Mars Peredo: Manga Kyoushitsu and Warabe-uta Baby Massage

My two CIPs were drawing comics at Studio Miura’s Manga Classroom and helping my host mom run her local nursery rhyme and baby massage class. Despite some struggles to communicate, both became highly valuable experiences.

The manga class was a quiet and relaxed gathering of generally younger people working on their comics or illustrations with occasional advice from the teachers present and also snacks. I thought it would be lessons rather than this sort of gathering, and since I knew no art terms in Japanese or what I wanted to get out of it, I struggled for several weeks drawing and communicating inefficiently. I learned to keep a little list of art terms I heard with me for reference, and practiced mustering the courage to ask questions or to repeat things I didn’t understand. It took a long time for me to settle in, but I learned useful ideas on Japanese panel layout etc. for my manga about noh (but with rabbits instead of humans). I want to improve at trying to ask questions.

For baby massage class, my main job was to sing the English translations of Japanese nursery songs while the mothers followed along and massaged their babies. Apparently Warabe-uta Baby Massage is not so common; combining nursery songs with massage (to promote the baby’s physical health and connection with the parent) is a recent concept. The class was made up of a few younger moms and their babies in a very casual setting: although my host mom sometimes used polite language when giving instructions, everyone generally spoke in casual language as peers, including newcomers. (There was a somewhat similar mix of codes in the manga class, so that I was never sure how to speak, as I was no master of politeness.) I started with mild polite language and slipped into casual (usually accidentally). The classroom was a place for the moms to not just interact with their babies, but also consult my host mom, a chiropractor and mother of a two-year-old, as well as chat together. I was surprised that the atmosphere was so casual, and in turn warm, homely, and open.

The “foreigner” and mixed race population in Japan is said to be increasing, and I got to witness this through a friendly mom, whose husband she said was Canadian, and their baby, whose skin, the moms remarked brightly to my surprise, was “definitely white.” The mom cheerfully started a conversation with me to practice her English and ask where I was from.

I also learned about the heteronormative gender dynamics in the group. First, there were no men in the class. It’s not that men can’t do baby massage –my host mom instructed that fathers could participate too– it seems that it’s just not common, just as mothers are still expected nurse children while the father works (yet my host mom holds multiple part-time jobs besides her husband’s). In addition, the strong female presence was felt when my rather quiet host dad suddenly came in and exited the room of already familiar mothers. Lastly, I saw how heterosexual norms can be imposed on infants: a lively baby boy was paying particular attention to me (perceived female by the moms) and a baby girl, so my host mom remarked that he was being “lovey-dovey” (rabu rabu), even though babies can’t have conscious thoughts. This was in contrast to how my host mom said that my toddler host sister was being “friendly” with or liked me.

In my CIPs, I learned about making efforts to communicate, and witnessed the fluidity of mild politeness and casualness as well as developments and gender norms in the family through casual classroom-like gatherings

Me and the mothers massaging the kids (and a baby doll)

Dylan Jekels: Calligraphy Lessons

Coming into KCJS, I was certain that I would join a club for my CIP project. I was excited to interact with college-aged students at Doshisha and learn more about circle culture. However, when I found out that my host mother was good friends with a calligraphy teacher, I was immediately interested. I had never tried calligraphy, English or otherwise, and found myself drawn to it.

Not to state the obvious, but calligraphy is really difficult: there is a posture for it, you have to have the right tools and set up your paper in the correct manner. As the semester progressed, I also came to realize that there is a proper headspace for writing something well-balanced and appealing to the eye. Taking calligraphy this semester really helped me to think about the relationship between artist, brush, paper, ink, and final product – as an art history major, making these connections was important. I found myself looking forward to returning each week in order to learn more and progress my technique.

Most valuable of all, however, is the relationship that I formed with the calligraphy teacher, Asakusa-sensei. At first, I wasn’t sure how to communicate with her. As time progressed, though, she began helping me with Japanese as I helped her with English. Our conversations ranged from clothes to earthquakes. Although the typical teacher-student relationship can be quite rigid, I feel as though I have earned a true friend within Asakusa-sensei. At the end of each lesson, we would chat over tea and a snack. She introduced me to interesting aspects of Japanese culture, like how to wear a kimono, the tofu truck, and we even went to see the emperor of Japan drive by when he was visiting Kyoto. Her guidance and warmth has encouraged me to continue pursuing calligraphy when I return to the United States.

I encourage anyone who is unsure of what to pursue for their CIP project to outstep the limits of your own mind. The most valuable things that I gained from my CIP was the experience in a new art form and the companionship of my teacher – you can find such treasures all around Kyoto, if you just look a little bit outside of your comfort zone.

Morgan Hearne: Kyudō

My time at Kyōto’s Budō Center learning from Kawaguchi-sensei was a great privilege. From gradually finding a better sense of balance when taking off my shoes before practice (though never a sense of grace), performing the correct form over and over again without complaint (in the cold, without feeling in toes or fingers), to releasing my first arrow, I have gained a lot from my CIP experience. Many of the things I have learned have been through nonverbal experiences, but nevertheless I believe they certainly say much about the process of studying a Japanese cultural art form.

To shoot or not to shoot— this depends on what I would call the Kyudō Trifecta: Respect, Discipline, and Patience. My observations point to these three values as key in determining your success in studying kyudō.

Every practice began and ended with formal aisatsu, which consisted of waiting for and greeting sensei when she became free, and respectfully expressing our appreciation for her guidance in zarei (seated bow position). Only after completing aisatsu could we retrieve our equipment or take our leave. At the same time, there was not a strict, tense atmosphere like I imagined there would be. Rather, while taking practice seriously, the older students often joked with sensei, who also often displayed a dry sense of humor. I think it was because a high level of respect already existed between students and teacher, as shown through aisatsu at the beginning and end of practice, that this kind of warm atmosphere could be created. The importance of respect feeds into the other two pillars of the Kyudō Trifecta as well.

In practicing the same form endlessly, respecting the subtleties between each step, and keeping both the mind and body focused in silence takes, as you can imagine, great discipline. In my mind, this was an area of particular importance in which to succeed because I have always imagined it as (besides a general area of weakness in myself) an area of weakness in those not socialized into Japanese culture. Because sensei was often busy helping a number of students, practicing in silence while learning as much as possible from older students was vital. Without saying anything, experienced students would generously hop in front of us to practice and let us take careful note of their form. I really appreciated the sense of camaraderie created because students knew the difficulty and importance of preserving through moments of weak resolve. Luckily, patience, as the third pillar of the Kyudō Trifecta, made me more forgiving in the moments when my shoulders did slump and my eyes searched for a clock.

Patience also, I found, was key to finding the joy in chilly afternoon practices of repetition, repetition, repetition. In fact, the same level of patience required of us was vastly lower due to the nature of our short visit. Kawaguchi-sensei actually sped up the timeline in which we received a bow to hold, an arrow with which to practice the form, and the permission to actually release the string. Normal students would have been practicing the form for about two months before even holding a bow. And yet all the same, even in the short and far more ‘action-packed’ time I took kyudō lessons, I know that patience is what completes the Trifecta. From the tremendous range of students’ ages, I saw right from the start that kyudō is an art form you learn over a lifetime. In this way, I was able to relax in knowing that while striving for a kind of perfection, it was finding the joy and awe in the learning process that made my CIP experience so memorable.




Andy Kaesermann : Kyoto Art Center

As I have previously written, my CIP for this semester was done at the Kyoto Art Center. My original intent in choosing this program was to become acquainted with the art scene here in Kyoto and to make some valuable connections through my volunteering! I would happily say that I think I have achieved these as well as, made an absolutely wonderful group of friends!

Much to my surprise, the actual volunteering tasks I was doing were a lot less based on my ability to speak English. Instead, I was much more like a regular volunteer at the center, taking on one shift a week in the gallery and working one event per month. Seeing the way in which volunteers were organized, events coordinated and how the center worked to make art accessible for the larger community in Kyoto was really enriching.

I have learned many things from my CIP; such as, the way appropriate, formal interactions are conducted in a business-like atmosphere. However, one of the most impressive things I learned over my time volunteering was the ways in which status and group identity inform everyday interactions to an extraordinary degree. This oes beyond the use of 敬語. Aside from the normal difficulties of entering a normal group(let alone one with a language barrier) was the fact that I was the only male volunteer among the members of the incoming batch of volunteers. This had helped me a lot in understanding the complexity of group formation and the position in one’s group, of course through the lens of being a volunteer at an art center. As we all were new volunteers,there was little difference between our “status” in the larger context of the center however, in the allocation of tasks by our supervisor, a type hierarchy emerged. This is what had seemed to be a big influence on the ways the other volunteers would interact with me and each other. Specifically, because of a bit of an initial struggle in properly communicating, most of my interactions with the other volunteers resembled a mother duck helping her pathetic duckling child…which is really funny retrospectively. However, over time I was able to convey my knowledge gained from a background in art history and my being able to speak English both played a role in the change in the ways my interactions toward the end of my time at the center.

I am really grateful I was able to work with the Kyoto Art Center this fall. Not only, did it allow me to continue my interest in art and combine with my stay in Japan, it also deepened my connection with those helping popularize fine art in Kyoto! All within the duration of my stay in Japan! I will miss my cohort at the Art Center but, am happy knowing even as I leave they will continue to bring joy, through art to those living in Kyoto~!





Amelia Loew: English Conversation Partner-Kyoto Bunkyou High School

For my CIP, I decide that I would teach English.  While interacting with children is not my strong suit, I wanted experience with high schoolers as I was considering applying for the JET program.  I also thought it would be a good way to step out of my comfort zone.
I ended up acting as a tutor for some students learning english at the Kyoto Bunkyou High School.  A few times a week I would go to the school and meet with a couple of high schoolers.  Since the school was only a short subway ride out of the way it was very convenient for me.  At first the students were a bit shy, but they slowly warmed up to me.  Still I found that I ended up doing a lot of the talking; my throat was pretty sore by the end of the hour.  I quickly learned that the best way to get through to the students was to ask open-ended questions.  Once I go to know them, they were really sweet.  Upon hearing that I liked matcha deserts, one of them bought me a special macha-chocolate cookie and a little stuffed manekineko (lucky cat) as an omiyage.

Once, I ended up speaking to an entire class of students who would soon be going to Australia.  Though I had initially anticipated that my job would be something like this, I wasn’t prepared that time and ended up simply awkwardly asking questions up in front of the board.  I really wished I had prepared some sort of lesson plan for that time, and changed my mindset to deal with students who’s english was a bit weaker than I was used to.

However, as the semester went on, I found that the school had a lot more breaks and times when the students were too busy to have conversation with me.  I would definitely recommend having a back-up plan for your CIP.  Even if it seems to be going well at first, things can change.


私はCIPとして、英語を教えることをえらびました。 京都文教高校の竹内先生の学生と英語で会話をします。 行く日は週によって違います。週末に先生から連絡をもらって、何曜日に行ったらいいかを確認します。同志社から地下鉄の烏丸線にのって、烏丸御池駅で東西線に乗りかえます。東山駅を出たら、学校まで歩いてのは5分です。行く時、たくさんの自動販売機とお土産屋さんの前を通ります。守衛さんから、番号が書かれた名札をまらって、入ります。



Cara Moriwaki: Church and English Assistant


In the past month, I have been meeting many more Japanese people through church!  One of the people I talk to often at church helped me to contact the leader of a Bible study circle at Doshisha, so I have been able to go to two of their meetings so far.  At the meetings, which are on Friday afternoons, we read a passage from the Bible and answer questions from a worksheet.  I bring my own Bible in English, but I still have trouble understanding the conversations because the vocabulary is difficult and they get deep, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to understand everything to enjoy myself!  The most important thing for me is this chance to meet many different people in Japan.  One of the girls who attends this circle regularly is not Christian, but she is interested in reading the Bible and learning about Jesus.  Even though I don’t always understand and don’t often contribute to the conversation, they have been very accepting of me.  By going to these meetings, I have learned a lot of different vocabulary and have been able to work on my listening comprehension, which has really taught me to make the most of any difficult situation!

For the last two church services that I went to, a lot of things happened!  We had communion!  Because it was very much like any other communion, I felt at home, and as though I have been going to this church for a significant amount of time, instead of just visiting.  I got to eat lunch with everyone afterwards, too!  The following week, I got to watch two girls get baptized.  After a group of the younger people sang songs to congratulate them, the two girls gave their testimonies.  Although, again, I couldn’t always understand what they were saying, I could still feel their emotions as they told us about their spiritual journeys.  I’m very happy that I had the chance to witness these girls take such an important step in their lives.

I’ve found that, at least at church and at the Bible study circle, Japanese people are not very different from Americans in their customs.  Just like the people I met at churches that I have attended in the United States, people here have been very inviting and patient with me.  Recently, I have had to go to church by myself, but I’ve learned that if I have even just a little bit of confidence in myself, I can have a lot of amazing experiences!  It is also thanks to the many people that I have met for very warmly welcoming me into the church community.    Despite my KCJS A-class status, I can still connect with many people!  Matthew 17:18 “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

At Kamigyou Intermediate School, I have continued to help students with their English competitions.  There were two competitions, one which was for recording the story on a tape to be submitted, and the other for which the students had to perform their speech with arm motions.  Within one week, I saw that the students had improved in their intonation, pronunciation, and energy in their movements.  I remember that the school’s Vice Principle asked a student to do her best in one of the competitions, which made me realize that these students are pressured to represent their school as best they can.  Their determination to do their best for themselves and for their school is inspiring, and makes me want to ganbaru at Japanese, too!

Twice, I have had to casually converse with a couple of girls who were very shy about speaking.  Although the students are not shy about reading aloud their passages, they are not comfortable with normally speaking English.  Unlike my language teachers who speak to me in their foreign language, the English teacher here usually only speaks Japanese to her students.  I’m not sure if the emphasis on reading rather than speaking is a good thing because one of the people I met at church said that even though he studied English since he was little, he cannot say anything in English.  Well, in the end, I let the students speak mostly in Japanese to me, but I’ve realized that sometimes, it is more important for them to enjoy English rather than feel stressed out about it.

With only a few more weeks here, I want to make the rest of my limited time here as meaningful as possible by meeting more people and deepening my relationships with the people I have met!