Heather Heimbach: Kurama Fine Arts Circle

Doshisha Kurama Fine Arts Circle is exactly how it sounds — the fine arts circle of Doshisha University. Many of the members seem to be studying art at Doshisha, either as an art history major or fine arts. There is a regular meeting once a week, where members gather and practice a type of fine art together. Usually, it is drawing or painting, and the theme is set. In spring semester, I believe that they did more still life drawings. This semester, however, they are preparing for EVE, Doshisha’s cultural festival, during which they plan to sell caricatures and portraits. In preparation for selling caricatures and portraits, all of the weekly meetings I have been to have been dedicated to drawing face portraits.

There are also meetings outside of the regular meetings in preparation for the cultural festival. I went to help only once, and after that it hasn’t fit into my schedule well. One observation about the Doshisha circles is that they are much more active than clubs at my home University. By active, I mean people seem to have a lot more free time to spend at the circle, so they hang out in the clubroom or help prepare for events outside of “regular meeting” times. Some people seem to spend nearly everyday preparing for the festival–which is something that is difficult for KCJS students due to the level of homework, and in turn made me feel guilty for not being able to help out more. From what I’ve heard from Japanese students, the level of work is not that much in college, and so hanging around a circle for a long time is feasible for many of them. 

However, hearing other members talk about the festival preparations, as well having participating in the preparation, has been an interesting experience. As American universities don’t commonly have big college-wide festivals as they do in Japan, I did not realize how much work every circle puts into preparing for the festival. Furthermore, senpai-kouhai relationships become very clear during the preparation, because even if kouhai are taking on a management position, the senpai oversees the kouhai, and always has the final word. The senpai in Kurama often took on roles that no one else wanted to do, and his wallet was used for a lot of the shopping for the event (though the funds used are club funds). Many of the members called him not by his name, but simply “senpai.” Although of course there are multiple upperclassmen in the club, that particularly senpai was referred to as “senpai.”  He was also good about reaching out and welcoming all the members, including teaching me how to play tetris on their game station.

I’m not really a fan of senpai-kouhai relationships, but it was interesting to see the hierarchy in the club. Also, almost all of the members, except for the fourth-years, used desu-masu form when talking. However, no one used the special keigo phrases, like shiteirasshaimasu, as that would most likely be considered laughable.

The good thing is that the regular meetings are fairly easy to get the gist of if you have done art class before. However, many of the members are pretty quiet, though a few are talkative, and many people don’t talk that much while drawing. My advice is that you probably shouldn’t join this circle unless you love art, because otherwise, it could be difficult to enjoy the circle time.

4 thoughts on “Heather Heimbach: Kurama Fine Arts Circle

  1. I definitely agree with the greater expectations regarding time commitment to student groups in Japan. It seems that involvement in the student community is prized very highly and as a result dominates a large part of the students’ social lives outside of class time. Part of me wishes such involvement was valued as highly back home, but I assume that the heavier homework load hinders the ability of such an atmosphere to flourish.
    How was working at the cultural festival?

    • I agree. I think having greater student involvement in clubs in the US would help a lot at college, since many students feel isolated and without a community. I love how at Doshisha, the circles have their own room, where members can go in and out, eat food, sleep, work, etc. This really makes it seem like a home, and for many of the students living on their own, I think it does function as a second home. I wish there was an equivalent in America.
      The cultural festival was fun. I wish I had contributed more, but with KCJS and having a homestay family, it just is not possible. If I had contributed more, I think I would be a lot closer with the members. However, they were very nice. I think it could be difficult for people with no experience doing art, but if you do have experience, it is easy to be accepted as a member.

  2. It is intriguing that the senpai often took on roles that no one else wanted to, rather than forcing them onto the kouhai. Also that the club put so much effort into the festival, rather than, say, a competition or such, seeing as how many of them are actually studying art full time. Hope you can buy some nice things at the コンビニ with your たくさんのおかね.

    • Thanks. I bought some good food and drinks from the conbini. I was surprised that I got to pocket the money that I made at the festival, since I assumed it would go towards club funds, as it usually does in America. The effort people put into the festival was insane but the final product (the haunted house and portraits) was really impressive.