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.

Dale Yu: Volunteering At Nalba (子供の食堂)

My CIP activity involved volunteering at Nalba, a children’s after-school cafeteria. However, Nalba serves as much more than just a cafeteria for many of these children; it functions as an after-school program where they can learn how food is prepared, interact with peers, and engage in creative play. The children are primarily elementary school students, ranging from first to fifth grade, which introduces a wide variety of personalities to work with. I spent most of my time playing and conversing with the children, which provided excellent practice in listening and speaking. Frequently, there are opportunities to assist adults in preparing dinner, alongside children who are curious about food preparation. The children are generally welcoming and express excitement each week upon your arrival. This enthusiasm makes you feel appreciated as a volunteer, especially when they seek your assistance with various games, tasks, or even resolving conflicts with others. Some of the kids even get attached to seeing you every week which makes the times at Nalba memorable for you and the children. Overall, I would recommend Nalba to future students seeking an experience where they feel valued as part of the community.

Adam Bollt: Volunteering at the Doshisha University Historical Archives

My activity was volunteering at the Doshisha University Historical Editorial Office and History Archival Center. I got to participate in and learn about numerous tasks the university carries out in order to preserve and promote its history. One week, I was helping arrange an exhibition for the university, and another, I was handling precious historical objects that belonged to famous figures in Japanese history. It was a truly unique experience to see Japanese historical conservation from the inside out, and to meet and talk with other people fascinated by history, whose perspective on history was necessarily shaped by growing up in a culture and historical environment wildly different from mine. I believe that any experience as a study abroad student has contact and interaction with new perspectives as a primary objective, and this historical-related activity was perfect for that – indeed, history is all about perspective! The volunteer activity felt mostly very informal, so one could really choose to do what was personally interesting if one spoke up – though there were certain moments of sudden formality, so one could get a taste of a whole gamut of types of experiences. So be flexible enough to go with the flow and enjoy every moment for how unique it is!

Jena Denney: Volunteering at the Food Bank

My CIP was volunteering at the Kyoto Food Bank, sorting donated food into categories by type and expiration date to get the food ready to donate. There were also events that the food bank would participate in, like having a booth at a festival, taking and giving donations, and recruiting new volunteers. I was able to get to know people from many different backgrounds, as volunteering at the food bank is a great way to connect with the local community and feel like you’re making a difference. 


My advice to incoming students who want to do volunteer work or work with the Kyoto Food Bank would be to learn vocabulary that you think you might use while you’re working. For example, at the food bank, it’s important to know words like “expiration date” and the words for various foods that would be relevant and important for communicating with the other volunteers. Speaking of, it’s also important to take every opportunity you can to get to know the other volunteers and attend any special events that your volunteer work may offer! These events help give you a chance to get to know people more deeply and really engage with the community.

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


Anastasia Maggiolo: Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten

playstructure at the kindergarten

During my CIP, I volunteered with a few other KCJS students at Mitsuba Kindergarten. Located a short 10 or so minute walk away from campus, the kindergarten is a great place to volunteer if you don’t want to travel too far after classes.

My duties there were pretty much the same as everyone else’s- namely, playing with the kids! I was surprised to see how much more freedom Japanese kindergarteners are given in comparison to American children- rather than having sit down classes, the kids are mostly given free reign to play with some group activities occurring earlier in the day. The kids are shockingly extroverted, and extremely interested in new teachers, so expect to have a couple kids on you at all times!

If you’re thinking of volunteering at Mitsuba or any other kindergarten, I think it’s important to make sure you’re really comfortable with kids. The children range from around 3-6 years old, and thus haven’t really learned about personal space yet. Additionally, although they are cute, I often found myself leaving the CIP much more tired than i went in- the kids are super rambunctious and you will be being dragged around by them. Compared to the other lesson based CIPs, this is definitely more like unpaid work, so keep that in mind! Overall, my experience was really great and I had a fun time running around and playing with the kids during my volunteer time.

Meraly Morales – Volunteering at Bazaar Cafe

The Bazaar Cafe’s mission is to create and provide a safe space for people who are part of minority groups (sexuality, religion, age, nationality, etc.) by giving them a space to express and share their values. The people who work at the Bazaar cafe are often those who are unable to find employment in other places, due to various prejudicial reasons. Through volunteering at the Bazaar Cafe, I have met amazing people with different walks of life that have all been very accepting and interested in my individual ideas and values. By listening to their discussions about the cafe’s next steps (which include an effort to reduce the distance between college students and conversations about alcohol-related issues) at the beginning of the semester and then manually helping in the kitchen during the second half of the semester, I have been able to connect with a lot of the staff, and felt like I have contributed to the work done in the kitchen of this small but mighty cafe. Before beginning my CIP time at the Bazaar Cafe, I was warned to not be shy and instead be open to talking at the cafe. As someone who is nervous to speak in Japanese to Japanese people in fear of making mistakes, I also advise anyone who decides to volunteer at the Bazaar Cafe in the future to allow yourself to try and be open to expressing yourself. The cafe became a place where I could practice the language with locals without fear of judgment.



Wen-xuan Li: Volunteering at Fukakusa Kindergarten

My volunteering at Fukakusa Kindergarten entails instructing basic English vocabulary of colors, animals, and children’s stories and playing with children during the asobi time. Will and I went there once a week, two hours each time.

I appreciate this volunteering, which provides me with a window into Japanese kindergartens and children’s rearing systems, which I could compare and contrast with the situations in China and America. It also serves as one of the few opportunities for me to be involved in the Japanese community directly by interacting with Japanese teachers and children, driving me to think about how education for children contributes to Japanese culture.

You are expected to be nervous and confused initially, but you will get through that period quickly because the teachers are amiable and helpful. They are very considerate and respectful. If you have any confusion or questions, direct communication is appreciated. The Japanese etiquette can be tricky to approach at first, but gradually, you will handle it well.

ZiFu Xu: Volunteering At The Kyoto Manga Museum

I spent my CIP hours volunteering at the Kyoto Manga Museum, where in many ways, it feels more like a non-take-home-able library than a formal “museum.” Sure, it had a number of displays (like you see in the photo), but there were walls upon walls of manga that guests were welcomed and encouraged to take off the shelves, sit down, and read. This brought about the quiet atmosphere of this museum where instead of chatting and remarking about museum displays, I found there to be much more comfortable silence as guests immersed themselves into the worlds within manga. I spent most of my time organizing and dusting shelves because given the museum’s quiet nature, there wasn’t much of “guides” needed in the first place. I was also allowed go and clean areas (such as their “research room”) that were typically off-limits to regular guests and in those places, I’ve found many interesting books on the academic study of anime/manga that isn’t placed outside because of their non-fiction nature; those were very interesting to me. I would say that this is definitely a cool CIP to participate in if you are introverted and would prefer to be in a local, work-like environment without having to constantly interact with customers or guests. Of course, I would also recommend that you have some interest in anime/manga or else you may be quite bored when that (often) becomes the only subject in the room.

Isaac Lopez: Taekwondo

My activity was Taekwondo which is a kicking based martial art that originated in Korea. Here at my CIP I was able to take lessons/train alongside members of Mivlo Kyoto.

It was really fun! The people are all really nice and the instructors are understanding. All in all I can definitely say it helped improve my technique, with the volume of training we do per day you’re bound to make some improvement compared to when you start.

It helped a lot that I had prior experience, otherwise it definitely would’ve been a bit more difficult in the beginning. Also make sure you have lots of stamina if not sheer willpower, warm ups will leave you dazed and drenched in sweat if you’re not used to it.