My Community Involvement Project this semester is performing the Taiko with Kitanotenmangu Kamiwakakai. Because our group is affiliated with the Kitanotenmangu, the shrine for the god of knowledge in Japan, we are currently performing at Kitanotenmangu every Saturday evening.
When I was looking for CIP at the beginning of the semester, I wanted to join a circle that was fun, Japanese, and relaxed. Initially the mahjong circle caught my attention, but since it would have most of its activities on the other campus, about an hour away from where I am, I could not pursue that further. Then one of my friends came up with the name of the Taiko performing group; because I actually had played the Taiko once when I was in Kanazawa, I thought it was cool to continue it.
The first day of practice was intense. Because often there were people joining in the Kamiwakakai halfway, and not everyone would necessarily come to every practicing session due to other obligations, different levels of experience and skills were expected. As a result, although I did not know any of the pieces the group was playing at that time, I was asked to practice along with them, rather than letting me have a special training session on the side. It was better that way because by doing exactly what the senior members were doing, I felt that I could get used to my new group more easily.
Even though I do not necessarily know everyone’s name in Kamiwakakai, I really do feel that I am part of the group right now. When one of my friends was absent from a practice, people actually cared and would try to figure out the reason; despite the language barrier, people would try to find topics to talk with me; even people with whom I did not have a chance to talk to helped me when I needed something. The Kamiwakakai is like an extended family, where I feel warm, safe, and happy.