Kristen Lee: Manga Museum Volunteer

I really enjoyed volunteering at the Manga Museum. The atmosphere of the museum is welcoming and comfortable. People of all ages sit by the bookshelves along the walls or outside on the huge lawn to read manga. The other Japanese volunteers are also very nice. Uramune-san, the person who is in charge of us, has been especially friendly and patient in helping us to establish a routine at the museum.

I think this may be the first time the museum has had KCJS students in the front part of the museum interacting with Japanese and foreign visitors. Our only job was to give English tours, so we often just stood by the front desk with the greeters until a visitor came who wanted a tour. We usually went on Sundays, but even though more Japanese visitors come to the museum on weekends, there seem to be fewer foreign visitors. I think that because foreign visitors are usually tourists, it does not matter to them whether they go to the museum on the weekend or a weekday. However, the museum was very flexible in allowing us to come whenever it fit our schedules as long as they are notified in advance.

I did not know exactly what to expect about volunteering at the museum, but I did think it would be easier to talk to the other volunteers about topics unrelated to the museum and get to know them better; however, they are very busy with their own tasks, so it is hard to ask them about irrelevant topics. Although the workers are always nice and patient in answering my questions about the museum, they do not usually initiate conversations with us. We also take our break at a different time from other volunteers. If there are other people in the break room, they are usually napping or using their cell phones, so we rarely get a chance to interact with them outside of the more formal work setting. Although the work setting of the museum may have been a factor, I think because Melanie and I always stuck together during our volunteering time also made us more unapproachable for the other Japanese volunteers to come and talk with us.

It is interesting to see how the Japanese volunteers interact with each other in the semi-formal work setting of the Manga Museum. For example, whenever another museum worker passes by, both people say「おつかれさまです」to each other. Museum workers also speak in formal Japanese to visitors. When a visitor leaves the museum, any worker near the exit bows and thanks them for coming. These ritualized greetings and switch in formality between fellow workers and visitors are very interesting to observe. The other workers even included us in their greetings, which made me feel more a part of the museum.

2 thoughts on “Kristen Lee: Manga Museum Volunteer

  1. Wow, your CIP really sounds like lots of fun! 🙂 Did you guys ever get the chance to read manga that was in the collection? What kind of tours did you give to visitors? I have never been to the Manga Museum, should I make it a priority to visit before I leave Kyoto?

    • No, we didn’t get a chance, although I wish we had! In the tours, we explained information about how the museum started, the manga collection, and then about the building itself, which used to be an old elementary school building.

      How interested are you in manga? I would definitely recommend going if you have a manga series you are reading or are interested in reading, especially since the entry ticket is good for the entire day. You can also go in an out of the building as often as you want. Otherwise, although there are some interesting special exhibits, you may feel that the entrance fee isn’t worth it. If you do go, on the weekends there are more things going on, such as kamishibai performances and manga drawing workshops.