To the ambitious, future KCJS students,
For my CIP, I have been attending the Klexon language circle, based out of the Kyoto women and gender centre (ウィングス京都). Klexon is a circle designed to help people improve their English and attracts a surprisingly wide array of people from across Kyoto. There were freshman, all the way to senior salarymen at the meetings, so it was a real opportunity to talk to a wide cross-section of Japanese society.
The language meetings are 2 hours long are generally split into 2 parts. The first half of the meeting consists of a ‘moving chair’ approach, where each member is given a sheet with a topic, and the goal of the activity is to collect names and opinions on the topic by speaking in English. These have varied massively, all the way from ‘international study’ to ‘failure’. People are generally receptive to the topic, though I have found that people tended to stray away from the negative ones, or talk about something else. This makes sense since many people will come to Klexon after working all day, and negative topics are often draining. I have been able to make relationships with some of the regulars, which has been rewarding, and had given me insight into the life and thoughts of local people. Though must of the CIP is conducted in English, understanding Japanese allows me to help people articulate their thoughts better, as I can work backwards from their thoughts.
The second half of the meeting is based around a group activity, where we are supposed to discuss the topic, as well as find out more information about each other. In my experience, this often derailed into us talking about each other or current events, as this was most interesting. Honestly I liked this part most, just because the group setting made it hard for the local Japanese people to translate keigo (敬語) into English, and so it made for more open dialogue and fun conversations. I honestly learnt a lot about Kyoto from this, and would recommend Klexon to anyone who is looking for friends and information about Kyoto, but might not have confidence to speak fully in Japanese.
Overall, I would recommend Klexon. What I learned from locals was interesting, and I think, if used correctly, could allow a lower-level Japanese speaker to integrate into Japan more than otherwise they would. (Meetings are also free for native Anglophones, and events are cheap to participate in!)