For the 2017 Fall semester at KCJS, I originally had decided to take group lessons at a studio in Osaka, located close to Umeda station. The vocabulary used by the instructors was fundamentally the same as dance instructors in America; for example, “From the top”, “One more time”. The register changed depending on the instructor; friendlier teachers tended to use the plain speech styles while colder, more detached teachers used polite form. About halfway through the semester, I realized that 1) I was not gaining any major cultural insights and 2) while I do enjoy dancing, I did not enjoy taking formal classes.
For the second portion of the semester I have been going to a church with a multi-national congregation. I was shocked at how similar service was to my church in America. I usually go to a majority black Church of God in Christ (COGIC) church in the U.S. where it is common practice to interject with “Amen” during a sermon to show your agreement, to pray aloud individually but simultaneously during worship service and greet your neighbor between programs. The church that I attend in Japan does the exact same thing, except that services are either conducted in Japanese, Korean, Chinese or in all three. More than 70% of the congregation is Chinese, however the pastor is Japanese, so for regular services there is a Japanese-Chinese interpreter present. If necessary, there are a two international students who regularly attend the church that will interpret services into English.
I did realize that the pastor gave the sermon using polite speech, since she was address the congregation; however, during prayer, on behalf of everyone, the pastor would use keigo as a means of exaltation. Also, during my first visit, some members of the church did a coordinated praise dance in honor of the guest Korean pastor. The praise dance was done with fans, using moves from traditional obon dancing, while wearing a kimono.
Furthermore, after learning about difficulties amongst Chinese, Japanese and Koreans in Japan, I was pleased and surprised to find this space where they all cooperate without tension. Since, they share the religion of Christianity, “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ,” is a commonly said phrase at church. Also, the phrases that the pastor uses during the sermons and communal prayer are very similar to the phrases used at my church in America. Nevertheless, this is most likely be due to a shared text, the Bible, which is full set phrases that are very popular among Protestant Christians. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience for my personal enrichment.
Nevertheless, I realize that the church is a bit separated from Japanese society as whole, so to make the most of my study abroad in Japan and get more of a first-hand view of the inner-workings of Japanese society, I will participate in a more integrated CIP during the spring semester.