Lauren Levine: Kyoto Walking Circle

For my CIP I knew that I wanted to be in a relaxed environment with Japanese students my own age so that I would be able to engage the other club members as peers. For this reason I chose to join the Kyoto Walking Circle, a club open to students of various colleges around Kyoto, and which meets once a week to walk around and explore different temples and shrines around the city. The club met every Saturday at 1:30 PM (at different locations around Kyoto depending on which temple or shrine we were visiting that day) with occasional night time events during the week.

One thing that surprised was how many members the club had and how much the people that came varied from week to week. At a given activity there could be more than twenty people, but very often more than half of those people would not have come the following week. Since the walking club is a very relaxed environment, attendance is always optional and most people come to events sporadically. This meant that I got to meet a lot of different people, but I often would not see the same person multiple weeks in a row, which made it difficult to stay in contact and become close friends. Still, everyone was really welcoming and friendly, and I enjoyed hanging out with everyone during the club activities.

Another thing that I noticed was that there was not a strong distinction between senpai and kouhai in this club environment. Even though there were students ranging in age from first years all the way to graduate students, most people in the club spoke in short form to each other and treated each other like friends (though some younger members did frequently speak in teinei). When speaking to mw, people usually started by speaking formally during the introductions, but soon switched to casual speak afterward.

Rather than the main distinction in the group being specifically by age, the more prominent distinction was in the smaller circles of friends that formed within the group. Since the group had so many members, only some of whom would come any given week, it was normal for the group walking that day to split into smaller groups of 4-6 while we were all walking. Some groups were all girls, other were all boys, and others were mixed (though there tended to be more guys than girls at the club activities). These were not official groups, but just groups that naturally formed based on friendships because our group was too large to all walk around together.

As a result, each week I would usually only end up talking to about five or six people depending on whichever smaller group I ended up walking with. I usually walked with whoever I started talking with before the activity started. The people in my CIP were very friendly, so I was almost always approached by someone who wanted to make conversation. If not, I would just introduce myself to the person who was staring at me the most. We would sometimes talk about the place we were visiting, but usually our conversations revolved around more general discussions of school, hobbies, and interests.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time as a member of the Kyoto Walking Circle. I got to see a lot of different temples and shrines around Kyoto, and because our club activities were mostly walking, there was a lot of time to make conversation and get to know the members of the circle.

6 thoughts on “Lauren Levine: Kyoto Walking Circle

  1. Hey Lauren! This sounds like a great CIP! The walking circle seems like a great way to interact with a lot of new people every time. I’m curious, since the line-up cycled out so often: do you know how many people are signed up as members of the club?

    • Hey, Erin! I really did have a lot of fun at my CIP and I was really glad to be able to meet so many new people. There were quite a few members in the club. I am not sure of the exact number, but when I asked my friend they said it was somewhere around one hundred members. The students come from different universities around Kyoto, so the community is pretty large.

  2. Lauren, your circle sounds perfect for getting to know both people and Kyoto. It’s a shame that the same people wouldn’t go every week so that your relationship would deepen, though. Did you end up making any longer-term friends?
    As for the sightseeing, what was your favorite place you visited? Did you usually only visit the most famous sites or also some less well-known, more local ones?

    • Hi Ana! I agree it was unfortunate that I was unable to build stronger, more personal relationships over the course of my CIP, but I really enjoyed spending time with the group as a whole. Even though I did not really make long term friends, I still had a fulfilling social experience with my CIP. As for the places we visited, my favorite was Shōsei-en Garden (Kikoku-tei). It was a really pretty garden with a really common atmosphere. We visited a variety of different places over the course of the term, such as, Banpuku Temple, Higashi Honganji Temple, and Nenzen Temple. I think most of the places we went were pretty well known.

  3. The walking club sounds like such a nice, laid-back group. I guess it makes sense that people then would come and go whenever they wanted. In the group of four to five people you would walk with then, would those people basically be different every meeting?

    • Hey George! Yeah, it was a really laid-back and enjoyable club. The groups I walked with tended to be different from week to week, but sometimes I got to walk with the same groups people.