Emily Thurston: Kyuudo

For my CIP, I chose to do Kyuudo, or Japanese Archery. I had no experience with archery before, so I was certainly expecting a challenge. However, Kyuudo is so distinct from other forms of archery that I did not feel disadvantaged compared to those who had archery experience.

Practicing archery allowed me to get a glimpse of Japan’s hierarchical dojo community. I was expecting it to be somehow more rigid in structure, but my first lesson illustrated quite the opposite. The other KCJS students and I were mostly left to practice on our own, with occasional feedback. Moreover, the sensei even left when to end of the lesson up to us. We practiced for an extra half and hour waiting for her to signal the end of the lesson until we finally realized that it was our duty to do so.

Practicing kyuudo was a very rewarding experience. I learned a lot about proper patterns of speech when addressing one’s sensei. I noticed that even women who seemed to be around the same age as the sensei spoke to her in keigo, indicating that she was their superior within the dojo. Although I did not get to know anyone in the dojo very well, the other members were very welcoming and always greeting us warmly. This atmosphere, as well as the actual act of practicing kyuudo are very unique to Japan, and thus this experience has become an important aspect of my time here.







CIPとしては、KLEXON(クレソン)というサークルに入っています。 KLEXONの目的は英語と日本語で国際交流をできることです。日本人も外国人も参加して、英語と日本語を練習しながら、他の国の文化について学びます。
KLEXONのミーティングはWINGS KYOTOというビルで、毎週火曜日7PM~9PMにあります。一時間目にはスピードデーティングみたいな活動があります。外国人、あるいは上手に英語が話せる日本人は座ったままで、英語を練習したい日本人が順番に新しい相手の所に行き、その日の話題について話します。二時間目にはグループの活動です。みんなは小さいグループに分かれて、自己紹介をします。そして、話題に関連した絵を描いて、グループに描いた絵が何を描写しているか説明します。最後の活動は同じグループで質問に二つ答えることです。各質問について話すのは10分ぐらいで、日本語でも英語でもいいです。











Andrew Proebstle: Calligraphy

My motivation for learning calligraphy as a CIP came from a Japanese professor I had at Brown University.   She was the person who introduced it to me, got me to go out and buy a brush pen, and encouraged me to practice it in my spare time. Up until now, all the calligraphy I had done was all amateur practice because I was just writing with a vague notion of proper form and really just trying to get a feel for handling the brush. Therefore, receiving proper instruction while in Japan was an opportunity I could not pass up.

However, my initial expectations of calligraphy instruction were quite unreasonable. First, I had hoped to receive one-on-one instruction at a location where I could relax and focus easily. Furthermore, I dreamed of being able to work extensively and reach a considerable level of skill in a short amount of time. Then, by copying classical works and adding my own style, I would be experiencing Japanese traditional artistic culture at its finest.

Things didn’t work out that perfectly, and I’m happy that they didn’t. I don’t have the time or money for any kind of extensive one-on-one training, and it’s hard to beat the price I got for four sessions a month. Of course, at that rate there was no way I could get as good as I wanted to, is what I had thought. To the contrary, and thanks to the wonderful teachers I’m lucky to study under, I’ve been able to improve surprisingly quickly. In these past three months I’ve made it from practicing single, basic strokes to writing haiku and semi-complex characters. As far as experiencing traditional culture and art goes, I’m more that happy to settle for experiencing modern culture instead.

At first, I had been incredibly skeptical of being able to observe anything about modern Japanese culture by learning calligraphy. After all, how much can one classroom at 6pm on Tuesdays with two teachers and on average ten-year old students say about the culture at large? Perhaps non-surprisingly, seeing kids learning calligraphy in Japan reminds me of my own experience from that age. Most of the time, it’s the parents that are making their kids go to lessons because that’s what they did when they were kids. The kids who prioritize having fun over artistic discipline spend the time goofing off, while the few that choose to devote themselves are praised for doing so.

Instead of the kids, it was the teachers that I was really interested in. My mom is a public school teacher in America, and through her I’ve become well aware of the American teaching process. While the calligraphy classroom is in no way affiliated with the public Japanese educational system to my knowledge, it’s important to note that in general, at least one private calligraphy teacher exists in any local community. They are as much a part of the primary educational system as the schools are, but their integration with the local community means that the teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships differ from the norm. For example, because the parents live no more than a few blocks away, the teachers not only know the parents well, but also will not hesitate to call the parents in the event that their child is misbehaving. As I still have one more semester to study calligraphy, I hope to develop these observations even further.



Liu Yi: Japanese Calligraphy (Shodo) and DESA

Perhaps the best way to understand society is to be a part of it. Certainly, my experiences taking Japanese calligraphy (shodo) classes and participating in the Doshisha Exchange Students Association (DESA) were an integral part of my stay in Kyoto. In particular, taking part in these two different activities gave me different perspectives of the society that I eventually became a part of, albeit for a fleeting moment.

My initial decision to learn shodo was motivated by my desire to learn how to relax, focus, and achieve a semblance of serenity. Given my lack of background in shodo, that was the most I could ask to achieve within the short three months I had in Kyoto. Certainly, I have gained some insight on how to achieve these goals. Far from being a master calligrapher, I can say that this experience has benefitted me greatly in my own personal development.

What most interested me, however, was the social interaction that occurred at the shodo classes. My class, which is structured for adults, followed right after a session conducted for children. On certain occasions, I entered class early and, as a result, was gifted the opportunity to see teacher-student relations between the teacher and students of various age groups. Also, given that the adult class was the last class of the day, I was able to observe group dynamics in action during the packing-up process. Also, the usage of varying language forms, such as keigo and plain form, together with the varying involvement of students in the packing-up process, reflected the steep levels of hierarchy and social position embedded in Japanese society, though in a microcosm of a relaxed calligraphy class setting. For example, at the end of each class, the only other male student, who was an elderly man, would pack his equipment and leave straightaway while the rest of the students (including myself) helped to clean up the room. It was an intriguing insight as it reflected unsaid gender roles: men (especially older men) could be excused for leaving while the women cleaned up the area. Although integrating into Japanese society was a major goal of CIP (which, fortunately, I did to some extent by participating in group activities), it was this outside-in perspective that I have found most intriguing and precious.

DESA, too, was an opportunity to immerse into Japanese culture, though in a largely different manner compared to shodo class. Comprised of Doshisha University students who sought to further cultural exchange opportunities with foreign students, DESA succeeded in its goal and the activities organized by them certainly enriched my stay in Kyoto. Other than the all-too-typical nomikai, DESA-organized events, including a trip to Osaka and other recreational activities, provided ample opportunity for KCJS and other foreign students to bond with the Japanese students. Specifically, the trip to Osaka was exceptionally fun as we watched sumo wrestling and toured Osaka with the students as our guides! Given that we were hanging out with Japanese students, involvement in the community was more proactive through DESA as compared to shodo, for foreign students had to actively engage and respond in conversations with our DESA peers.

More importantly, the interactions with DESA students gave me an opportunity to understand the importance some of them place on learning English whilst providing me with an insight into their worldviews. I remember vividly an exchange I had with a Japanese second year university student who lamented on his less-than-perfect English capacity. He saw fluency in English as a key to the world, opening doors to different cultures and societies. Inadvertently, I ended up promoting study abroad as the best way to learn both the language, as well as the culture, of a particular place. Their perspectives on university, job-hunting, and the corporate world were certainly precious in adding to my understanding of Japanese society. Not to mention the least, the chance to practice Japanese with DESA students certainly was much appreciated, for casual forms of speech were more often used as compared to the shodo classroom and, from time to time, host-family conversations.

The perspectives I have learnt about Japanese society and the opportunity to practice conversational Japanese are among the most cherished takeaways I have from KCJS. Indeed, without the experiences at shodo and DESA, my stay in Kyoto might have been somewhat less enriching.