This is fun – I am supposed to sum up my experiences with KCJS’ Community Involvement Project, and I’ve only made it up to two of the six required CIP meetings. (April will be busy!) To be fair, I’ve been looking, as have Nakamura-sensei and Maeguchi-sensei. The problem is, I’ve been unwilling to spend more than sen, ni sen en per class.
To back up, my official CIP is cooking class. I can’t cook, and I like food – fairly straightforward reasoning in signing up for cooking classes.
On top of learning how to make simple Japanese recipes and, of course, eating what we make, cooking class provides great language instruction without the day-in day-out feel of a classroom. The cooking classes are all in Japanese, technical cooking terms and all. But because you watch the instructors go through whatever step they’re explaining, new kotoba are easy to soak up! Learn new words while you learn how to cook – it’s great for someone in a lower language level.
The specific group I committed to for the semester is Kyoto Cooking Circle, KCC. They meet once a month at Kyoto Wings (super convenient! near Daimaru on Shijo), and the price is subsidized for foreigners only, at 1000. Most importantly, the class really caters to non-native Japanese speakers – I’ve always been made to feel included.
The instructor spoke at a normal pace, but would repeat herself if she felt we did not understand; many times, we would punch whatever unknown word into a denshi jisho then repeat the word in English, and she would confirm or deny it. I’ve never taken a cooking class in America, but I can’t imagine it being too different in terms of teaching style or use of language.
Thinking about American and Japanese cooking classes, my speculation is that the structure and attitude of classes of this type differs. In my time with KCC, I was always in a group, and it was in groups that we later went around to introduce ourselves. Everyone was engaged in the self-introduction period of class. After class, no one tried to shirk housekeeping duties like washing dishes, cleaning, etc. No one leaves right after the cooking portion is over. The social atmosphere fosters a sense of pride in the group. I’m not just in KCC to learn how to cook, I’m also there to form connections with other group members.