabi was an exceptional and special place to study; I wholly enjoyed my time and it was what I expected and so much more. I was able to decide with guidance what classes to take from the curriculum. At Chelsea we specialise (in either Print, Stitch, Knit, Weave) after the second semester in first year of degree; I specialised in Knit. At Tamabi, I took classes predominantly in weaving, and also Katazome (stencil dyeing) and in hand knitting/crotchet/ply split. So it was a wonderful opportunity to extend my design practice and have more time to experiment in weaving especially. Using national materials and natural processes was something I wasn’t as familiar with in my own work, and is now something I will definitely work to back in the UK. Using natural dyes, materials such as in the Banana Textiles project, and making things more from scratch was something I saw more and more as the term went on and I was encouraged to do in my own work too.

I found the work of the students and the many projects at Tamabi consistently inspiring and original. The ever-changing displays and the presentations across all departments were great to see day to day at Tamabi, for example in the viewing gallery in the Textile department through to see the graduation works, and also the work in Pacific Rim was so inspiring and impressive.

I will encourage the students who have an opportunity to go on exchange next year to definitely come to Tamabi. If I had any advice, I would say to just be aware that the classes are taught mainly in Japanese. But I found it easy enough to understand through the visual communication of the demonstrations, and there would always be someone, whether this be a staff member or student to help with something. Each and every single person was so friendly, and people really took the time and patience to help.

Sebastian Becher

Home school: Berlin University of the Arts
Accepted: Department of Environmental Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

My semester started off with the task to design a wooden chair. Led by two professors, we learned about woodworking and design. The wood workshop offers a huge selection of machines and the staff helps out as good as they can. Making a chair was much harder than I thought, but leaves you with a great feeling after finishing and being able to use your own creation.

The second project dealt with the design of a students’ museum on the campus of Tamabi. A task which managed to change my perspective on architecture in general, as I learned to incorporate different elements, found specifically in Japanese architecture, into my design process. Having been able to present and discuss my work with Toyo Ito at the final presentation was a big honor and a very memorable experience.

Getting to and around campus was very easy, the campus offers a wide range of activities including the library, photo studio, bakery, material store and so on. I was stunned by the helpfulness of all the people and would definitely recommend this experience to everyone who’s interested to go and study in Japan. It really helped me to widen my horizon and open up to new and different things. Meeting the other exchange students on campus or in Tokyo was also great to share experiences and give advice during the stay. Seeing a different way of living, teaching and learning is always interesting and especially the broadness of available courses (Architecture, Interior and Landscape) makes Tamabi special and unique.

Antonia Cattan

Home school: Berlin University of the Arts
Accepted: Art and Media Course, Department of Information Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

I chose to come to Japan for several reasons, but mainly because I guessed it was a country with a somehow untouched culture and traditions, that were kept so strong throughout centuries even though it followed the technological and capitalist developments like elsewhere. My “guessing” turned out to be right!!!

The student life at Tamabi was very nice, although there are so many differences in comparison with my home school in Berlin. The staff was incredibly helpful, both from the International office and from the Information Design Department I was enrolled, always trying to make my life in the campus as productive as possible. Besides, the facilities, workshops and equipment are really great, what helped me a lot to develop a project during my stay.

If I could go back in time, the only thing I wish I did better is to learn some specific handcraft or technique I could only have access in Japan, so I would advise future exchange students to focus on exploring the amazing facilities they will have at Tamabi that they don’t have at their home school!

Magdalena Mitterhofer

Home school: Berlin University of the Arts
Accepted: Art and Media Course, Department of Information Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

I wanted to go to live in Japan for many different reasons. Too many to list here. When I found out that there was a possibility to do an exchange semester in Tokyo, I was very happy. I could choose between Tama Art University and Musashino Art University, and I chose Tamabi because it seemed to offer more specification in the topics I am interested in: New Media, Film, and Information Design. I was looking for something more specific, after three years in Berlin University of the Arts where I was simply studying fine arts.

Explaining the difference between my home school and Tamabi, I would start with their locations. While UdK is located in the center of the city, Tamabi is far off Tokyo’s busy areas. I think that makes a big difference in the way students work. The quiet atmosphere at Tamabi, what could possibly distract you, lets people study more intensively, I think. The attitudes of the students towards the “Art world” were so different as well. Many students live in the school’s neighborhoods, but I lived near Shinjuku which made my way to school a real travel every time. That was totally fine for me, but it meant, that I had to organize myself. In the evening I was often sitting in the beautiful library building and watching the sun go down. In the train rides I was reading “Almost Transparent Blue” by Ryu Murakami, “In Praise of Shadows” by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, and Roland Barthe’s “Empire of Signs”.

If now someone asks me what I learned at Tamabi, it is difficult to answer, but I think I learned a lot about other forms and understanding of art. In Akihiro Kubota’s class, people spoke about terms like “Bio Art”, a concept I didn’t know about before. “Media Art”, a very broad concept, seems to be very big in Japan, and I was impressed how professional students in my class worked with new programs, programming and interactive systems. Kubota sensei’s colleagues, Akihiko Taniguchi and Akihide Saito, a new media artist and a photographer respectively, seem to be real role models, and I was really touched about how they often took care of their students. In Chihiro Minato’s class, I got lots of information about contemporary exhibitions in Tokyo. He showed us many websites, parts of movies and artworks he thought we should know about. His class was very international, so we spoke English which was nice. We also spoke very casually about Japanese art history, and its reciprocal influences with the west. That was quite interesting and I am planning to research more on that. By the way, Chihiro Minato is a research member in the “Institute for Art Anthropology”, located at Tama Art University’s Hachioji campus. It has many books. It is a nice space with many plants - worth a visit.

HUANG Luqi

Home school: China Central Academy of Fine Arts
Accepted: Interaction Design Course, Department of Information Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

Because of the brilliant traditional culture and perfect design jobs, I chose Japan for my first place and became an exchange student at Tamabi. I think the biggest difference between Tamabi and my home school CAFA is the meaning of “Freedom”. For example, teachers here usually communicate well with students and ask what they think about the students’ designs, but they never obstruct their autonomous works.

I always liked to stay in the library and got lots of information. Also, one of the most important things for me was to travel around Japan. Traveling brought me lots of memorable experiences. If there is any suggestion to the next exchange student, I will tell him/her not to forget to travel around where you live. Thank you very much!

YU Junghwa

Home school: Hongik University
Accepted: Interaction Design Course, Department of Information Design
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

I feel very lucky to have been able to study at Tama Art University, and in fact, I still cannot believe my good fortune! I had been interested in Japanese culture and had been watching a lot of Japanese animation and movies for quite some time, but there turned out to be much about life in Japan that differed from my expectations, which was very exciting for me.

My study abroad was in the Department of Information Design, which gave the students a large degree of freedom, so I was able to take on various challenges. Tamabi has a center called CMTEL (Colors / Materials / Trends Exploration Laboratory) where you can search for the most up-to-date art and design materials to use in your projects, and a beautiful library where you can view all kinds of books and movies, both of which aided me greatly in my studies. I was also able to meet diverse people at Tamabi, and my encounters with exchange students from other schools were highly valuable and enjoyable, while with the Japanese students I was able to converse a lot in Japanese. My part-time job and events I attended gave me numerous opportunities to interact with people as well. Thank you very much for this marvelous and unforgettable opportunity!

SHAU Tzu

Home school: National Taiwan University of Arts
Accepted: Ceramic Program, Department of Ceramic, Glass, and Metal Works
Period attended: September, 2016 to January, 2017

Studying at Tama Art University is a fulfilment of my long dream to learn the spirit and skill of delicate Japan ceramics works. Inarguably, Japan is a country full of aesthetics everywhere in everything, especially in art and in food. So many museums are my favorite places to go. And having a big meal of Sushi has brought me so many delightful moment and memory now and forever. Also, various religious festivals and culture exhibition have made my staying in Japan colorful and unforgettable.

The library of Tamabi is so informative and helpful for me. There are many kinds of precious and useful books available for different needs. Through application, much more, the library can even buy the book for me if I cannot find it there. It is really sweet and convenient.

Yes, I do feel impressed by many things here in Japan, especially by Japanese's obedience in life and perseverance in work. Although my classmates are sometimes crazy and noisy but they always follow the rules eventually.