My CIP was participating in a Kyoto University jazz music circle called Off-Beat. It was entirely student run, and every Thursday for three hours, they held a Jazz music session: this was basically everyone, using the same collection of jazz songs, rotating who would play and solo in the next song, with at least one piano, drum, and base player, and one soloist. Players were free to come and leave depending on their schedules, so all in all, each song and each session had different feels depending on the people who were there. Though everyone there was individually talented, the quality of songs varied due to their improvisational nature, but overall the group sounded good. I felt comfortable showing up because I have played flute for 7 years, I have been singing for longer, and I am ok at improvisation even though I haven’t taken music theory. I also love jazz music. If I was both unfamiliar with playing jazz music and unsure of my skill with an instrument, I would have been more careful making this my CIP. However, because of the optional nature of each session, the members there were very receptive to me sitting in for one to see how it worked before I tried to play anything.
In this CIP, when I didn’t play, I got to sit back and observe people interacting without feeling obligated to participate in a conversation, so I saw a lot of different levels of casual interaction outside of the typical sphere of “foreignness” that I bring in when I speak. Because this was a music circle, the people in it had different interests and personalities than the typical Japanese student interested in international exchange: which described most of the Japanese students I had met so far. We interacted on a more practical level where we all worked together, as opposed to me being separate as a foreigner, so I felt more accepted and part of the group here, rather than a special addition to be inspected. Not only that, but coming into KCJS unsure of my Japanese skills, being able to connect with people without language, and with music instead was a really amazing experience. There are still a few people I played with where their sole impression of me is playing my flute, and I think the musical element acted as a great equalizer between many different people, including me as the token foreigner of the group. Feeling accepted was a huge part of me having the confidence to not only start to casually talk to my friends, but also ask questions about Japan, its culture, and its language.