Bella Besuud: Koto

For my CIP, I took koto lessons with Iwasaki Sensei. Since I’ve played the piano, violin and have had brief stints with some other instruments, I wanted to learn another instrument. I’m always looking for the opportunity to learn how to play more instruments because I love music! It’s been rewarding and interesting to learn how to play the koto. It’s unlike any instrument I’ve played before, including the way the score is written

Larissa Barth: 茶道 (tea ceremony)

Through my CIP, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn the art of 茶道 (tea ceremony) from Fujimura-sensei, who taught us not only the complex movements of the ceremony but also the spiritual and cultural background behind them, such as wabi-sabi, Shinto and Zen, Shu-Ha-Ri, and yin/yang. Through the ritualistic sequence of the tea ceremony, we learn to let go of our thoughts and pay attention to our senses, and ultimately to approach daily life with a similar attitude of care and mindfulness.

In addition to our regular practice at the beautiful 茶室, Fujimura-sensei was also so kind to take us on various cultural excursions, such as a plum blossom night light-up at Kitano Tenman-gu, seeing the sunrise at Ise Jingu, morning and night meditations, and attending an お茶会 at Heian Jingu while wearing kimono.

 

Through this CIP, I gained a much deeper understanding of Japanese life and culture and made so many wonderful memories. I am very grateful that I have been able to learn from Fujimura-sensei and really don’t think I could’ve chosen a better CIP! I would recommend it to anyone, particularly if you are interested in traditional arts and philosophy. The only consideration is that because there’s a lot of difficult vocab, it’ll be helpful if you’re fairly proficient in Japanese, especially listening-wise.

Max Luband: Shakuhachi

 

For my CIP, I took Shakuhachi lessons at a Shakuhachi players house. I met once a week for two hours, learned a few basic songs and performed at the Otsu traditional performing arts center with my sensei as the culminating event.

The shakuhachi is a difficult instrument and you will most likely need to practice at least a little bit out of lessons. However many of the things that makes the shakuhachi difficult are what make a unique and interesting instrument. For example, the position of your head or how much you are covering a hole will change the pitch of a note, which both allows you to go between pitches seamlessly and demands a greater level of precision on your part to play specific pitches.

 

My biggest worry going into this was that pursuing an instrument in one-on-one setting means I won’t get to learn and experience Japanese culture as I would interacting with a larger group of people via volunteering, but that wasn’t the case. I learned a lot not just about Japanese music concepts , but also about Japanese ways of teaching and learning. The relationship between me and my sensei was much more personal and extended out of lessons in a way that was different from any music tutors I had learned before. I was very much blown away by his kindness

picture Sensei took of me when we visited a temple

 

Adela Schwartz: Weaving

For CIP I took weaving lessons with 河崎先生 and ゆり様. I learned to weave on the loom, develop my ideas into physical form, dye threads, etc. – creating 6 projects this semester (3 scarfs, two mats, and a wall piece). Having this time with 河崎先生 and ゆり様 has left me with much more than a new skill set – I have gained confidence in unfamiliar territory and have grown in my ability to enjoy the present. When I look back on this time and at the pieces I made I will be thinking of the laughs shared and enjoyment in problem solving that I experienced with 河崎先生 and ゆり様. 

My advice around the CIP experience is to be as present as possible – it is easy to fall into routine and feel academic (or other) pressures but I think the CIP is a designated time where your personal growth and wants from study abroad can be centered. Also, I would not be afraid of the “boundaries” or “differences” (ex. Language barrier) you may perceive as hindrances to your ability to connect with those around you – showing up and choosing to be excited about what you are doing is enough to build meaningful relationships with your CIP hosts.

Matthew McCormack: Calligraphy

My CIP consisted of going to a calligraphy (書道) studio every week to practice calligraphy. I learned many new kanji and honed my writing abilities. I even had to use my non-dominant right hand! This was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. The sensei Fukunaga Shoukei was a great support to me and constantly encouraged me the whole time.

My advice to future students who have interest in calligraphy would be to forgive yourself if the kanji is not coming out right. Calligraphy is a learning process, and with every stroke you are becoming better!

Rebecca Lee: Sadou (Tea Ceremony)

This semester, I attended tea ceremony lessons at Kyoto Wabichakai with Fujimura sensei. Each week, we learned and practiced the steps to tea ceremony, and learned about the many philosophical and religious aspects of tea that are embedded in Japanese culture and thinking. 

Chashitsu during the early morning

Chashitsu during the early morning

I highly recommend this CIP to those who are seeking an authentic experience in Japanese culture. Throughout the lessons, Fujimura sensei would teach us about very thought provoking questions like the aesthetics of tea, the way movements, pacing, and demeanor can affect the atmosphere of a tea gathering, the way yin and yang, Zen and Shintoism interplay in the tradition of tea, and much more. Fujimura sensei was also very keen on providing us students with as many opportunities to be immersed in Japanese culture and brought us on memorable trips around Kyoto and Japan including plum blossom viewing at Kitano Tenmangu, sunrise and omairi at Ise Jingu, and an ohanami and ochakai at Heian Jingu in kimonos. 

Learning about chadougu during an ochakai at Heian Jingu

Learning about chadougu during an ochakai at Heian Jingu

I think that going to every practice with an open mind and having the willingness to learn is the key to making the most out of a CIP like this. Because the duration of your CIP (and also your stay in KCJS) will be much shorter than you will anticipate, it will be impossible to master tea during that short time. Rather than perfecting the movements and steps, I found it most meaningful to experience the mindfulness and meditative state that tea evokes and internalize it into something that is very personal to myself. 

Practicing sadou

Practicing sadou

 

Jasmine Chen: Weaving

Weaving?

weaving weaving weaving

Unactivated fiber-optic headpiece

In my weaving lessons with Haruki and Yuri Kawasaki in Kyoto, Japan (filled with a rich textile art history) I practiced the use of a four-treadle floor loom, learning to measure and prepare threads, design intricate patterns, and weave consistently structured pieces. I made beautiful, vibrant scarves (they are my absolute favorite and often receive compliments), along with a glove, pouches, and a shining, fiber-optic headpiece designed to pair with my future ceramic sculptures.

As an advice, communication and comfort is a common concern in CIP activities: learn to observe. I gained a lot from watching Kawasaki sensei and fellow students, understanding their hand movements and thread handling techniques. The Kawasakis, with their generous, humorous, and patient nature, are fantastic to work with and are very open and supportive to artistic project ideas. Take your time to develop your own way of interacting with them.

Evan Laufman: Taiko Drum

Over the course of this past semester, I have been learning how to play the 太鼓 (taiko) drum with the Fujinomori Taiko Preservation Society. From the very start, I was so impressed with the amount of dedication that goes into playing the instrument. Throughout the past three months, the society has performed all over the prefecture, and participated in the 時代祭 (Festival of the Ages), one of Kyoto’s big three festivals.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this community involvement activity to anyone who is looking to really step out of the KCJS bubble and get an authentic experience. Everyone in the society was so welcoming and kind!

The taiko drum is a quintessential Japanese instrument, and if you have interest in music, you should most certainly try your hand at it. I was tappin’ my toe to the beat all semester long!

Chiemi Tagami: Japanese Tea Ceremoy

For my Community Involvement Project (CIP), I learned Japanese tea ceremony at 幽静庵 (yuseian), which is a tea room that was designed by 井口海仙宗匠 (Iguchi Kaisen), the brother of the 14th Urasenke Grandmaster 淡々斎御家元 (Tantansai). At the 幽静庵, I had many precious experiences, including learning various tea preparation procedures (お点前, otemae) and participating in a special ceremony to celebrate the change of season called 口切 (kuchikiri).

The 幽静庵 was always filled with the smell of burned incense and charcoal, and was the perfect place to learn authentic Urasenke school Japanese tea ceremony. The teacher was very kind and always taught us interesting histories and background stories in Japanese tea ceremony. Learning about Japanese culture and values while drinking a bowl of matcha and eating the finest seasonal sweets was a very peaceful and delightful time.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in learning about Japanese aesthetics or traditional arts to have a semester of Japanese tea ceremony experience. Japanese tea ceremony teaches you the spirit of Japanese hospitality, and through preparing a bowl of matcha, you will be filled with calmness and have the chance to quietly face yourself.

Ayanna Minnihan: Fly Dance Studio

I took hip-hop and k-pop dance classes at Fly Dance Studio. It was so much fun getting to learn different kinds of styles through explanations in Japanese, as well as their approaches to learning and taking care of your body. It also helped me get used to Kansai-ben and other types of speech since it was such a relaxed environment, which is a little bit different than the ways of speaking I’m normally exposed to. If you want more of a community experience and more opportunities to talk with others, my advice would be to attend classes with a friend! When I went with a fellow KCJS student, it was always much easier to interact with the choreographer and other students. Also consider taking the same class each week to better get to know others around you.