Jian Soo: Volunteering at Miyakoshi Fukakusa Youchien

I volunteered at Miyakoshi Fukakusa Youchien; activities included reading simple English books to the children (and doing translation to Japanese), playing board games with them (which they loved to cheat at), and generally being a good playmate with the kindergarteners.

Volunteering at the Youchien has been an experience that I will carry with me my entire life. If you like working with kids, there is no better CIP to choose.

Some advice to incoming students: the kids really like to have ‘skinship’ with you: this sometimes includes them just randomly jumping onto your back, sitting in your lap and hugging you. Make sure you are comfortable with some physical contact if you want to do this as a CIP.


Tyler Popp: Kyoto University Running Club

This semester I joined the Kyoto University Anpan running club for my CIP. Though it’s run by students of Kyoto University, there are members from many different schools in Kyoto, and the club meets weekly on the Kamo River.

I had a lot of fun this spring being able to run and meet new people in a very social setting in this club. It was a great opportunity to meet other Japanese students not only outside a campus/classroom situation, but also students from other schools in Kyoto that I would normally have met people from.

I definitely struggled a bit in integrating myself in the club initially, and I was too self-conscious about being the only non-Japanese member or making language mistakes when talking to others. However after a few meetings initiating conversation gets easier as I got to know those around the club. My advice would be to get out of that comfort zone as much as you can, as making good relationships with other students makes the experience so much better.

Matthew King: Volunteering at Kyoto Animal Care Center

My community involvement project for this semester was volunteering at the Kyoto Animal Care Center in Fushimi Ward. During this time, I was able to walk some of the dogs ready for adoption and assist in their training, clean the cat room and play with them to help release some of their energy, and washing the kennels when the center was short-staffed. I was even able to accompany some of the center employees when they were to pick up or drop off stray cats from around the city.

Getting to talk with the center staff and my fellow volunteers was a great way to improve my Japanese and learn how to more effectively express myself, and spending time with the animals was a great way to relieve some stress after my morning class. It also ended up being a good way of exploring the nearby area when walking dogs and helped me get an even better understanding of Kyoto.

If you’re interested in coming to KCJS and love animals, I would highly recommend volunteering at the center. The people there are very kind and understanding, and you’re given many opportunities to talk with them throughout the day. Just be prepared to deal with some rowdy dogs – they’re incredibly sweet, but they can definitely knock you over if you aren’t paying attention.

John Henry Waymack: Kendo lessons

My CIP this semester was Kendo, a martial art centered around swordsmanship. The martialart focuses just as much on the practitioner’s abilities as it does on self discipline, as well as respect for your teachers, your opponents, and your Dojo. I was surprised by how specific and precise all elements of Kendo were, from the exact degree of angle you have to achieve when bowing, to the perfection of form required for all of the basic strikes. To anybody else starting Kendo in their time at KCJS, I would say go to every practice you can, and practice outside of the Dojo. The learning curve is incredibly steep, and your time in Japan will probably be very short. 

Nathan Reichert: Bazaar Cafe


My CIP was Bazaar Café in which I worked as a volunteer in a café primarily washing dishes. It was almost always a good way to practice my Japanese and talk with locals.



When the café got busy, the CIP became extremely tedious and boring as everyone would be busy working and I would be busy washing dishes. However, when the café was not busy, people would converse and sometimes even feed me.



My advice is make sure you know your goals before choosing your CIP. Understand what you want to get out of your CIP, such as improving language skills, learning a new skill other than Japanese language, and/or surrounding yourself with locals, before picking an activity. Also, do not be afraid to come up with something on your own and do the research to facilitate it.

Veronica Seixas: Kyoto University Choir


Formy CIP,I went to Kyoto UniversityChoir’s rehearsals once a week on Wednesday from 6-8:30. It is an all gender/all voice part choir that learns Japanese, English, and Italian songs. Everyone in the choir was extremely nice and welcoming, assisting me whenever I needed help. I really enjoyed learning and singing songs in Japanese, and if the timing works out well you can sing in one of their concerts. If you have some experience with a choir and want to continue singing in Japan or try singing in Japanese, this is a great CIP that is easy to join.

Kyra Douglass: Tea Ceremony

For my CIP this semester, I took tea ceremony lessons. When I came to Japan for the first time in 2018, I had the opportunity to go to a rural high school’s tea ceremony club. Admittedly, I didn’t really like matcha at the time, so I was having a hard time drinking it then. However, between then and the start of this last semester, I’ve come to love matcha, so deciding to take tea ceremony lessons was a no-brainer for me. Our first day was more of a demonstration and less of a lesson. It was still winter at that point, so the more suburban/semi-rural area that we traveled to for the demo was even more beautiful because of the snow on the ground. The windy streets surrounded by trees and mountains were like nothing I had ever seen. When we finally found the ryokan we would have classes in, we met Fujimura Sensei. She was wearing a kimono, which fit right in with the general traditional vibe of the small tatami room where our classes would be held.  


I was extremely nervous at that point. Everything in the room was so perfect, intentional, and unfamiliar to me, and I was afraid that I was somehow going to break something. Since this was very early into the semester, this had become a very common feeling since arriving in Japan: being generally uncomfortable. As Fujimura Sensei was doing the demonstration, I was so impressed by not only the intricacy of the ritual but how graceful and sure she was in each of her movements. I was a little intimidated at first, thinking there was no way I would be able to come close to that level. Even so, Fujimura Sensei was extremely kind, and I would later find out, just as patient and encouraging. Our lessons were completely in Japanese, and when I would struggle with the language, she would use hand movements to help me understand. Also, Connie Situ and Geetanjali Gandhe, the two other KCJS students who were taking the lessons with me, were beyond helpful when it came to helping me understand some of the Japanese instructions. Through their help and Sensei’s teaching style and overall friendliness, I was able to let go of the need to be perfect, and this made me so much more confident and, ultimately, have a lot more fun. This is something I want to carry with me after the end of the program because it can open more doors for me because I am less afraid of failure and am more comfortable with being uncomfortable. 


My CIP was also special because Fujimura Sensei went out of her way to teach us about the cultural history of Kyoto and Japan at large. To celebrate White Day, she prepared a multiple-course meal for us and explained the meaning and traditions behind each dish. It was delicious and I was really happy to participate in this holiday for the first time. Later in the semester during sakura season, we did an ochakai, or formal tea ceremony, at Heian Jingu, and later drove out to the countryside to do our own tea ceremony. It was such a beautiful experience, and I’m grateful to Fujimura Sensei for putting it all together. This semester was definitely full of awkward moments and small failures, but because of that, I feel like I am a more confident person than I was at the start.

Noah Ziluck: Goshonouchi dojo

For my CIP, I chose to join a local Shotokan Karate dojo, Goshonouchi dojo, run by Kato Sensei. I joined because I had seen good things in what I found online, and a fellow CIP student was attending and she spoke very well of it. Prior to this I had several years of experience in martial arts, but only in the US, which I can now say, definitely has bit of a culture gap. I found everyone to be very friendly and nice, but they also weren’t afraid to be straightforward when instructing or teaching the formality of karate, something I very much appreciated. If I were to give advice, I would say to ignore any fear or nervousness. One of the strongest points of martial arts is it’s relative simplicity, and in that, a direct way to improve. No one expects perfection and to make a mistake is to learn, so don’t fear making them. Likewise, everyone comes to a dojo for the same reason, so don’t be scared of any of them, even the most serious practitioners are very much friendly if you take the time to talk to them. I actually went out of my way to train with the pro fighter during breaks in between class activities and it’s probably some of the best training I’ve ever gotten. If you don’t let fear hold you back, I promise it’ll be a great time.

Mary Wilson: Kpop Dance with Doshisha ASH

Ash, Doshisha’s kpop dance circle, is a circle where you learn and perform kpop choreographies, with generally two performances per semester. 

Everyone in the club was quite friendly, and you can get lots of informal Japanese practice, especially if you join a lot of dances. 

My advice to incoming students is: be as friendly and outgoing as you possibly can. A lot of people may be apprehensive about possibly having to speak English to you because of their own discomfort speaking English, so it’s best to start interactions and sort of “prove” that you can speak Japanese well enough first. Even if you think your Japanese isn’t that good, the fact that you’re trying at all will make it easier to approach you. Be proactive and persistent about trying to make friends, because it is probable that people won’t come to you first. Don’t be scared of asking for help and asking questions, even if you don’t know how to phrase what you want to say ‘properly’. In most every case, it’s the effort that counts. 

Here’s a recording of a dance I led in one of our spring performances!
‘The Eve’ by EXO

Uriel Doddy – Kyūdō

For my CIP, I took kyūdō lessons at the Kyoto City Budō Center. Kyūdō is a very unique and interesting sport (quite different from western archery) with a pretty steep learning curve, and because most people in the dojo speak little English, I would imagine it would be a bit difficult for someone without a fair amount of conversation experience in Japanese.

However, for someone who is patient and passionate, the language barrier shouldn’t stop you from trying it. The instructors are very kind and patient and often physically demonstrate the techniques they’re describing, and it’s very rewarding to feel like you learned a traditional Japanese sport in Japanese. It gave me a lot of valuable firsthand experience in a new context, and was a true highlight of my semester.