Jose Trejos: Cooking Lesson

When choosing my CIP activity, I hoped to find an activity that I could continue to perform after I leave Japan, and would allow me to explore an aspect of Japanese culture that the study abroad experience does not typically emphasize. Through this logic, I decided to take a weekly Japanese cooking class for my CIP, at the La Carriere Cooking School. I have always enjoyed cooking at home for my family, and I personally consider Japanese food to be the best in the world, so the opportunity to expand my knowledge in classes taken by actual Japanese people was a unique opportunity.

While taking my cooking class, I had the opportunity to interact with Japanese people outside of a classroom or host family setting, which expanded my understanding of Japanese culture. Something that immediately surprised me when I started to attend was that we were expected to wash the dishes during and after we finished cooking, which would not be orthodox in this type of cooking class in the west, and I felt tied in to a Japanese ethic of respect for the teacher and of not troubling others. Other aspects of the students gradually stood out to me, from the fact that the class was largely divided between young professionals and old retirees with few people in the middle, which reflects work dynamics in current Japan, to the different ways the students reacted to American, Costa Rican and (through some recipes) French culture. I also learned much of the kanji and words used to describe French food, and even became much better at deciphering Japanese onomatopoeia as my teacher struggled to communicate instructions to me.

However, it is true that by taking a class rather than a group activity, the amount of interaction that I had was limited compared to that of other KCJS students, and the varying attendance of these classes meant that my interactions stayed formal with most of the cooking students. In reflection, it may be better for students that are not particularly extroverted to aim for activities that more directly emphasize interacting with Japanese people, such as activities in Doshisha’s circles. Regardless of the activity, it is crucial to pay attention to the routines of Japanese society to the extent that one is capable, as managing basics such as proper aisatsu matters a lot more than equivalent pleasantries do in the US. Most importantly, realize that while it is inevitable to embarrass yourself with Japanese several times, you will never see the people again at the end of the CIP, and there is no reason not to be bold and practice as much as you can talking to Japanese people. Much like the host family, the CIP is a type of interaction that a class or individual practice is completely incapable of providing, so putting in effort is very important to how much Japanese you ultimately learn studying abroad.

6 thoughts on “Jose Trejos: Cooking Lesson

  1. This cooking class sounds quite interesting. It is always difficult to learn something and socialize at the same time. What was the most interesting dish to prepare?

    • Gyoza was fairly simple, and I’ll probably make it at home often, so I was really happy to learn it.

  2. Cooking classes are such a unique CIP! The makeup of the class is so interesting. It looks like people in the cooking class either took it for fun since they have time or yoing adults who needed to learn how to cook and feed for themselves. I also think it is funny that you got better at onomatopoeia through this.

    Did you see the same people every week? Would you have choosen a different CIP instead of the cooking class?

    • I saw many of the same students each week, although many people just bought one-time classes.
      Thinking back, it would have probably been better to take a circle at Doshisha. I enjoyed cooking and it will be useful, but there is the issue that I didn’t make much of a personal connection with anyone. I feel like that was a relatively important part of what people got from CIP, and it would have been better from the perspective of studying Japanese to have that experience. However, I’m fairly satisfied with the way things went.

  3. This sounds like an interesting environment to jump into, as an international student. Did you find that the other cooking students were welcoming to you, or were you mostly welcomed in by the instructor?

    • I got along pretty well with the other students. Most people didn’t exactly approach me, but no one turned me away at all when I talked to them. I’ve heard some people had a few bad experiences in that regard, but I think that’s less common when you deal with adults, thankfully.