Chelsea Hayashi: Doshisha Tennis Circle + Kyodai Tennis Club

My biggest motivation and goal in studying abroad in Japan this semester was not only improving my Japanese, but also meeting and befriending Japanese students. I wanted to actually be a part of the Japanese world that someone my age in Japan experiences—not just one of a foreigner! As silly as it sounds, one thing I wanted to accomplish by the end of this semester was learn to text in Japanese. Yes, I could learn hundreds of kanji and grammar in class, but something as mundane as texting to meet up with a friend is something I could only learn by doing. It was these little, daily-life things that I wanted to gain from my CIP experience.

So, with all of this in mind, I chose to participate in a tennis circle at Doshisha as well as practice with the Kyodai tennis team. I’m on the varsity team at my home university, so this was not only a perfect way to continue playing a sport I love but also (hopefully) a way to stay in shape for when I return for my season.

I’ve learned a lot through my experiences, especially about the formalities and the ways of communication. Through the Japanese classes I have taken, I’d known about the importance and common use of keigo, but this was my first time utilizing it with people my age. Within Japanese colleges there is a strict and prevalent senpai/kohai relationship. In other words, “respect your elders” even if your “elders” are only one year ahead of you in college. Although in my experiences I was rarely treated as either a senpai or a kohai (I was just the abroad student who spoke enough Japanese but wasn’t Japanese), I still learned more about the appropriate levels of speech formality through my CIP than I ever had in a classroom. In getting in contact with various tennis circles, I had to send countless emails jam-packed with keigo, and I was surprised to receive emails back that had the same high formality—in America I feel like it’s bizarre to continue conversation with a peer in the same formal manner that you’d be talking to a professor. The Japanese peers I was with often called each other by last name (another distinct cultural distinction), although everyone still called me Chelsea-san. My Japanese peers were also more shy and reserved than I was used to, the high level of politeness off-putting to me at first, but I soon realized that this isn’t because they didn’t like me. Rather, Japanese interactions just start off a lot more formal and become more casual as they develop and strengthen. When a peer stops using keigo with you, that’s when you know they’ve accepted you as a friend.

I’m happy to say that through my CIP I’ve made friends, and I can now text in Japanese. However small of an accomplishment this may sound as, I feel good about it, and I’m grateful that my CIP was able to provide more learning than possible in any classroom.


2 thoughts on “Chelsea Hayashi: Doshisha Tennis Circle + Kyodai Tennis Club

  1. So you weren’t treated as a senpai OR a kouhai but they still used keigo with you in all the emails? How interesting! Were you emailing with people younger or older than you?

    That’s awesome that you learned how to text in Japanese. So you were texting your teammates? Was there a difference in formality between text and email? Sorry to bombard you with questions but I would also really like to know how to sound more natural over Japanese text.

    • Hi David! Thanks so much for your comments and questions–
      Over email, I was mostly talking to people around my age. However, I’ve found that regardless of age, when emailing someone you haven’t met yet, keigo is always used.
      In terms of texting vs emailing, I’ve learned from experience that texting is much more casual. One reason is because over LINE one can use ‘stickers’ and ‘emojis’ to express their thoughts, which cater towards a casual way of writing. Another, is just that LINE/texting is a means of communication used mostly only with people you are familiar with, so the lack of formality makes sense–hope this answered some of your questions!