Yiqing Fang: Kyoto University Mixed Voice Chorus/Ikebana

For the past 3 months, I have been participating in the Kyoto University Mixed Voice Chorus and various Ikebana related activities for my CIP. I was originally hoping to become a member of the Kyoto college student origami circle. Unfortunately, I lost contact with the group after an awkward first meeting. The group had responded positively to my first email inquiring about becoming a member but any further email received no replies.  Nevertheless, I decided to attend one of their public meetings. The group was very obviously not prepared for newcomer. While some of the senpais tried to make me felt welcomed, the atmosphere remained very stilted for the rest of the night. After this, I emailed them about attending future meeting and never received a reply. I took their lack of responses as a sign that I will not be welcomed.

My experience with the Choir has been quite good, if not what I expected. There are many established rituals and unstated knowledge. For example, everyone in a certain voice section will respond to announcement or direction in a certain way. The girls will say “安い!”together in a high pitched voice anytime announcments turn to money related matters. Each voice section also have their own unique songs they sing to welcome new members.I was not taught any of this and the assumption seemed to be that new member will just slowly pick up these knowledge. Members were able to use this kind of common background to communicate with each other in ways that would not make sense to any outsiders. I was quite thrown when they first introduce me to the chorus at large. The way they welcome new members was like nothing I had ever experienced. They asked all the new members for our information before the rehearsal after. After the rehearsal was over, they had sign made from our information ready f and made us introduce themselves in front of the whole choir. After each introduction, the corresponding voice part would sing a song to welcome their new member.  Everyone tried their best to make me feel part of the group and I really appreciate their efforts. I often had trouble understanding director’s direction but by focusing on body language and with help from the other members, I was able to follow along.  My one disappointment has been the lack of individual interactions. Due to the way the rehearsals are scheduled, there is very little free time to just talk with people. Another reason I feel a bit distant has been that many of their social activities have been during my class time. I feel like I didn’t really have a chance to get to know everyone better outside of the formal practice.

I have had some wonderful experiences learning about Ikebana with Ikebana International. They seem genuinely excited that I have such an interest in the art of flower arranging. I learned a lot about Ikebana from their events and had some wonderful conversation. For example, after one of the demonstration, I talked with Kitamura-san (the director of special events) about why certain flowers were chosen in this specific arrangement, the shape of the vase, and other such things. I felt a little awkward talking to them at the beginning but they kept prompting me and I eventually opened up. I had a lot of opportunity to practice my keigo. They have invited me to more upcoming events but I unfortunately had to decline due to time restraint.

I think the main thing that has prevented me from getting as much as possible out of the CIP experience has been the issue of time. Choir had a month long break in March because it was Japanese’s college’s spring break. Some of the other clubs I was potentially interested in were no go specifically because of their lack of activities. I was also unable to attend many of Choir’s outside activities because of time conflict with classes. Further more, 4 months is really a bit too short to expect much commitment from either side. One of the positive take away from the whole experience has been to keep an open mind. Don’t restrict yourself to what you perceive as your official CIP. Attend as many outside activities as you can, you never know who you might connect with.

4 thoughts on “Yiqing Fang: Kyoto University Mixed Voice Chorus/Ikebana

  1. It really is too bad that we’re only here for so much time and that lack of time has prevented us from really getting to know the members a lot better. I wish you could have come to the hanami! Everyone was disappointed that you couldn’t come. Also, because we don’t interact with the guys on a regular basis, being able to talk to them during the hanami was great. While I love our fellow altos, I do hope you get a chance to speak with other people outside our group!

    Also, I’m glad you’ve been able to practice your keigo! Mine’s still horrendous, so you’re miles ahead of me in that department. I hope you can show us a little bit about ikebana during the talent show!

    • I was really sad to miss the hanami! Thank you, I will definitely try to talk to people outside our group. Last friday was a good start, don’t you think? Unfortunately, I will not be presenting anything Ikebana related at the talent show. I really only know the basic and I don’t think it would too entertaining to watch me fumble with the flowers and such:)

  2. It is definitely unfortunate that our spring semester at KCJS just doesn’t line up nicely with the Japanese academic calendar. Really getting involved becomes much harder, but it looks like you tried to do the best with what you could. From reading your experience and talking to some of the others in the choir, it seems like it was a really great group.

    You said there was a lot of knowledge they assumed you would just pick up on as a newcomer. How much of those things did you end up understanding or is a lot of it still a mystery?

    • Yes, the timing was really unfortunate. I still feel like I could have tried more but I guess things just worked out the way it did. Many things are actually still mystery to me. I learned to follow along with what everyone else is doing but still don’t quite understanding the meaning behind many actions. I am guessing the language barrier played a part in this.