This semester I participated in two CIPs, the Kyoto Cooking Circle and KLEXON, an English conversation circle. The Kyoto Cooking Circle unfortunately only meets once a month, but I was able to attend a few meetings, cook some delicious food and have interesting conversations with the people I have met there. KLEXON meets almost every week, and a volunteer session involves speaking with people both one-on-one as well as in small group settings. In participating in both of my CIPs, I interacted with many people who spoke Japanese but were also looking to practice English, or other foreign languages, so it was interesting to be able to easily see the differences in interactions in both English and Japanese.
At a typical Kyoto Cooking Circle meeting, members are divided into tables where we first listen to a teacher’s instruction on how to prepare the entire meal. This explanation is usually a fairly formal speech style, but members are able to interject with questions or comments if needed. When we return to our tables, the conversation topics are usually fairly casual, as we talk about ourselves and cook the meal together and, unless the members recognize each other from a previous meeting and speak more casually, desu/masu style is usually used. Conversation over the meal is usually fun and it is a great feeling to enjoy a meal that everyone has helped to prepare. After everyone is finished, there is a “self-introduction” time, something that is very Japanese. Even if we may have been speaking casually before, these self-introductions are usually pretty formal, as well as formulaic in their content and expressions. Still, it is always interesting to hear about people’s occupations or hobbies, in addition to the names of people from different tables, before everyone cleans up the kitchen together.
KLEXON has also been an interesting experience, and I have had the opportunity to speak to many different people, both college students and young workers. While speaking one-on-one has primarily been in English, many of my group sessions have used Japanese to converse. It has been a good experience to speaking in-depth about various topics with a wide variety of people, and I have learned a good deal about people’s personal experiences, Japanese culture or even recommended spots around Kyoto. All in all, my CIPs have afforded me the opportunity to meet many different people, with some good conversations and meals as well.