Skyla Patterson: Fly Dance Studio

 

For my CIP I took dance classes at the Fly Dance Studio. It was a very immersive experience, and an amazing way to practice my Japanese skills whilst having fun. My advice to incoming students is to enter with an open mind, and take a bunch of different classes before committing to the same dance teacher every week. That way, you 100% know which class is the best vibes for you.

Chris Elson – Boxing

My CIP Activity was taking boxing lessons at a local private gym. While there, I could as many times as I wanted, given I paid for the month. Sessions usually started with a couple rounds of jump-rope, then shadow-boxing, punching bag, and finally a session of hitting the mitts with an instructor.

My experience was alright. I had never boxed before starting this CIP and I felt they were encouraging of me despite that fact. Still, I managed not to care too much for boxing and didn’t really care about going every week.

My advice to others would be that to just keep going. Regardless of skill level, you will gain respect the gym as long as you consistently show up. I was always weak, but I found towards the end that as I consistently attend, the better I would be treated, which honestly makes sense as its easy to build a better connection with the instructors and gym-goers at that point.

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Will Hanson: Calligraphy

This past semester for my CIP I did calligraphy every week. There were six of us who got together every Wednesday to sit down, do some calligraphy, and talk. Everyone in my class was so helpful in my progression every week and in understanding my limited Japanese abilities.

This CIP was an amazing opportunity to progress my language skills while making meaningful connections with local Japanese people. I left each lesson with a feeling of accomplishment and confidence. Occasionally, some of us will stay after class for 15 or so minutes and just talk about whatever is going on in our lives, which was really wholesome!

In terms of advice, I would recommend studying calligraphy-specific language so you can understand the instructions. I would also say that knowing stroke order is particularly important as well. That being said, my class was so accepting of my mistakes and helped me correct them. It is a great learning environment!

 

Connie Situ: Tea Ceremony

Sado, or tea ceremony, is a traditional part of the Japanese culture where beautifully coordinated movements are executed to not just serve matcha but also mentally pursuing the essence of the act. In my sado CIP this semester, I was able to learn a lot of the deeper meanings behind what is used during a tea ceremony depending on the seasons as well as successfully learning the way of a bon temae, or a tea ceremony on a tray. 

We had our sado lessons every Tuesday for a couple hours in a very beautiful chashitsu with a view of a beautiful river underneath an old ryokan. Our sensei is a very experienced and elegant sado teacher with many years under her belt. She was so incredibly kind to us throughout the semester and we got to experience a hinamatsuri lunch followed by wagashi and matcha, a tea ceremony at Heian Shrine for the sakura season, as well as a hanami lunch under the beautiful sakura trees in Shiga-ken. 

For any incoming students who is interested in learning sado, I encourage you to give it a try as it is something so different from anything I’ve ever done before. And because it is such a traditional part of the Japanese culture with so much history and different aspects to it, being able to experience it in the heart of Kyoto was a mind-opening experience.

Alexis Jones: Yoga

My CIP activity was doing yoga every Friday or Thursday at Yoga Tamisa studio near Karasuma Oike station. I was instructed by Asako sensei and, usually, in the room in the attached picture (all in Japanese).

I really enjoyed the course because I always felt included and the more I went, the kinder I felt the staff became. It was very relaxing after a long week and I enjoyed having conversations with Asako sensei and other participants after sessions. 

If you are someone that wants a CIP that’ll bring you tranquility, I strongly suggest participating in yoga because you won’t feel different from anyone else, participants range all skill levels, and everyone is extremely kind.

Ryan Cunningham: Cooking at La Carriere

My CIP this semester has been at Taiwa’s La Carriere culinary school in Kyoto. La Carriere offers a variety of lessons (including dessert and baking tutorials), although I largely participated in group introductory cooking lessons conducted in Japanese.

La Carriere was a blast – it was calming and fun cooking and learning to make different kinds of dishes (and eating the product of our hard work felt so redeeming). It was a bit tricky to keep up with the Japanese lessons at times, but the teachers were understanding and helped us keep pace.

I would advise new students to not be afraid to try activities that look intimidating. I would also say it’s important to keep your expectations realistic when choosing your CIP activity. I expected the CIP of a cooking lesson to be an incredibly social place where I could meet new friends, but as it turns out the fast-paced environment of an instructor-led lesson isn’t the best place for that. Nonetheless, I had a great experience and a blast at La Carriere.

Anisa Khatana: Weaving Lessons

Thanks to Professor Rinne and Nakata-sensei’s research and support, I had the opportunity to takelessons from Kawasaki-sensei, a weaving teacher, obi weaver, and contemporary artist based near Kitaoji station. Once a week, I took the train to Kawasaki-sensei’s classroom and spent around 5-6 hours (including a break for tea, coffee, and sweets!) learning two styles of hand-weaving called hiraori and tsudzureori (tapestry weaving), typically alongside one to three other private students.

My time in Kawasaki-sensei’s classroom has been an experience that I’ll treasure forever. When I met him, I had never touched a loom—and in the weeks that followed, I prepared and hand-wove hiraori scarves and samples as well as a tapestry-weave genkan mat that I designed with a little sketch. I’m incredibly grateful for the time I got to spend with the loom, but I’m equally if not more grateful for the personal connections that I made over the weeks. Assimilating and becoming comfortable in the classroom was a slow process—we communicated exclusively in Japanese, I was the only foreigner, and everyone was at least ten years older than me—but deeply rewarding even in the most subtle ways.

Kawasaki-sensei, his wife, and his other students are all lovely people who have repeatedly amazed me with their dedication, knowledge, and kindness. To future students—if you’re someone who feels drawn to fiber arts, this is your sign to pursue that interest in Kyoto. If that’s not you—don’t let fear of discomfort and uncertainty keep you from what could be an incredible experience! Keep an open mind, be genuine and thoughtful, and do your best—the rest will come with time.

Geetanjali Gandhe: Tea Ceremony Lessons

For my CIP I took tea ceremony, or sadou, lessons with Fujimura Sensei. The KCJS office introduced us to Fujimura Sensei and it seems like KCJS has a long relationship with her. While normally the study of sadou takes decades and is a very lengthy process, since we only had one semester Fujimura sensei customized the lessons for us so that we were able to end by being able to perform the tea ceremonies, or the obon-temae. The tea room is a little out of the way in Takagamine, but the environment is absolutely stunning and so the commute is worth it. The tea room is situated right over a river in a silent forest, so you can hear the sound of the water while in the tea room. Sensei is an extremely elegant woman who is also one of the most precious and sweetest people I have ever met. She even made a bento for us on two occasions, for the Doll Festival and cherry blossom viewing, and of course we got to enjoy the most exquisite wagashi, or seasonal Japanese confectionary every class. The thing that was the most meaningful for me was that in every lesson sensei would also make a point to talk about how to use the philosophy that sadou teaches us and incorporate it into our busy, stressful everyday lives.

The tea ceremony is much more than just the consumption of high-quality matcha and wagashi. The actions performed in the tea room and during the tea ceremony are an allegory for a life well-lived; a life full of humility, simplicity, respect for others, and being in tune with the rhythms of nature. These values are also, not incidentally, the most quintessential of Japanese values. In the tea room, every movement is measured; every moment is treated as a blessing. Therefore, to understand tea in the Japanese context is to come to understand the most fundamental Japanese values.

So if you’re looking to get an authentic cultural experience, I would highly recommend doing sadou lessons. If our sensei continues to teach exchange students, I would dare say that there’s no better experience that you can have in Kyoto; everything was just perfect. I hope to continue practicing even when I return home. Sensei even contacted a shop she knows so that we can pick up all the tea ceremony tools needed before returning.

Zackary Entwistle: Shakuhachi

I learned how to play shakuhachi for my CIP. Every Thursday I received private lessons from Kawamiya-san for around two hours where I was taught the fundamentals of the instrument, and every Tuesday I put what I learned at my lesson into context by playing with Iwazaki-sensei’s ensemble of koto, shamisen, and shakuhachi players. These lessons and rehearsals culminated with two performances, one where I played a duet with my private lesson teacher and another where I performed a couple pieces with the larger ensemble.

I adored my experience learning shakuhachi here in Kyoto. I’ll cherish not only my newly acquired (but still extremely rudimentary) ability to play this instrument I had never even heard in person before coming to this country, but also the memories I made from practicing at rehearsals, getting dinner with my teachers, and going to parties together after the performances. Of course there were also times when I struggled, as hardship is inherent to learning a new instrument, and especially finding time to practice at home in addition to scheduled practices twice a week was challenging to do during a short study abroad experience. But overall, I couldn’t have dreamed of a cooler way to interact authentically with Japanese people and learn about traditional Japanese culture, improving my language skills along the way too.

For any incoming students thinking of learning a new instrument as your CIP, just make sure you’re okay with the sacrifices first. Your time abroad is short and an activity that requires diligent practice like this will drain any freetime left in your already extremely packed study abroad schedule; my time spent on shakuhachi-related activities would sum to more than 10 hours most weeks. I was happy to let shakuhachi be such a big part of my study abroad experience, but you should be mindful of the commitments you’re making before you make them.

(See the full performance here: youtu.be/7RdvqViO6cI)

Chris Elson: Doshisha KGK (Bible Study), Kyoto International Church, Mustard Seed

For my CIP, I wanted to involve my Christian faith in some way. I included my activities of going to two different international Church (Kyoto International Church and Mustard Seed) and the student Bible study as part of my CIP activities. Church was held every Sunday: I normally go to KIC, but when it was not in person, I went to Mustard Seed. KIC was located near Kyoto University and Mustard Seed at Teramachi. As for KGK, they had 3 meetings a week, around 4:00PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I usually only went to the Thursday meeting.

At KIC, my pastor gave the sermon in Japanese, but there were subtitles that he made himself that would appear on the screen behind him so I had no difficulty understanding. Mustard Seed had a live-translator so the English and Japanese speaking was constant. Spiritually, they were both very fulfilling and if anyone is looking for a Church, I recommended these two. For my Japanese Studies, I appreciated the KIC sermon more, as I would start translating in my head before I read the subtitles. At both Churches, there were incredibly kind people, both Japanese and foreigners. Honestly, this gave me the opportunity to reach beyond my student community and had a chance to connect with some what felt like “real” people. It was a good experience with Japanese, but I felt that maybe I should’ve done more in the Church regard. I did go to some things, but as a younger person, I paradoxically did not want to do the events in favor of doing homework or hang out with my friends. The advice I would give would be to really buy into the community and hang out with them.

As for KGK, I ended up becoming really good friends with my Bible Study leader. She ended up helping translate, clarifying, and even going as far as to prepare a translated sheet that was normally in Japanese. She ended up becoming someone I would hang out with regularly and always someone I could count on. This type of friendship is one of the reasons why I wanted to join a Japanese activity—-the chance to connect with Japanese students that translate into real world experiences is a natural consequence of something as intimate as Bible study. For that reason, I am happy. As for the Bible Study itself, it was a really interesting look into how Japanese Christian students interact with Christianity. Given that Japan is a much less Christian society than a place like America, the sessions were what I would describe as a little more “distance,” but it was still a place to be vulnerable, honest, and connection. We would read multiple passages from the Bible (usually in Japanese) and then discuss questions from a question sheet. As for Japanese, I honestly struggled a lot. It was difficult to try not to interrupt the kind of sanctity of Bible Study and letting the students explore and deepen their faith, while still wanting them to accommodate me. I often found myself just zoning out as the Japanese would get very fast, and I gave up trying understand multiple times just to try again later. But this sort of trial by fire really did have a positive impact on my Japanese, I believe. Towards the later sessions, I found myself naturally understanding more, and needing less clarification when I gave an answer.

I wanted to learn more about how to speak the Japanese version of “Christianese.” I think I was mildly successful. I think I focused a lot of the Japanese speaking aspect of this CIP, and thus, it’s been a relatively spiritually dry experience, so I warn Christians to be weary about this aspect. Yet, at times, there were deep revelations and spiritual moments, so I would still recommend this CIP.