Volunteering at the Bazaar Cafe has been a very rewarding experience for me. Even if this were not my CIP, I would enjoy going there to study or have coffee with friends. The atmosphere of the cafe, whether one is experiencing it as a customer, a volunteer, or both, is really what won me over. It is such a warm, friendly place that you cannot help but feel welcome. I’ve noticed a really strong sense of community, both among the staff, and with the customers as well. Week by week, I’ve come to recognize many regulars, some of whom even stop by Fridays or Saturdays as well. There appear to be genuine friendships between those customers and our barista/manager, who I always see sharing personal anecdotes and jokes. One regret of mine is not having put more effort into interacting with the customers, which is something I would highly recommend to future KCJS newcomers.
My conversations with the staff, on the other hand, have been both fun and a great learning opportunity. The staff are some of the nicest people that I’ve met in Japan, and so I never have to feel uneasy if I make mistakes on the job (embarrassed, yes). One thing that I’ve noticed is how some of the staff call the manager “Tsu-ki,” instead of a formal Tsukishita-san. That really shows, in my opinion, not only the warm and casual relationship among the staff, but the humility of the cafe’s owner.
The international character of the café is also a refreshing change of scenery. Although the staff on Thursdays when I work is mostly Japanese, those who work on Fridays and Saturdays hail from various parts of the world and the cuisine reflects that diversity. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet a number of interesting customers, including Doshisha students, professors, and tourists from various countries. Thursdays have become quite an interesting and unpredictable part of my weeks here in Kyoto.