Tori Moore: Nico Nico Tomato

I have been volunteering at Nico Nico Tomato for the last four months, which is a volunteer organization based out of Kyoto University hospital. My time volunteering is usually divided between working with small children in a playroom within the hospital or spent organizing materials for fundraisers, events, and sometimes making presents for the pediatric staff. The work itself is fun and interesting, but I also enjoy observing the day-to-day operations of one of Kyoto’s largest inner city hospitals.

There were two approaches I took when participating in my CIP; the first was the “official” reason I was there: to experience Japanese in a setting besides my classroom or homestay, in which I think the volunteer work was an interesting and worthwhile setting and let my Japanese language skills develop more naturally. The second approach I took was from the perspective of a pre-medical student observing the operations of a hospital as somewhat of an insider, an opportunity I hadn’t had yet, but one crucial for any pre-med student’s application to medical school.

The last few times I visited Nico Nico Tomato, I have spent the first forty-five minutes or so folding pamphlets, estimating the prices of small toys to be sold for a fundraising “café,” or sticking stamps onto envelopes, all while chatting with the volunteers, who are mostly housewives. I often find myself listening to their conversations more than I participate in them, but as time has progressed in the semester, I’ve noticed that I comprehend a lot more than I initially did. I see this time as good practice for listening and speaking, and it’s usually pretty relaxing as well.

After a certain time or when I’ve finished my job, I’ll go down to the playroom on the floor below and hang out with the kids. I like to think of that as a more rigorous Japanese practice, but I normally am having too much fun to really focus on the language like how I do in a classroom, and rather more how I consider it when talking to friends or my host family. I also always get to bring a thing I made home as well, which is always nice.

I honestly never expected my CIP to be as enjoyable as it eventually became; the first few times I visited the hospital were tiring, too hot, and, on account of not a small lack of confidence in my language ability, quite stressful. However, the hours I put in conversing with the volunteers in the staff office and children in the playroom quickly paid off and I think my listening ability became much stronger as a result.



4 thoughts on “Tori Moore: Nico Nico Tomato

  1. It’s fantastic that you were able to have a fun CIP experience! It definitely sounds like a great balance between working with other volunteers (an improving your Japanese ability!) and playing with children. You mentioned that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to observe at hospitals in America, but as a pre-med student, were there any major differences that you observed in this hospital environment versus what you know about in the US? (I’m sure it’ll be an interesting comparison if you have the opportunity to do something similar back home!)

    • Well, first of all, the hospitals at home don’t really admit people with colds, so there was generally a lot more patients in the Kyoto hospital. The Kyoto University Hospital was also much bigger than ones I know about in the states, but I doubt that’s true for every hospital here. I didn’t notice that much else, but what is interesting is that there aren’t many volunteer programs in Japan, while volunteering in America is pretty prevalent.

  2. What insights did the experience offer into the everyday lives of the people who you worked with? Was their participation organized in their communities like a Roujin-kurabu or was it court mandated? What kinds of things did you talk about with them?

    • The volunteers almost always offered me cookies or a pastry when I went, sometimes non-sweets as well (I walked out with a bag of bread rolls once). I once asked how one woman was able to find time to particpate in the volunteer group and bake really good cakes, run a co-op, and raise kids. She actually told me that she felt lazy, and was looking for more stuff to do. I suppose this comes from a need to make every day count, though I’m not sure if the attitude is limited to Japanese culture.
      The structure of the volunteering wasn’t court mandated, but I’m not sure what Roujin-kurabu is, so I don’t think I can give you a good answer. As to what we talked about, pretty much chatting and gossip about people I did not know.