John Courson: Student Television Club

For my CIP activity, I knew that I wanted to do something relating to my major since I’m a Film and TV major at BU, and entering KCJS was solely to fulfill credits towards my minor. I stumbled upon the 学生テレビ局 (Student TV circle) at Doshisha by chance, and knew immediately that it would be a perfect fit for me. At the Student Television circle, you can make any kind of programming you and your partners decide to make. It should be important to note that you don’t need prior experience in TV to join this club, as many of the participants aren’t media majors at all. It’s a club filled with people who like to have fun making TV with their friends. I would suggest anyone interested in joining this club to do so, but know that you will have a hard time if you’re not confident or capable with the Japanese skills you’ve learnt. The circle meets officially twice a week, but you’ll be split into teams, and your team decides on what days to meet according to everyone’s schedules.

My first contact with the circle was through a 3rd year student who acts as leader of the club.  He told me which day in the week would be best according to who he knows usually attends the weekly meetings. Thanks to his thoughtfulness, I was placed in a team with a girl who likes to practice her English, and would happily translate for me whenever I got lost. I found this really helpful since TV is heavily influenced by culture, and I would sometimes be confused by certain slang used during the planning phase. My team decided that since I look like Harry Potter, they want to make a Harry Potter parody trailer. It might’ve been easy to be insulted by this, but I think half of this decision was an attempt to incorporate me into the circle as best as they could. I think they knew if I got a role in acting, it would force me to be involved and make for a fun time. Though parading down Shinmachi campus in a HP robe was embarrassing, I’m extremely thankful for the overall consideration that’s gone into making my time spent in this circle a memorable one by the fellow members.

The best part of this circle is not the quality television content it provides, and in fact the content is probably very lackluster compared to the buTV10 station at home. By far the best part of joining this circle is all of the practice and experience in the language and culture that you get from being surrounded by Doshisha students, being creative and making content together, eating 10pm dinner together after a long day of work, and having takoyaki parties and okonomiyaki parties just for fun. I learnt a lot from these experiences, especially in how people my age interact with each other. I was thrown off at first by the underclassmen’s use of teineigo towards me. I thought it was cold, and a sign that we wouldn’t be able to become friends. Maybe they thought since my time here is only temporary, there’s no point in even being casual with me? I was proven wrong, though, as this is a normal dynamic in Japanese schools, and I was quickly able to make friends across all participating ages easily. I also learnt a lot of slang through jokes and casual conversation. I quickly discovered Japanese jokes are difficult to understand, but the themes of the humor are often universally applicable and equally funny.

I’d say my overall experience with the CIP has been a great success. The students are interested in helping you feel welcome and exchanging cultural insights. I was thrown into a club full of Japanese students I’d never have met without KCJS’s mandatory CIP policy. At first, I was intimidated by all of the kansai dialects, especially since they all speak so quickly with it. But it’s something you can get used to, or if you’re like me and just can’t get used to it to save your life, then you learn to pick out the relevant information. I’ll be forever grateful for the experiences I’ve had. My advice for someone who’s interested in joining any club at Doshisha would be to physically insert yourself. Place yourself in a position to have conversations. Enter the club room with a smile on your face and greet everyone. When the members are split into groups conversing and you feel left out, walk up to them and insert yourself into the conversation. They won’t think you’re strange, they’ll be relieved that you aren’t awkwardly standing in the corner of the room anymore. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in the people you meet. And never say “no” to an invitation to do something fun, even if you’re concerned that you won’t have time for your studies. Your time in the CIP can become the best part of the program experience, just like it has for me.

8 thoughts on “John Courson: Student Television Club

  1. It’s great that you were able to become a part of the circle and be involved in the activities they carried out. I agree that you really have to put yourself out there when joining a circle but the type of circle and the activities they do probably affect the ease of doing so.

    Do you think you’ve made connections with the members that will continue even after you leave Japan?

    • Hi Nancy! I definitely agree that the environment is very important to help establish the friendships in any activity. I’m so thankful that the TV circle was able to provide that warm and friendly environment that allowed me the chance to speak and befriend so many chill students. I think I’ll definitely be able to keep in touch with them after the program ends!

  2. Can’t wait to see your Harry Potter video! Reading your post brought a smile to my face. Being part of a student circle definitely leads to lots of fun outings when you engage with other students. What would you say was your favorite part of being part of the circle? Do you have a favorite memory? Will you keep in touch with your circle friends after you leave Japan?

    • Hi Gina! I think my favorite part of the circle was actually just getting to know everyone and having the chance to participate in events outside of shooting and planning days. I think I’ll definitely stay in touch with some of the 3rd year students in particular, when I come back to Kyoto we’ll definitely be meeting up again. It’s hard to choose a favorite memory, because there’s a lot of fun things that happened! Maybe my favorite is the okonomiyaki/Halloween party that we had!

  3. John –

    It’s great to hear that your CIP became your favorite part of KCJS! I’m impressed that you were able to insert yourself into a club and keep up. Trying to keep up in spite of all of the slang and shooting terms stresses me out!

    I’m excited to hear more about the process of brainstorming for the video, planning out scenes, and the actual shooting of it! Do you have a feel for what some of the other teams decided to focus on? I hope I get the chance to watch your team’s short! Do the club’s films get broadcasted in any way?

    • Hi Zach! It brainstorming process was really simple. Everyone meets and we used a whiteboard to design our creation. Roles get assigned pretty early on. Some of the other teams made news programs, comedy skits, game shows, music videos, etc. You’ll be able to watch the Harry Potter trailer at this semester’s end reception!

  4. Wow John your club honestly sounds like such a blast. I think you’re absolutely right about needing the physical insertion to truly *force* you to use your Japanese; there are plenty of ways to join clubs or circles that don’t put you on the spot as much and joining them and not using Japanese seems to me to be a great shame. How did you learn to “get” the humor? I’m still finding Japanese jokes sail over my head half the time, even if I perfectly understand the content. Are there certain references that are useful to know? Anyway, it seems like an excellent club, I’m looking for a more engaging club for next semester and this one just became a top candidate.

    • Thanks for the comment Charles. I definitely think it depends on the people you’re with and your knowledge of the pop culture references they’re making if it’s a joke whether you’ll understand or not. If it’s not a specific joke and instead just funny or witty conversation, I find that sort of humor easier to deal with, you just have to understand the nuance of what they’re saying and what you’re saying back to them. I’d definitely recommend joining the club if you’re interested in making TV with them. The girl who can speak English will be graduated from the club by next semester, though!