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.
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.
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.
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.
The CIP I undertook this semester involved working at Hiroto Yoshida’s sweet potato farm (e.g. constructing fencing, tilling the soil, planting sweet potato shoots) and assisting a local shop owner Toshiharu Nagao (e.g. packaging sweet potato products, learning about roasting sweet potatoes) in a rural area called Miyama in northern Kyoto. Through the experience, I learned about the processes and challenges of farming and having a business in the countryside and the methods through which young people are trying to revitalize Japan’s declining town areas.
The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not merely because I had the chance to explore a region of Kyoto not so commonly visited, but more importantly, because of the transparent conversations I had with locals and the perspective-altering experiences I had whilst working on the farm and interacting with people in the community!
I would definitely recommend this CIP to students who have a passion for farming and a deep interest in the challenges facing Japan’s rural areas. The time and labor commitment to this CIP is intensive (one volunteering session will run from morning to evening (it takes two hours to commute to Miyama and another two hours to come back!)), so if you aren’t genuinely interested in experiencing and learning about life in Miyama, I suggest not even thinking about doing this CIP. But if you do have a genuine passion for farming and learning about rural life in Japan (as well as learning Japanese since most residents in Miyama don’t speak much English), this CIP will undoubtedly be an invaluable and extremely worthwhile experience, and perhaps even life-changing as well!
This past semester, I had volunteered at Mitsuba Kindergarten, and helped out teachers and other volunteers there play and manage kids aging from 3-5 years old. I volunteered from 1-4pm every week, of which, from 1-2pm, the Kindergarten had classes in which they would do various structured activities such as singing, watching a show, or reading books. Then from 2-4pm, is the after-school program, in which after some kids leave, the Kindergarten has a daycare style time, where kids would play until their parents came to pick them up.
Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten was not only a great way to practice my Japanese through both speaking and listening, but every week was also extremely fun and fulfilling. When I first started, I was not sure about how to interact and communicate with the kids, especially since they could only speak Japanese. However, the kids are all extremely friendly and are not afraid to talk to you, ask questions, or in general just ask to you to play with them.
I would highly recommend working at a Kindergarten for those who like working with kids, and want a gratifying and fun experience. Some advice that I would give those interested in volunteering at a Kindergarten or any CIP in general, is that don’t nervous about speaking Japanese and interacting with kids and other volunteers and teachers. All of them are extremely friendly and are more than happy to help you out and talk to you!
This semester I joined the English class at Ohara Gakuin as an assistant teacher. I went to Ohara every Monday and joined a variety of classes ranging from 1st grade to 9th grade. While the commute was long, it was quite pleasant because the mountain area that Ohara is in is so beautiful. I really enjoyed joining the classes and seeing how English is taught in Japan. You are not required to speak Japanese for this activity, and in fact are often discouraged because you are in an English class, so if you don’t want to have to speak in Japanese during your activity this may be a good option. I would also advise choosing this activity if you are interested in seeing how English class functions.
My CIP was volunteer work at the Bazaar Café, which was mainly involved in me washing and drying dishes with other volunteers. Throughout, I was able to have a number of opportunities to speak with the other volunteers and gain some language practice.
This CIP was enjoyable, as it gave me chances to meet and speak with Japanese people outside of the students I usually interacted with. As far as when I went in, it allowed for much more freedom than some of the other CIP activities, which was very convenient for me if I needed to change my schedule and go in on a different day than I normally would.
I would recommend this CIP if you want to have relative schedule freedom and an activity that is very close to Doshisha. In addition, at this CIP or any other one, if you need help with anything or simply want to start a conversation, just ask a question. All of the other volunteers are very friendly and are happy to help you learn the ropes of what you need to do, and in my experience, they love talking about all sorts of topics, both having to do with themselves and asking questions about you and your studies.
Once a week I went to Mitsuba Kindergarten (separate from elementary school) for three hours in the afternoon for after school activities. As a volunteer I was a supervisor, but my role was mostly to play with the kids. It felt like I was back in kindergarten for a few hours every week, it was a lot of fun. For this CIP be ready for the kids to want to be picked up and always want piggy back rides.
For my CIP, I volunteered on a weekly basis at 深草幼稚園, (fukakusa yochien), a kindergarten near Fushimi-Inari. My tasks included playing games, drawing, and otherwise having fun with the kids, as well as preparing Japanese picture books to read and translate into English for them. Aside from just playing with the kids, we also got to teach them many English words, sing English songs, etc. to try and raise their English ability.
I really enjoyed this CIP. The kids are all incredibly cute, extremely nice, and very open. My only worry going into this volunteering program was that it would be difficult to connect with the kids, but that wasn’t true in the slightest. They are extremely excited about your presence, and will happily invite you to play games with them. The kids are very passionate and energetic, which definitely brightened up my days.
If you enjoy working with kids and want the opportunity to see how kindergartens in Japan work, I highly recommend volunteering here! The professors provide an excellent support system and are very clear about the rules. The opportunity to see the kindergartener’s gratitude was a pretty unbeatable feeling, so I’d strongly encourage new KCJS students to apply, even if they haven’t worked with kids before and are just curious!
Me and the other volunteers with the Yochien’s Senseis.