Bryan Wang: Yoshida Daycare

I  had actually started out working at a cafe, but after a couple weeks I ended up switching to working at a daycare. I mostly just helped around the daycare and played with the kids, who were all super sweet. They were all very curious about me and American culture as well, so it was fun talking to them about that. One challenge I faced was communication. A lot of the kids spoke very quickly and with a lot of slang, so it was hard to understand them at times. But the kids were surprisingly patient with me and kindly explained what I did not know. The senseis I worked with were also very kind and accommodating and were happy to help with anything I had questions about. My biggest piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask questions. Even if you end up embarrassing yourself, you’ll inevitably learn something!

Joyce Wu: ナルバ子供食堂

My CIP was volunteering at a children’s cafeteria called Nalba. I really enjoyed my experience. My responsibilities included playing with the students and helping out with cooking here and there. I was able to learn a lot of new recipes that I plan to try out after returning to America. The kids were also really fun to interact with and I made a lot of precious memories. I would definitely recommend this activity!

Bella Besuud: Koto

For my CIP, I took koto lessons with Iwasaki Sensei. Since I’ve played the piano, violin and have had brief stints with some other instruments, I wanted to learn another instrument. I’m always looking for the opportunity to learn how to play more instruments because I love music! It’s been rewarding and interesting to learn how to play the koto. It’s unlike any instrument I’ve played before, including the way the score is written

Matthew McCormack: Calligraphy

My CIP consisted of going to a calligraphy (書道) studio every week to practice calligraphy. I learned many new kanji and honed my writing abilities. I even had to use my non-dominant right hand! This was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. The sensei Fukunaga Shoukei was a great support to me and constantly encouraged me the whole time.

My advice to future students who have interest in calligraphy would be to forgive yourself if the kanji is not coming out right. Calligraphy is a learning process, and with every stroke you are becoming better!

Rebecca Lee: Sadou (Tea Ceremony)

This semester, I attended tea ceremony lessons at Kyoto Wabichakai with Fujimura sensei. Each week, we learned and practiced the steps to tea ceremony, and learned about the many philosophical and religious aspects of tea that are embedded in Japanese culture and thinking. 

Chashitsu during the early morning

Chashitsu during the early morning

I highly recommend this CIP to those who are seeking an authentic experience in Japanese culture. Throughout the lessons, Fujimura sensei would teach us about very thought provoking questions like the aesthetics of tea, the way movements, pacing, and demeanor can affect the atmosphere of a tea gathering, the way yin and yang, Zen and Shintoism interplay in the tradition of tea, and much more. Fujimura sensei was also very keen on providing us students with as many opportunities to be immersed in Japanese culture and brought us on memorable trips around Kyoto and Japan including plum blossom viewing at Kitano Tenmangu, sunrise and omairi at Ise Jingu, and an ohanami and ochakai at Heian Jingu in kimonos. 

Learning about chadougu during an ochakai at Heian Jingu

Learning about chadougu during an ochakai at Heian Jingu

I think that going to every practice with an open mind and having the willingness to learn is the key to making the most out of a CIP like this. Because the duration of your CIP (and also your stay in KCJS) will be much shorter than you will anticipate, it will be impossible to master tea during that short time. Rather than perfecting the movements and steps, I found it most meaningful to experience the mindfulness and meditative state that tea evokes and internalize it into something that is very personal to myself. 

Practicing sadou

Practicing sadou

 

Leah Rosenkranz: Volunteering at Ohara Middle and Elementary School

For my CIP, I volunteered at an elementary and middle school in Ohara. Every Wednesday, I would eat lunch with a different grade and do activities in an English class. 

I really enjoyed getting to interact with young kids, who I would have had no exposure to, and observing how the education differs from the United States. In English class, it was exciting to participate in games and learn ways the teacher makes learning engaging for all ages. With so many students in the school, it was difficult to form relationships with any few, however, the students seemed to really warm up to my and the other KCJS student’s presence over the 10 weeks. 

For anyone interested in teaching or just enjoys spending time with kids, this is an amazing opportunity. While it is a bit far away (about 1 hr by bus from Doshisha), it was a very rewarding experience. It was unlike any other experience I would have been able to have in Japan and I am very appreciative to be immersed in the school community.

Noah Ziluck: Goshonouchi dojo

For my CIP, I chose to join a local Shotokan Karate dojo, Goshonouchi dojo, run by Kato Sensei. I joined because I had seen good things in what I found online, and a fellow CIP student was attending and she spoke very well of it. Prior to this I had several years of experience in martial arts, but only in the US, which I can now say, definitely has bit of a culture gap. I found everyone to be very friendly and nice, but they also weren’t afraid to be straightforward when instructing or teaching the formality of karate, something I very much appreciated. If I were to give advice, I would say to ignore any fear or nervousness. One of the strongest points of martial arts is it’s relative simplicity, and in that, a direct way to improve. No one expects perfection and to make a mistake is to learn, so don’t fear making them. Likewise, everyone comes to a dojo for the same reason, so don’t be scared of any of them, even the most serious practitioners are very much friendly if you take the time to talk to them. I actually went out of my way to train with the pro fighter during breaks in between class activities and it’s probably some of the best training I’ve ever gotten. If you don’t let fear hold you back, I promise it’ll be a great time.

Alexis Jones: Yoga

My CIP activity was doing yoga every Friday or Thursday at Yoga Tamisa studio near Karasuma Oike station. I was instructed by Asako sensei and, usually, in the room in the attached picture (all in Japanese).

I really enjoyed the course because I always felt included and the more I went, the kinder I felt the staff became. It was very relaxing after a long week and I enjoyed having conversations with Asako sensei and other participants after sessions. 

If you are someone that wants a CIP that’ll bring you tranquility, I strongly suggest participating in yoga because you won’t feel different from anyone else, participants range all skill levels, and everyone is extremely kind.

Everett Zelson: Volunteering at Happiness Children's Cafeteria

I volunteered at Happiness Children’s Cafeteria this semester. Every Wednesday I would help serve free meals to local children. The nonprofit also runs a cafe and does study sessions for the students on Mondays.

Volunteers would set up, serve food, eat and play with the kids, and clean up. There was essentially no English spoken, so I was able to practice my Japanese, too.

Advice: Try to help as much as possible. I found that they didn’t usually tell me what to do, so I had to be proactive in offering.

Jiarui Yang: Volunteering at Children's Cafeteria (子ども食堂)

This semester I volunteered at Happiness Children’s Cafeteria. In this cafeteria, every Wednesday dinners are offered for free for kids from low-income families. Every Monday, the cafeteria also serves as a study room for kids to do their homework.

I went there every Wednesday from 5 pm to 8 pm. Volunteers’ duties include serving dinner, washing the dishes, cleaning up, and playing with kids. There were plenty of opportunities to communicate with kids and other volunteers.

Advice to incoming students: the children’s cafeteria had a chill and casual atmosphere. It is great for anyone who enjoys hanging out with kids. Plus, volunteers can also enjoy free meals with the kids.