For my CIP I took cooking classes at La Carriere. I was the only foreigner in my classes which made it a really interesting experience. In the first few classes I wasn’t able to understand most of the directions, and had to rely on watching more than listening, but as classes went on I started to pick up more and more words. Eventually I could ask about specific cuts, what heat to put the stove to, etc. My Japanese in regard to specific food and cooking techniques was probably not 100% correct, but I was able to get my meaning across, and being able to communicate better translated into the food I made, which also became better and better. I also had opportunities to talk to Japanese women, ranging in age from 18 to 70, which gave me many opportunities to practice all speech styles, from casual to polite and even keigo.
After a long day of regular college classes and studying, listening to Japanese for a few hours could be tiring, but it was always worth it when I could sit down with the women and eat the delicious food we had made. Everyone was always really nice to me, and it was a great experience.
It provide me a place and a role in Japanese society as an actual individual and not just a foreigner. Usually when I try to integrate myself into Japanese society, my role in the setting would very much be defined by being a foreigner. However, when I was in the cooking classes I was just another student there to learn how to cook.