Romana Perez: Niconico Tomato

For the past few months I have been volunteering at Niconico Tomato, which is a program that tries to bring smiles to the children at Kyoto University Hospital. We do things like prepare events, organize parties, make gifts, and generally have fun.

For Halloween, and now for Christmas, we make cards for the children. I really enjoy trying my best as I make the cards, since I know the child who receives it will appreciate it. I also enjoy the creativity the volunteers put into making the designs. For the Halloween cards, we embroidered a spider web into the card, attached a ghost, and created a foggy spooky background. I think they look really cool. The Christmas cards are going to be just as well thought out.

I’ve also enjoyed talking with the other volunteers. We tend to talk about the differences of American and Japanese culture. Everyone in the program is extremely nice and it’s easy to talk with them as I work. Interacting with the kids is also rewarding. Even though the children are sick, they still have so much energy and are able to have fun. I find it amazing that the little activities we create for them, like collecting a sticker every day they visit the playroom, keeps their spirits up. I really do believe we are doing a good thing at Niconico Tomato.

Jasmine Hensley: Kyudou


Before applying for KCJS, I read up on the program parameters on the KCJS website.  Upon reading about the CIP assignment, I knew that I wanted to do kyudou because I had a previous interest in the martial art.  Initially I had been concerned that I would not be able to do it because I am very petite young woman and was without any form of archery experience.  Nevertheless, I pursued kyudou as my CIP, and began practicing every Monday and Thursday at the Kyoto Budou Center.

When I first entered the Budou Center’s kyudou dojo, I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the archers were women around my size (though clearly much stronger than me from their years of practice).  Our teacher Kawaguchi-sensei herself is a sprightly and strong older woman with a commanding presence.  That is not to say that she was cold or unapproachable; on the contrary, she has been so kind and patient with us over the past few months, as have the other archers at the dojo.

Although practices are usually very independent, Kawaguchi-sensei and occasionally the other archers will offer tips and corrections to our postures.  Because kyudou is so ritualized, requiring one to repeat the same pattern of movements before every shot is fired, it is crucial to correct one’s movements before they become too deeply ingrained to be fixed.  I had very little upper body strength before starting kyudou here, so it took almost three months before I was strong enough and good enough to be allowed to move to a larger, heavier bow.  I don’t think that I could ever have imagined how much pride and self-accomplishment I would feel for being allowed to exercise harder.

Kyudou as a whole has served as a catharsis during my months in Japan.  This was my first time abroad, and the experience has been wonderful, but trying at times.  As I’ve become more aware of my linguistic inabilities, I’ve found myself losing self-confidence very rapidly; however, kyudou is an activity that almost entirely transcends the language barrier.  In addition, because there are other students who do not speak Japanese at all, I’ve gained some confidence in being able to translate between Kawaguchi-sensei and those students.  Furthermore, it is a time apart from homework where one focuses only on the ritual of drawing the bow and one’s own body.

Kyudou is definitely a CIP that requires time and effort, but the rewards far outweighed any measly inconveniences.  The support that I felt from Kawaguchi-sensei and the other archers, the atmosphere of the dojo, and the time for self-reflection not only helped rebuild and boost my self-confidence but also allowed me some peaceful time in my continuously active life in Japan.



毎週、大原に行く前の日、前田先生から今週の授業のために必要の準備について、メールをもらいます。今まで、時差について教えたり、「Hokey-Pokey」と「If You’re Happy and You Know It」と「Twinkle Twinkle Little Star」と言う歌を子供と一緒に歌ったり、料理の授業のために焼き芋を作ったり、ジャマイカについて発表したりしました。


アレクサ・バンデマーク: お琴のレッスン





九月から、京都大学の近くにある武道センターでかっこよくて強い川口先生が私ともう一人KCJSの留学生に弓道を教えてくださっています。弓道は難しいスポーツなので、初めは弓矢を使ってはいけませんでした。代わりに、上手な射手を見たり、射法八節という動きを練習したりしました。射法八節は「1.足踏(あしぶ)み」、「2.胴造(どうづく)り」、「3. 弓構(ゆがま)え」、「4.打起(うちおこ)し」、「5.引分(ひきわ)け」、「6.会(かい)」、「7.離(ばな)れ」、「8. 残心(ざんしん)」です。しかし、早く覚えたから、三回目には弓を使い始めて、四回目には矢を使い始めました。むずかしいですが、川口先生はいい先生だから毎回楽しいです。












Aarron Lee: Participating in DESA

I took this picture. Roppongi Hills skyview, you should totally go check it out sometime.

Coming to Japan in August last year (Fall semester), I had initially participated in Kyuudou as my CIP activity outside of classes. In the latter Spring semester, I participated in DESA, which is a student organization that introduces you to Japanese students via activities, events, etc. In retrospect, I regret not doing it vice versa, where I should’ve joined DESA in Fall, and Kyuudou in Spring. Why, you may ask?


アロン・リー: DESA





Aarron Lee: Kyuudou

Kyuudou, as a sport, is a rather peculiar one. It doesn’t really strive for perfect accuracy and precision (unlike its western counterpart, archery). Instead, it is intensely focused on being able to maintain a perfect form, going through a set of 8 steps (called the hassetsu) while maintaining a very rigid posture. The “sport” of Kyuudou has a huge emphasis on self-discipline, but it does not have an end goal like “getting the highest score” or “being the most accurate”. Or at least, that’s my impression of Kyuudou after doing it for the past few months.

The basic tenet of Kyuudou seems to be “self-improvement”, where you pretty much must discipline yourself to follow those 8 steps that are so vital to Kyuudou. And with no real end goal (like a score, etc), the only real motivation for improvement is your own desire to do so. That, in itself, is a rather refreshing difference from most sports that I do play (basketball, skiing, snowboarding, etc). There’s no real standard you need to compare yourself, you don’t need to get particularly skilled or accurate, you simply need a desire to improve your Kyuudou abilities in a way you see fit. While the hassetsu is quite regimented and strict, at the same time it’s rather freeing due to how you can define your own vision of what you want Kyuudou to be.

With that being said, I don’t find Kyuudou particularly fun or exuberating. Rather, it gives me time to simply focus on something other than the chaos of real life and student assignments, and that shift in focus is a blessing during times of stress. You sort of just forget about the ongoing world around you, and focus on the target in front of your face. You temporarily forget about that paper due in a week, or a test the next day, or ongoing drama amongst your friends, etc. All that matters is that target, and whether you can hit it. Yea, I did talk about how, unlike archery, there aren’t really any defined set goals in Kyuudou. But mine is being able to hit the target where I want it to, so in a sense, my goals in Kyuudou align with what an archery practitioner may strive for. With enough practice, will I ever reach my goal? Who knows, but if I ever do, I know that it was a goal I set for myself.