Aiko Johnston: Crafts Circle at Ritsumeikan University

For my CIP, I joined a crafts club at Ritsumeikan University, a university in Kyoto near Kinkakuji. The club typically met every Friday evening to make crafts together. Usually between two to five other girls would show up, and we’d all work on various crafts.

It was an interesting to see how clubs (which are called ‘circles’) at Japanese universities worked. Ritsumeikan had a school festival, at which my crafts circle sold tons of crafts—hair pins, hair ties, charms, earrings, etc.—and raised over 20,000 yen, which they then use to purchase materials and supplies for crafts. They were surprisingly well-stocked—they had a UV light machine to use for resin projects, a sewing machine, and a few other devices that I was surprised by.

I did enjoy the experience, and enjoyed learning how to make several kinds of crafts. I’ve always been interested in kanzashi, or hair ornaments used in traditional Japanese hairstyles. They’re most often made out of chirimen, a kind of silk crepe, which I always thought was expensive but is actually pretty easy to get your hands on in Japan. I got to make several flowers (marutsumami) at my club, which was very fun, and something I think I’ll continue after going back to the US. It was definitely an interesting experience to see the kinds of crafts that are popular amongst Japanese college students, and how to make them. I was a bit surprised at the quality of the crafts my circle made—a lot of the earrings and charms looked very professional. Crafts clubs like Ritsumeikan’s don’t seem to be very popular or common in the US, but it seems they’re fairly common in Japan.

The members of my club were generally pretty quiet, and it seemed like this club was mostly a way for people to relax at the end of the week by doing crafts. We would chat a bit, but people also tended to focus on whatever craft they were doing. I am also a fairly shy person, so at times I had difficulty starting conversations or trying to engage more with the club.

People were very friendly despite the fact that I joined in the middle of the school year (fall is the second semester in Japan) and didn’t even go to Ritsumeikan. Even if you’re nervous or scared, reaching out and asking questions is always better than staying quiet. People are usually very happy to explain things, and are more welcoming than you might expect. I would also recommend maybe exploring more than one CIP at the start of the semester—I ended up starting my CIP late due to some bad luck, and so didn’t really have enough time to test things out and see what I liked. Also, make sure your CIP is something you enjoy and are interested in! Your CIP is a great opportunity to get more involved in Japanese society and get to know people outside of KCJS.

2 thoughts on “Aiko Johnston: Crafts Circle at Ritsumeikan University

  1. I know absolutely nothing about making crafts, but reading this sounds like it was a very fun and rewarding experience. It must be especially interesting observing the differences between the materials used in America versus those used in Japan. It’s also great that you were able to learn some new crafting techniques that you can bring back home with you.

    • Yes! It was definitely interesting to see those kinds of differences; it also wasn’t somewhere where I really expected differences to pop up, so that was interesting.