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.

Roger Wilder: Volunteering at Hanazono Church Aquarium (花園教会水族館)

I was primarily responsible for taking care of the many aquatic animals that lived at the aquarium (freshwater fish, turtles, geckos, frogs, and more), while also teaching guests about those animals during their visits. It was a great opportunity to interact with local Kyoto residents, while also learning about marine science, animal husbandry, and science communication all in Japanese. Moreover, I had the opportunity to join a tight-knit community, getting the chance to chat and becomes friends with people of all ages while working at the aquarium and spending time together afterwards. Whether you have any prior experience working with aquatic animals, I could not recommend a more patient and welcoming community than the aquarium owner and other volunteers. If you are interested, don’t hesitate to shoot them an email!

Holly Middlebrooks: Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten

This semester I continued to volunteer at Mitsuba Kindergarten (みつば幼稚園), although instead of going on Mondays from 2-4, I went on Fridays from 1-3. Just like last semester, I acted as a teacher’s aide, assisting the students in going about their daily routine and holding some very elementary English lessons. This semester there were a couple of days where there weren’t as many kids signed up (or not at all due to spring break), so I also was tasked with tidying things up on such days.

Although I love playing with the kids and have got to know several of them very well, the most interesting thing for me this semester was getting to observe how the inner-workings of the kindergarten function, especially when the kids aren’t there. I’ve been able to see firsthand just how hardworking and kind the sensei are, and have come to respect them a lot. I would recommend this CIP for anyone who likes kids (obviously), but even more so, anyone who is interested in education, as I believe that every single sensei excels at directing the students in their own unique, yet effective manner. Also, I believe this is a good CIP for anyone who isn’t as confident in their Japanese ability– you don’t need perfect speaking skills to connect with the kids over a game of soccer!

Arianna Ruhoy: Volunteering at Mitsuba Youchien

Every Tuesday I would walk to my CIP at Mitsuba kindergarten where I would say hello to the staff and play with the children there while they were waiting for their parents to pick them up. Mitsuba encouraged a very free and loose environment so other than scheduled breaks to eat and clean up, the children felt free to play whatever games they liked. I got to spend time with them and also help them out whenever they needed. It was eye-opening to see how a lot of the Japanese I studied did not overlap with the Japanese the children used, and it encouraged me to get better at conversational Japanese.

My advice to students who want to volunteer at Mitsuba is to be patient, and ask the other teachers for assistance when you are unsure about anything. Such as when a child may not playing fairly or may hurt another child, it can help to ask a teacher for assistance in handling the situation.

Mitsuba Youchien Playground

Mitsuba Youchien Playground

Lyla Normand: Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten

For my CIP I commuted to Mitsuba Kindergarten once a week to help out at the kindergarten for about 2 hours (from 2-4). The kindergarten is a 10 minute walk away from Doshisha’s Imadegawa campus so it was really convenient location wise. The kindergarten is not very structured and my job was basically to facilitate the kids’ play time for 2 hours. I usually spent my time doing puzzles with them, or drawing with them—essentially anything the kids wanted to do. 

It’s a really tiring job but it’s plenty of fun if you like kids. The 3 year olds were more shy so I was mostly approached by the 5 year olds to play. I’d recommend this CIP if you enjoy spending time with kids! It’s definitely rewarding but a very draining experience. I don’t think I learned much Japanese from this CIP but I made a few enduring memories with some of the kids that I’ll treasure. They’re very friendly children and I was expecting to have to try very hard to connect with them but they actually approach you! It was gratifying watching some kids open themselves up to me over the course of my visits. 

My advice would be to think carefully about what you want to get out of your CIP before you make a decision! I did enjoy spending time at the kindergarten but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. I didn’t learn a whole lot about Japanese culture or language from the CIP but I learned how kids minds’ work and how best to mediate their conflicts. I think you could transfer these skills to work at any kindergarten or institution with younger children.

Yue Ma: Volunteering at Elderly Activity Center


This semester I’m continuing to volunteer at the Elderly Activity Center. Similar to last semester, I go every Monday to help coordinate the 生きいきサロン. Most days I get ~20 minutes to lead a fun activity related to Chinese culture, but there are also days when I do more assistive work such as moving chairs, checking in on group activities, o just chatting with obachans. This semester I’m also taking advantage of my CIP to conduct independent research on aging in Japan, and I had the chance to talk more in-depth with several obachans participating in the 生きいきサロン. Partly because of that, I’m able to build deeper relationships at CIP and feel like I’m more welcomed and accepted there. I would highly recommend anyone interested in social work or working with elderly people to volunteer here. The staff are amazing and always supportive of my project, obachans are sweet and passionate about talking to young people, and the center seems to be pretty short of hand. For students who are not as nihongo jouzu yet, don’t be afraid of going out of your comfort zone, you will be surprised by welcoming and understandable people are. Even though talking to obachans with strong kansai accent felt so daunting initially, my mastery of the dialect has improved so much over the two semesters of interacting with them.

Tsuki Carlson: Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten

This semester, I volunteered at Mitsuba Kindergarten (みつば幼稚園) for my CIP. Every Wednesday from 2-4pm, I would walk over to the Kindergarten and spend time with the kids (ages 3-6) playing games, reading picture books, drawing, and of course, supervising along with the other sensei to ensure a safe environment. The kids are incredibly excited to spend time with us volunteers, so it was really easy and heartwarming to connect with them. By the end, they were always sad for us to leave, and it was gratifying to know that we had make an impact on their day.

Through this experience, I not only gained an understanding of the Japanese kindergartens themselves and the free-nature structure of this environment, but also how to communicate with children in both a disciplinary and playful manner. I had not previously considered the cultural differences that may take place in the early education systems, but through observing the sensei-student dynamics and finding my own place within that, I feel grateful to have gained a new perspective through this experience.

I would advise anyone who enjoys spending time with kids to take part in this CIP— I was expecting to have to make a big effort to connect with the kids, but we were immediately warmly greeted and after just one visit, they remembered our names and those relationships deepened over the semester. This CIP is high energy and sometimes loud (you spend more time talking with kids than adults), but the community is so vibrant and anyone who is interested in this environment would be welcomed with open arms (literally, by the kids!).

El-Ghannam Rashad: Volunteer at Nishijin Child Care Center.


For my CIP I volunteered at a 児童館 (jidoukan) once a week. It’s like a daycare for children to go to after school, ranging in children from ages of like 6 to older elementary schoolers. As a volunteer I get to play with the children, and make sure nobody gets hurt.

 I greatly enjoyed my time here as a volunteer, every week I got to practice listening and talking as I played along with the children. I was surprised how much I could learn from them, one kid even taught me how to play shogi. Though at times it could very loud, and a lot of things may be difficult to understand. So I definitely recommend learning about the Kyoto dialect early on.

For those who are thinking about their CIP coming in, I would greatly recommend volunteering in a Jidoukan. The children are usually sweet and aren’t yet shy of foreigners and are in fact the opposite, greatly infatuated with how u look. And even if you can’t understand them or they can’t understand you at all times, they will still love talking to you. It’s perfect for those who may feel easily embarrassed about speaking mistakes, as the children don’t really care and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. And for CIPs in general, the sky’s the limit. Go and find something you want to do or try something new.