Jiayi Huang: Kyotographie

For my CIP project I volunteered at Kyotographie this semester. Kyotographie is an International photography festival that takes place in Kyoto every Spring. My work there included making timelines for various events, translating the program introduction into Chinese, creating a media outreach list, and putting up posters in Universities and cafes.

Kyotographie is a very International workplace. There are staffs from France, Britain and Hong Kong. It is a generally easygoing work environment: people sit around a big table, the director brings her kids in sometimes, and work hours are flexible. Nevertheless I still caught a glimpse of the Japanese work environment. For example, when Japanese staffs are listening to their supervisors, they have to answer “はい” after each and every sentence to show that they understand what he/she is talking about. However, the conversation is very fast-paced and the response is too immediate to convince outsiders like me to believe that they truly understand. It seems more natural to me that if people take more time to digest the information and ask more questions. When they are talking to me they slow down a little bit and use easier words to make sure that I understand.

It was also surprising that one of the staff would reply to me back in English every time even though I speak to her in Japanese. It is a common phenomena I often witness in Japan but did not expect to be the case at a work place. It reminds me that when I am in China and a foreigner speaks Chinese to me I might reply him/her in English as well. For some people they see it as an opportunity to practice English, and for some else it is a place one can say “Hey I speak English as well.” I think it is largely due to the fact that Japan and China (and most East Asian countries) are relatively homogenous societies where people don’t get to interact with “outsiders,” and it makes the moment that they speak another language special. However, now that I have lived in Japan and learned that speaking a language while the other person is using another to talk to you can be frustrating for that person, I know how to interact with foreign people better.

Overall working in Kyotographie is fun and if you are looking for CIP in Spring semester I recommend checking Kyotographie out. Also, the exhibitions are going to be from April 14th to May 13th, I will be doing supporting staff work for the exhibitions then and please come to visit us!

3 thoughts on “Jiayi Huang: Kyotographie

  1. Kasey,

    I’m glad to hear that you had a fun experience at a Japanese worplace!

    I have mainly 2 questions, Did you have to use full honorifics when you had to talk to your boss/customer/visitors? And was the work paid for?

    • I mainly talked to my colleagues/supervisors in です/ます form but when my colleagues/supervisors talk to the clients on the phone they always use full honorifics.
      Also, currently the work is not paid, but after KCJS I’m going to be working at the actual exhibitions and that work is going to be paid.

  2. I originally intended to take part in Kyotographie as well but since I’ve made other plans before it ends, zannen desune.
    This is interesting because we can really see that not all Japanese workplaces are as strict as we thought. Manga Museum can be casual sometimes too, but I guess art-based organizations like Kyotographie are in general more casual.
    I also noticed the phenomenon you mentioned, and I think other than the reasons you talked about it might be also possible that sometimes the Japanese would assume that you wouldn’t understand their response in Japanese. I wish we could find a way make the situation less awkward.