Nathan Koike: Klexon

For my CIP, I joined Klexon, an international conversation club where English speakers help Japanese members practice their English and vice versa. We met on Tuesdays from 7-9PM at Wings Kyoto, unless cancelled. Upon arrival, everyone sat down, Japanese members in odd numbered rows of tables and English speakers in even rows, and everyone mostly kept to themselves; some people started conversations, and were met with little (if any) resistance, but most people kept to themselves before the meeting started. However, promptly at 7PM, the meeting began, and the Japanese members turned around. The room quickly burst to life with conversation and laughter. I would speak with my partner for 10 minutes, at which point the Japanese speakers would shift over to the next English speaker, so most people had a chance to talk to each other. After meeting with 6 partners, for a total of 60 minutes, the second half of the meeting began, and we were (relatively) randomly assigned groups of about six people. From there, we would have a conversation as a group, usually about a different topic, then the meeting would end. Topics were provided, but I found that almost everyone I spoke with was much more engaged when talking about a topic that came up naturally instead.

I’m not a very outgoing person, so participating in Klexon was a great way for me to make some friends. Although many people went out for dinner and drinks afterwards, I wasn’t able to attend because I talked myself into believing that there would always be another chance. I was wrong. Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, I had to return early; not going out with everyone else is one of my biggest regrets. Still, I had a genuinely wonderful time. Even though I don’t consider myself advanced, by any stretch of the word, having to struggle through translations (mostly questions from English to Japanese and answers from Japanese to English) was one of the most fun challenges I brought upon myself.

Along with this, Klexon brought a lot of time for me to reflect on language as a tool. My Japanese is far from perfect, but I generally manage to communicate what I want in spite of this; likewise, the Japanese members at Klexon don’t have perfect English, but it’s not difficult for me to understand what they’re saying and what they want to say. My reflection came in the form of a realization: the way I use a language isn’t as important as the ideas I can communicate. Along with this, I noticed a few mistakes where I knew exactly what grammar structure or mechanic from Japanese matched the mistake, having only recently learned the grammar structure or mechanic and made the inverse mistake.

Klexon is one of the most important things about my study abroad experience and one of the things I enjoyed the most. I’m not sure if I can be positive enough to reflect my time at Klexon. I am an introvert, but even with that I had an amazing time meeting new people and talking with them about all variety of topics, from stock trading to slang (both real conversations I had). While I am also fairly awkward, everyone I met was so kind and friendly that asking for their LINE to stay in touch was no issue. Klexon was a truly fantastic experience, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who would like to make friends. The only tip I have is to be genuine; it’s a lot harder to make friends if you hide what you think and feel all the time.

4 thoughts on “Nathan Koike: Klexon

  1. Hey Nate, it’s great to hear that you had such an enjoyable time at Klexon! It sounds like you were able to practice your Japanese while meeting a lot of new people from the local community at the same time. Were there many students or people who were around our age at each meeting?
    I can relate to your feelings of regret for not going out more often thinking there would be a next time. I think I also put off exploring Kyoto more and hanging out with newly-made friends as I spent a significant portion of my time studying. Although our time in Kyoto got cut short in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, I hope you’ll be able to continue to keep in touch with the friends you made at Klexon.

    • Hi Sarah! Most of the people there were older than we are, though I couldn’t tell you how much older if I tried. I only met a few college students, but I learned that some of them were from Doshisha, though they were students different campuses. I think most of the students I met were international students in language schools. I’ll definitely be trying to keep in touch with the friends I made at Klexon and in KCJS.

  2. Sounds like you really had a great time at Klexon! I’m glad that you were able to find a place where you can make Japanese friends and learn from each other through conversations despite you and your partner may not be perfect in English or Japanese. Also, I don’t think that you are an introvert! You’re definitely one of the friendliest people that I know! I went to Klexon a few times together with you, and it indeed was an amazing experience for me too!

    • Klexon was super fun, and even though it was challenging, switching between languages to try and communicate more clearly was one of the most interesting and personally rewarding things I’ve done in a while. I’d usually be really tired after talking to that many people for that long continuously, but I found myself wanting to go back again the next day, just because the conversations and the people were so interesting. I’m glad you had fun there, too!