For my CIP for the fall semester, I joined one of the other KCJS students, Theo Sternlieb, in entering the Kyoto University Hiking Circle. This circle was intended for students who enjoy the outdoors and spending time in nature. But unfortunately, due to frequent scheduling conflicts including the fall Okayama trip and the typhoon, Theo and I were only able to attend meetings in the club’s box. Nonetheless, it was an exciting time as Japan was in the Rugby World cup. As such, we hung out with the other students and watched them play against South Africa in the semi-finals.
I was happy to join the hiking circle despite not being able to get outside with them at all. It was nice to be able to talk to and enjoy the company of students in a more relaxed environment! Many of the students seemed surprised that we wanted to join their circle. One aspect that I was glad to see was how inclusive the club was in terms of its leadership. Often, I have found that outdoor spaces and activities are permeated by an overwhelming sense of masculinity, so I was happy to see that this was not the case.
Since Kyoto University did not start again until midway through September, and the club does not do many activities in the fall, it was difficult to attend the necessary amount of CIP meetings. We were able to supplement this with outside activities that got us involved in the community, but overall, I was sad that I could not do more with the hiking circle itself. As the start of our semester does not match up when either Doshisha or Kyoto University students start, the number of activities on the calendar that KCJS students can participate in can be somewhat stunted. It is important to realize that there are other opportunities to get involved with the community. I was able to continue rock climbing in Kyoto; an activity that I participated in back at my home university, and even got Theo involved as well. It has been a great experience to meet people at the rock gym. Similarly to the hiking circle, there is also balanced representation among the genders. As it is mostly locals who climb there, we have started to learn some climbing-specific words and phrases in Japanese. There is a very supportive environment where everyone cheers on everyone else. People often shout ”がんば！”, meaning “try your best!” Being able to travel to Okayama on the fall trip also helped me expand my network of friends in Japan! I have been surprised at all of the kindness with which we have been received living and studying in Kyoto.