Nadia Perdue: Participation at Kyoto University Choir

This semester I participated in the Kyoto University Choir for about 2-3 times a week, 2.5 hours per rehearsal. On Mondays, the upper and lower voices would hold rehearsals separately, but Wednesday and Friday rehearsals were co-ed. Most of the songs we sang were entirely in Japanese, most of which I had not heard of before joining.

I have been in several vocal groups over the past few years, but this was a completely new experience. Aside from the language barrier—such as learning completely terms for music-related terminology that I was familiar with in English—the cultural differences were a completely new playing field. We take our shoes off before entering the ensemble room, clean up when we are done, and tell our fellow singers 「お疲れ様です」at the start and end of rehearsal. Moreover, at the beginning of rehearsals, not only did we do vocal warm-ups, but physical warm-ups, 体操, as well. For about 20 minutes, our ensemble dedicated time to doing anything from a few sets of squats, to full-on core exercises. We also did a few interactive warm-ups, as well, which encouraged me to break out of my shell and collaborate with my fellow singers. It was a wonderful experience getting to combine my love for music with my passion for learning more about Japanese language, Japanese music, and Japanese culture!

Even if you do not have any musical experience, I would certain encourage you to join the ensemble. Everyone was very welcoming to singers of all skill levels, and if you have any questions about anything, ask. Many times, I would feel embarrassed to ask a fellow singer on my part a question like, “What’s this musical concept called in Japanese?” However, as I bonded more and more with the people on my part, I realized that there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Once I understood this, I had a much more enjoyable experience, and learned so much in the long run.


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.

Volunteering at Klexon (English Conversation Circle at Kyoto!)

During my time at KCJS, I have decided that my community involvement project will be volunteering at Klexon English-speaking Circle located at Wings Kyoto. It was simple to speak with native residents who wanted to converse in English. At every meeting, we were met with different Kyoto residents. We were given a topic or a format of what we should talk about. Afterward, we talked about our daily life, childhood memories, and traveling.

Initially, I was a bit shy to make contact with the conversation partner, but as time passed, I was able to thaw out and trade our line or SNS accounts. Afterward, I was able to communicate with conversation partners frequently and have natural conversations in a language that was fitting for the atmosphere at the time.

In the end, I was able to join an event where all of the group members went to Mie prefecture and enjoyed a relaxing Hanami at Iwakurakyo Park. If anyone wants to enjoy talking with locals and have an intercultural connection, Klexon has the best suitable environment for it.

Caeden Polster : Klexon English Speaking Circle 2nd Semester

In my CIP, I participated in the Klexon English Speaking Circle, a college student and adult circle of Japanese people who want to practice and learn more English, and foreigners who would like to help, or make new friends.

As I will be working as an English teacher in Japan after the program ends, I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice teaching English, and speaking in a way that is more conducive to learning and understanding. In my time at Klexon, I gradually noticed myself varying my speech complexity and speed for different participants based on their levels that I had gotten used to, and I also was happy to see great improvement over the year in their own English capabilities!

My advice for incoming KCJS participants would be to pick something that is related to what you are passionate about for your CIP, and keep an open mind. If you just leave your CIP after the required hours, or don’t participate in the extra social activities that may happen with members outside normal meetings, you could end up missing the opportunity to meet people who are as passionate as you, and make friendships that will last long after the program ends.

David Orvedahl: Collegiate Choral Doshisha

Drinking at a Korean Bar in Osaka with a friend from the group. The drink was new to me. It’s called “makgeolli,” and it’s delicious.

I joined a chorus called C.C.D. (Collegiate Choral Doshisha) for the semester for my community involvement project. I spent a lot of time there–generally, rehearsal at least twice a week for four hours–but I think it was a worthy pursuit.

I was pretty anxious at first; now that I’ve done it, if you made me do it over again, I would still get anxious again. There were good times and bad times: Every now and then I would struggle with something and feel bad for a while, but then I would find a little success and feel better. For instance, rehearsals could be pretty tough sometimes, but drinking afterwards

I went to Osaka with three other members of the choir to see Handel’s Messiah performed by the choir’s alumni.

was almost always fun.



I also got to do a lot of cool things that I probably wouldn’t have done on my own. I rented a kimono and got some awesome pictures (All of them have other people with faces unblurred, so I can’t share them); I went to Osaka to listen to a performance of Handel’s Messiah; and I got to perform while wearing a Halloween costume–I was a shrine maiden. And occasionally, I got to touch a piano, which was massively beneficial to my mental health.

The hardest things about being in a chorus actually don’t really have that much to do with singing. That works pretty much the same way evKyaaaaaerywhere, with some minor differences. What was really hard was communicating with regular people. As a second-language learner, it’s easy to forget that most of the people you interact with–teachers, language exchange partners, classmates–understand what it’s like to really try to learn a second language, and so they end up with pretty good communication skills.

The people in my chorus are just normal people. They won’t always be able to meet you halfway to communicate, so really thriving in that kind of environment requires a different level of ability that I don’t think I have just yet. The good news is that I’m aware of that, and that I think I’m a lot closer to getting that kind of ability than I was at the

Rehearsal looked like this sometimes. The guys were on a break, so we took a load off.

beginning of the semester.


And there were other benefits to this project, too. For one thing, I was able to be around Japanese people around my age that already knew each other. They interact differently with each other than they do with foreigners, and I think getting to see it and be surrounded by it was super beneficial.

To anyone considering this type of project, I would say go for it. I can tell you, even if you don’t thrive, it definitely won’t kill you, and you’ll still probably learn a lot. And if you do thrive, even better for you: You’ll get to spend a lot of time around people and will

The alto section leader looking like a strict piano teacher.

probably be able to make close relationships with them. Just try to make the most of your time, and it’ll be worth it.



Theo Brown: Visiting temples with Shisekidoukoukai (史跡同好会)

This semester I was able to join the Shisekidoukoukai, a circle at Doshisha University which typically met every week on Saturday to visit a historical site. Here’s a link to their webpage,, though note that you will need to message them on Twitter or Instagram to join (I had to create a Twitter account just for this). In my case, all of the meetings that I attended were at various temples throughout Kyoto (and one in nearby Shiga prefecture). Each week that there’s a meeting, a Line message goes out to the members of the circle (over 150) and those who wish to participate in the following Saturday’s event respond to the message. Usually around eight or ten people would actually end up showing up, though it varied. It was a lot less than I expected given the total number of members, and many of the same people would usually go every week, so I was able to talk with certain people several times. Generally you’re on your own for transport to the temple and just have to meet in front of it at a specified time (usually early afternoon); due to the location of the dorm I’m living in it often took upwards of 45 minutes to get to and from these places, which was a little frustrating at times. Though some people in the circle would come all the way from Osaka or Hyogo prefecture, so I can’t complain too much.

Once everyone who had said they would be coming had arrived at the meetup location (which sometimes took quite some time due to people missing buses or getting lost on the way there — Google Maps was my friend) we would proceed into the temple grounds and walk around. This could take two or even three hours to get through the whole area as we would look at everything, talk with the other members, check out the gift shop, and take pictures. However, because of the lengthy time commitment, some weekends I couldn’t make it, so be aware that the meetings are quite long. I think it would be quite awkward to try to leave in the middle, and we would formally end every meeting with a “解散,” so I wouldn’t plan to be able to only participate for part of the time. It wasn’t very formal at all and it was nice to be able to talk to other college students in Japanese in such a relaxed environment. Note that besides me, I only saw one other non-Japanese student (who was really really good at Japanese!) and everyone was speaking in Japanese the whole time, so if you’re not confident in your Japanese abilities be aware that it might be hard to communicate. Personally I was able to have good conversations with several people but my level is/was not at the point that I could completely understand the conversations of those around me enough to participate myself, though it was still good listening practice. If my level was not at the point where I could have a decent conversation in Japanese, I probably would not have enjoyed it as much.

One thing I noticed was that whenever I would meet someone for the first time they would always ask me what year in school I was. It was actually a bit interesting in my case because though I am a junior, due to the month I was born in, I would still be a second year student if I had gone through the Japanese system. Though second- and first-year students never referred to me as “senpai” though some people did use it for Japanese students above them. Another interesting thing was the use of Kansai-ben, in that some people seemed to use it all the time, and some didn’t despite being from the Kansai region. I suspect this might vary depending on the person and who they’re speaking to, since using a dialect other than Standard Japanese seems to be perceived as more informal. There were also a lot of members not originally from the area so that might make a difference too. Since I am planning to participate for the next semester as well I will keep an eye out for this as I find it interesting.

My goal for finding a CIP this semester was something in which I got opportunities to speak in Japanese with native speakers without a very structured environment or activity, and the Shisekidoukoukai exactly fits with that. Everyone in the club that I’ve met has been kind and I think it could be a good way to make friends. However, if you find temples boring, want to leave your Saturdays free, aren’t confident in your Japanese speaking ability, or want a more structured activity for your CIP, you may be better off looking elsewhere. But I certainly have enjoyed getting to see various historical temples and chatting with others in Japanese and so I plan to continue in the same circle for the spring semester.

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.

Kiyan Banuri: Doshisha Photography Circle

This semester, I was able to participate in the photography circle at Doshisha, a student-run club of photophiles. Despite having seldom experience in photography beyond a high-school elective course and VSCO/I-Phone photography, the club gave me space to practice my Japanese skills, socialize with local students, and explore photo-worthy areas in the Kansai region. While excursions to places such as Kifune shrine and Cosmos Garden were the highlight of my experience, weekly Zoom critique-meetings were held in lieu of an excursion. Zoom meetings were difficult to keep up at first, and I felt very disconnected from the group. However, after my first in-person field trip to Cosmos Garden, I connected with members on a variety of shared interests: design, photoshop, and art.

It was not all fun and games, however. Entering the circle was possibly the most difficult part; I did not receive a response through Instagram, Twitter, or email when I solicited to join the circle. When I discovered they were hosting an exhibition, I went and introduced myself. When the entrance process was becoming muddled, I returned to the exhibition the next day and essentially refused to leave until I was able to officially enter the club. At the first excursion at Cosmos Garden, I felt shy and embarrassed to ask to borrow other students’ camera. But this shyness gave way to spontaneous bravery, and in those moments I was able to ask for help, learn about photography from passionate students, and learn useful vocabulary—all while making friends. It was during my CIP experience where I learned the importance to instigate these connections, rather than waiting for someone to speak to me. Not only does this save time, but also allows others–who may not know I speak Japanese–a chance to make a connection as well.

In retrospect, despite the various difficulties in joining, connecting with others, and actively participating in the club, it was through these difficulties where I experienced the most personal growth. As someone who rarely pushes myself to do extensive traveling during the semester, I was gratified for the structured opportunities to travel and take pictures at places that even local Japanese students find beautiful and interesting. As such, the Doshisha Photography Circle gave me the ability to speak and listen to local students in Japanese, learn and practice photography skills, travel around the Kansai region, and learn to overcome shyness in unfamiliar and uncomfortable social settings.

Anson Alvarez: Kyoto University Board Game Club and Bazaar Cafe

During my time at KCJS, I actually participated in two separate CIPs, although I had much greater success and enjoyment with the second one I joined.

My first CIP was the Board Game Club at Kyoto University.  I really enjoy playing board games with my friends and family at home, and when I saw on their Twitter that they played some games I was familiar with, I was excited to go try out some new games and get some Japanese practice in the process.  Unfortunately, it was not exactly what I had hoped for.  Firstly, this was more of a personal problem than anything, but the location I was living made the commute to and from Kyoto University incredibly inconvenient, and given that their meetings were held more in the evening, I always had to make sure I had enough time to go to the club and then make it home in time to do everything else I had to do for classes.  In addition, the other members of the club were rather untalkative for the most part, and even though they talked a bit more with one another, likely due to the fact that had known each other for longer and were in general more comfortable talking with people who spoke native Japanese, it was for the most part a rather quiet atmosphere, which was not very conducive to me getting in speaking practice.  By far the biggest issue was the language barrier issue, which, especially when it comes to explaining game rules, was a much bigger issue than I had anticipated it being.  There were a couple times when I would ask someone if they could please repeat something, and it was clear that they were a bit frustrated by my not being able to understand the first time.  Again, perhaps over time they might have gotten more comfortable with me and my language skills would have improved to the point where we could communicate more easily, but with the limited time I had and the general untalkativeness of the club members, I would only recommend this club if you absolutely love board games and have the confidence in your language skills enough to play them with Japanese natives.

After much deliberation and some searching of old CIP reports, I decided for the rest of my time here to settle on volunteering at Bazaar Café, a small café very close to Doshisha’s campus.  Prior to joining, I had actually visited this café once with some friends, and the relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff made me encouraged that this would work out much better than my previous CIP choice.  Sure enough, when I showed up the work for the first day, the other staff members were very kind in showing me what to do, and, best of all, they asked me a lot about myself, allowing me to get a good amount of Japanese practice in, while also being able to experience what goes on in the kitchen of a café.  I mentioned before that it was a fairly small and secluded café, and this meant that in general, there was never a big rush in the kitchen, creating a very casual and relaxed mood for me.  In between orders, I was able to chat with the other staff about their lives, and opposed to the game club, there was not nearly as much slang being used, making it much easier for me to understand.  If you have absolutely no idea what you want to do for your CIP in the future, I highly recommend Bazaar Café.  You get to see a bit of how a small café runs from the background, and you might not be getting paid for what you do, but the work is not at all difficult, and the language experience is more than worth it.

Shawn Dinh: Doshisha Shogi Circle

During my time here in Kyoto, I chose to join Doshisha University’s Shogi Circle for my CIP. The main motivation for joining the Shogi Circle was because I never played Shogi in the past, so I really wanted to learn the rules and strategies of the game. I had heard about it before and that it could be compared to chess, which I do enjoy playing, so I wanted to learn.

All the members of the circle were very friendly and receptive of this complete novice joining them. In my first session, since I did not know the rules, I just observed the other members during their match. Then, one of the members took the time to sit down with me and teach me the rules of the game. Since we only conversed in Japanese and I had never learned the Japanese vocabulary for technical terms in Shogi, it was a bit of a challenge to learn everything, but I got the gist of it and was soon able to properly play the game.

Then, subsequent meetings involved me playing Shogi matches against other members of the club and usually losing. I did not know any of the strategies of the game, so I was not very good, but the members were all very kind when explaining how I should play next time or what types of attacks to look out for when playing. As such, it was great learning how receptive the Japanese members of the club were to a complete beginner, calmly taking the time to help me improve my Shogi skills through our matches and setting up Shogi puzzles/problems for me.

In addition, in between matches I often tried to strike up conversations with the Japanese members about non-Shogi related topics, such as recommendations of things to do in Japan, how they celebrate Halloween (which I asked while in my Halloween costume the day of the circle’s activities), their own experiences traveling abroad, and about the image they had of Americans. One of my purposes for studying abroad was to just connect and learn from many different people and take in a wealth of knowledge and opinions, so I really enjoyed these moments of my CIP.

I really valued the time spent in my CIP at Doshisha University’s Shogi Circle. Not only have I learned how to play Shogi (which I hope to keep practicing and improve even when returning home), but I got the chance to just converse with local Japanese students and learn from their experiences and viewpoints. It was a fun time, and for me, there is no higher praise than that.