Nicole Tong: Kurama Gakai

For my CIP, I participated in Kurama Gakai, an art circle at Doshisha.

I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed the experience. Since COVID policies dictated that the circle couldn’t reserve meeting rooms in advance, it was necessary to contact the circle the day of in order to find out where it would take place. Out of the four methods I tried (Twitter, LINE, Peing, email), only the last one actually produced an answer. Once I went to two meetings, after missing several, I was able to get the LINE contact of one of the circle’s leaders, and she has been helpfully messaging me where to go. If you are interested in joining Kurama Gakai, I’ve heard that the circumstances will improve starting next semester, but in general I’d recommend joining a circle that has a dedicated club room (BOX).

The meetings last either 1.5 or 3 hours, and are centered around one activity. I had originally picked Kurama Gakai as my CIP because I thought it would be more freeform, and was sorely disappointed – if you’re not looking for structured meetings where everyone is expected to draw the same thing, don’t join. I would say the club activities hit the annoying point of usually being something I don’t particularly want to do – which is a good thing, because it pushes me outside of my comfort zone – but also taking up way too little time – which is a bad thing, because it means I can hardly improve from the experience. All in all, 1.5 hours a week isn’t a lot of investment, but it’s also a paltry amount of drawing time if you actually care about your art but struggle to find opportunities to work on it while cranking out daily Japanese homework and essays.

As for people who want to join so they can talk to Japanese people – I maybe talked for a total of ten minutes across seven weeks.This is probably mostly my fault for being completely socially inept, so I’m sure that those with either adequate social skills or Japanese skills won’t have much trouble as long as you pay for the admission and membership fees.

The earlier you pay your fees, the better. If you wait too long to make your move, you won’t be able to get reimbursed. Participating in a circle, multiple times, without actually becoming a member, just makes you feel like you’re being a burden and freeloading off of the people you’re trying to form friendly relations with. Assumedly it also makes them feel the same way about you, preventing you from joining the circle’s LINE group and leaving you perpetually outside the loop.

In short, I think your enjoyment of your CIP will depend primarily upon your attitude. If you accidentally land a bad CIP, the best thing you can do is to work proactively to change it to a better one, instead of throwing your hands up and accepting your situation because “It’s not really that bad” or “My teachers think I should keep doing it” or “I don’t want to send another email to another club.” Otherwise, you’ll probably regret it.