Eun Bi Lee: Kyoto Prefectural International Center

I had an interesting CIP experience this semester. Though I did write about
volunteering for Kamigyo History House in my Japanese blog post, since then I have
had the opportunity to participate in a variety of clubs and Japanese culture classes
that allowed me to observe Japanese society from different angles. I participated
in aikido and Japanese dance classes offered by Kyoto Prefectural International
Center, and I have been to both Go Circle and Medical English Speaking Society at
Kyoto University. If I were to compare my experience this semester to that of last
semester, I think I found it much more enjoyable to explore various social groups
rather than participating in the same one over and over again. Of course, there
is beauty in building relationships and becoming a part of a group by frequently
returning to the same circle or class but with my year-long stay in Japan quickly
reaching its end, I thought it would also be a good idea to try out cultural activities I
would otherwise never get to do in the States or anywhere else.

While interacting with the older and the younger generations of Japanese people, I
was able to observe something quite interesting. The Japanese dance teacher, in her
sixties, proudly said during our conversation that she had never been left Japanese
territory – with the exception of her trip to Hawaii. On the other hand, when I
went to Kyoto University’s English Speaking Society, all of the circle members had
travelled outside Japan extensively – from Asia, the United States to Europe and
Australia. Of course, I am not trying to imply that no older generation Japanese ever
travels outside Japan nor that all younger generation Japanese travel luxuriously
outside Japan. However, even when I was volunteering at Kamigyo History House, I
met a volunteer that would proudly say that she had spent her entire life in Kyoto,
and that though she has travelled throughout Japan, she has never travelled nor
wanted to travel to a foreign country. Back then, which was last semester, I thought
it was pretty shocking but thought it could be a simple exception. But as I have
come across someone that proudly admits such a fact, I wonder if this trend or
characteristic is more than just exceptions. I find this all the more striking because
in Korea or even in Mexico, the ability to travel abroad can be considered as a
symbol of wealth in a way and I think can say with some confidence that Koreans or
Mexicans would seldom admit their lack of foreign experience, much less with the
pride the two Japanese ladies clearly showed. I have wondered why this would be
so and I think in a way this reiterates the point I made in my previous post as well.
The older generation Japanese, like those visiting Kamigyo History House, seems
to have an incredible sense of pride in Japanese culture and in their being Japanese
expressed in the form of their love for Japan, for learning about Japanese history.
Certainly circumstantial differences exist and travelling abroad doesn’t mean not
loving Japan, but I thought this particular generation gap was rather interesting
and hope to talk to more people and learn more during the remainder of my stay in

4 thoughts on “Eun Bi Lee: Kyoto Prefectural International Center

  1. Eunbi! Sounds like you had a great semester! Did you have an activity or group that came to the center that you enjoyed in particular?

    I haven’t heard the opinion that you’re talking about, personally. Although now that I think about it, I haven’t spoken with many elderly people either. The age range of Japanese people that I’ve had conversations with (excepting my host family’s obaachan last semester) ends at about 55~60. I wonder if it really is generational.

    • Actually – I came across an entirely contradictory comment from this Japanese 大学生, Eriko, I was interviewing for my Japanese class. Eriko said that after the earthquake last year, she was so worried about her family and her country that she had no desire of leaving Japan for an extended period of time. I’m thinking maybe it could have been generational but also last year’s tragedy may have had very deep impact on Japanese people – more ways than we can superficially observe.

  2. Even if it might not be easy to form relationships through your CIP than joining a circle or participating in a repeating activity, I think it is a great idea to experience multiple different aspects of Japanese culture and meet various interesting people. Besides having a few weeks in Kyoto left, what else made you decide that you want to participate in a variety of activities instead of just focusing on one?
    I personally wished I had the chance to branch out and do a variety of activities as well and I’ve been meaning to go to the International Center for a while now. >.<

    • Well, I sort of decided to continue volunteering at the Kamygyo History House but after a while I realized I wasn’t really interested in that particular activity and that I wasn’t having fun. That’s when I got the info about classes at the International Center through Maeguchi Sensei and I thought I’d give it a try. It worked out pretty well! I would totally recommend participating, especially since not too many people actually show up to these classes and you’d be getting undivided attention from the teachers!