Erica Neville: Manga Workshop

To be sure, my insight into private drawing classes hasn’t changed much from last quarter. I’ve learned how to understand critique in Japanese, and how to follow both drawn and spoken suggestions despite limited relevant vocabulary. This quarter I’ve managed to communicate a lot more with my teacher, and a lot of last quarter’s frustration regarding being given assignments I found boring has been alleviated and, perhaps helpfully, replaced with frustration in struggling through more challenging structural and organic perspective assignments. Huzzah!

I have learned that, in practice, in small classrooms the kinds of respectful language we Japanese language students have learned and are told to use are often dropped in favor of a mix of casual and polite language. Especially in the drawing classroom, the emphasis is on effective communication. This might be because some of the students are younger, ranging from elementary to high school age, although I’ve heard other adults speaking much the same way. Greetings and small-talk are typically polite or, less often, respectful, but when it comes to the meat of the conversation we often use casual or です•ます style alone.

Moreover, in this setting, critique is more straightforward than it might otherwise be when there isn’t a definite student-teacher relationship. My teacher will often employ softer grammar to phrase things more as a suggestion, but he still makes his point clear and will continue suggesting improvements every time he comes by if a piece of the drawing is still not dark enough, for instance.

I also find it interesting that even the younger kids receive the same level of critique. Many of the students in the classroom are there preparing to apply to art school, of course, but it seems that even at a younger age this kind of instruction is valued as a serious study, whereas in America there is a tendency towards leniency with children and treating private classes primarily as a fun pastime rather than actual skill-building.

Although I had the option to choose another CIP, perhaps the manga circle on campus, and in the process would have saved a good chunk of money, I can definitely say I am glad I stayed with this private classroom. The interaction can be more limited than some given that we mostly work independently, but the one-on-one instruction from the teacher and listening to him interacting with other students is very informative and gratifying.





Michael Tayag: Volunteering at Bazaar Cafe

For my CIP, I volunteered at Bazaar Cafe, about a three-minute walk from Doshisha Imadegawa campus, on Thursdays, Fridays, and on a couple special occasions. By volunteering at Bazaar Cafe, I was able to glean some interesting insights into Japanese society, culture, and communication.

One of the most obvious things that sets Bazaar Cafe apart from other cafes is the fact that it is staffed primarily by minorities and volunteers. My co-workers were immigrants, sexual minorities, recovering and former alcoholics, and people with developmental disorders, all of whom Bazaar Cafe offered a community space and a chance to work for a salary. Talking to these people made more concrete the discrimination they face, their hardships in finding work, and, for some, the need to conquer cultural and language barriers. Having said that, their work at Bazaar Cafe illustrates that various kinds of minorities can be productive workers, support one another, and form strong ties with the local community. For example, through one of the Filipina volunteers at Bazaar, I was introduced to the larger Filipino community in Kyoto, whose meetings and events I have attended almost every week.

With respect to communication in the context of volunteering/working at a cafe, I found that Japan is actually quite similar to the United States. For instance, it is considered common sense and courtesy in both cultures to say “excuse me” when going around someone, or “sorry” when you have bumped into your co-worker. Further, I got free food for lunch during volunteering (as did the others), and I usually waited to be offered food instead of asking for it directly. Basically, in terms of interacting with other people, I think I acted the same way at Bazaar Cafe that I would have in a similar establishment in America. One notable difference I did notice, though, was that the native Japanese have a greater sense of status and age. While the other foreigners with whom I worked never deliberately varied their levels of politeness, the Japanese workers and volunteers used different language when talking to me, as opposed to our supervisor. Working with foreigners allowed me to compare the language patterns of native and non-native Japanese speakers.

All in all, working in a cafe allowed me to have real conversations with real people in the real world. And though CIP was sometimes an added stress at the end of the school week, I definitely appreciated this opportunity!

Erica Neville: Manga Workshop

“I am most definitely not a comic artist.”

If you’d rather see an entertaining Youtube video like to read my first post regarding this CIP (in Japanese), please gently click here at your leisure.

For those of you not in the know, finding this CIP became series of trial and terrible, spirit-crippling errors. For a country well-known for its specialty in comics and animation, an affordable, accessible, and personally appealing manga classroom proves to be especially difficult to stumble upon. My first insight: two out of three really isn’t that bad.

Lucky for me, after wading through the train lines to Osaka and the despair of reading and writing far too many e-mails riddled with keigo, I managed to find myself at the Nijo Art School, a small and warm classroom taught at a teacher’s home where students of all ages are pretty much free to pursue their own area of interest, ranging from oil painting to sculpture to comics.

I’m a slow learner, but I did eventually come to some realizations about classroom culture.

First, Japanese workshops and classrooms take their jobs very seriously. At every school I interviewed, the instructors were not only intent on finding out exactly what you want to study and practice (even going so far as to ask you which manga artist you want to draw like!), but they were also concerned with whether or not you aim to take the class in order to prepare for your application to a full-fledged art academy. These classrooms are more than that private tutor you had for the piano back in elementary school. There is no such thing as a casual class you take for fun, just to learn – even the smallest of classrooms is all about getting you to past that test for that art academy, first and foremost. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that Japanese culture seems to be very focused on the end goal – it is always up, up, and onwards. While that sort of diligence and intensity is impressive, I did at times find it very wearisome to be unable to find a manga class that was not geared towards a final exam, and the atmosphere can initially be very intimidating when you want a more relaxed experience.

Secondly, I discovered a surprising dynamic to the student-teacher relationship. This may be a solely personal experience, but when I encountered problems with my CIP (wherein I was suddenly spending too much time working on realism rather than the comics focus I wanted), my Japanese teacher was very adamant that I had a right to question my art teacher and request that I get back on track. While in America I definitely had a friendly rampart with all of my teachers, I never dreamed of challenging their directions – if Mr. Huggett said that we were going to draw spheres from different angles for three weeks straight, then by golly, I would suck it up and slave over those spheres, quietly muttering under my breath and occasionally grinding the B6 pencil into the paper to express the blackest depths of my discontent. I’d assumed that it’d be the same for the Japanese student-teacher relationship, wherein you do not question your educator’s methods. Yet it seems that if those methods interfere with the straightest line to the end goal, especially if you’re paying ¥17,000 a month to go once a week for only three hours, you have every right to ask to get back to business. Unfortunately I still have reservations about requesting such a thing of my teacher, so I’ve spent a lot of time drawing redundant things rather than learning how to make comics, but it was interesting to find out that I do, indeed, have that communication option, whether or not I have the pluck to use it.

Finally, I’ve learned that everyone gets their time. My teacher always managed to pinpoint the faults in my drawing, and subsequently always managed to explain how I was to fix them, either through gestures, tone, drawing by example, or a combination thereof. He didn’t let me get away with anything, and had no issues with focusing squarely on a single student for twenty minutes, or running over time rather than rushing his critiques. Although Japan has been criticized by Americans for its strict educational system, the fact is that they are far more serious and effective about helping individual students reach their full potential than they are given credit for. Although Japanese culture may be more about the group than the individual, another underlying philosophy is that the stronger an individual is, the stronger the group itself becomes.

IJay Espinoza: Doshisha University "soul2soul" Streetdance Circle

Being in soul2soul has been quite an experience. It’s interesting how, despite language barriers, mutual passions can bring people together. I’m pretty sure that thought has been published somewhere. It’s sounds too cliché to not be written somewhere. However, that doesn’t make it any less true. During my first time at a soul2soul rehearsal, I felt like I was back in America. People were being loud and crazy, which I’m quite used to during dance rehearsals. This may simply be a case of Japanese students interacting in a comfortable environment, rather than a performer thing because up to this point most of the interactions I had experienced with native Japanese people had been mediated by KCJS. Thus, those students were probably acting more “proper” to make socially acceptable first impressions.

As for actual practice norms, I found them to be quite different. First of all, as mentioned in my previous blog, the idea of streetdance and hip-hop dancing is different here than in America. In America, the two words are interchangeable and distinct styles are categorized as simply sub-genres of hip-hop/streetdance. In Japan, however, the genres are much more segregated with the term hip-hop encompassing its own separate genre, a genre that consists of moves that don’t fit into the other more defined styles. Therefore, practice is never held as a complete collective, but rather as smaller factions, in which all hone in on one specific style. This is different from what I’m used with my dance groups back home, where we’d cycle through different styles based on the interests of the group and the styles in which the current group members were particularly proficient.

The senpai-kohai relationship was also very interesting to witness. It would always be really clear when a senpai was nearby, for it was difficult not to notice the people around you essentially dropping what they were doing, so to speak, to greet a senpai with a full “ohayou gozaimasu” and a very prominent bow. It was also interesting how, many times, I would be greeted the same way, especially since I wasn’t really quite uchi to the many of the members who greeted me that way as well.

Moving from soto to uchi, I’ve noticed, is far more difficult than I expected. I don’t fully feel that I have quite achieved that yet either. I feel like this has a lot to do with the disadvantages of being the new guy, especially among people who practice together over ten hours a week, as well as the language barrier which sort of enhances the difficulty of breaking the uchi barrier. I found myself at times unable to fully express my feelings in Japanese in an effective manner. The experience made me appreciate the extensive command I have over the English language. My vocabulary may not be as impressive as a typical English major, but it is definitely preferable to the frustrations of being simply unable to say what you mean or feel in the most appropriate manner. It also made me much more sympathetic to non-native English speakers.

Come performance time, I found that soul2soul was virtually exactly like my groups back home. Members would sit in the audience and cheer on their friends, and afterwards celebrate with picture-taking and a night out together. Even though I was not able to become as uchi as I had hoped with the group, I found that performing with them really made me feel like I was a part of something. Perhaps I had gotten farther into the uchi sphere than I had thought.

Scott Parks: Kyoto Esperanto Association

For an introductory blog post (in Japanese) about my CIP, click here.

"Saluton!" = "Hello!" = "こんにちは!"

Some of the primary goals of the CIP are to get exposure to Japanese culture, improve Japanese language skills, and be involved in a community of Japanese people outside of the internationally-minded perspective of the KCJS study abroad student context.  As a result, I was initially worried about the legitimacy of my CIP, participating in the Kyoto Esperanto Association, due to its seeming lack of adherence to these goals.  Speaking Esperanto specifically means I’m not speaking Japanese, and Esperantists from any country tend to be outside the mainstream cultural norms of their country, in this case Japan.

Nonetheless, in actuality I’ve found immense value in my CIP.  The Kyoto Esperanto Society is surprisingly active, and they have inspired me to continue my journey with the Esperanto movement.  In addition to meeting weekly at the Esperanto Kaikan to study, speak, and talk about Esperanto, I’ve also been taking advantage of unique opportunities that the group has provided me.

This month I traveled to Okayama prefecture for my first Esperanto conference, namely the Twelfth Annual Chugoku & Shikoku Esperanto Congress.  There I was able to meet many people, make new friends, and get a taste of what Esperanto looks like on a larger scale.  In fact, I was lucky enough to meet the organizer of next year’s International Youth Congress, an international gathering of Esperanto speaking youth that takes place every summer in a different country.  Next year’s congress is scheduled to take place in Nara, and my experience in Okayama has motivated me to find a way to attend next year’s congress.

On December 3rd, I will be giving a short speech as part of an event to celebrate the birth of Esperanto’s creator.  The event will be from 1:30pm-4:30pm in Ooyamazaki (大山崎町) and is open to the public.  My talk will be about how I came to be interested in Esperanto as an American who speaks English, largely considered to already have become an international language.  For more information, please view the event flyer (Japanese).

Sandy Chang: Assistant English Teacher

Frustrating, awkward, and culturally shocking. At least that`s how my community project started. Or I guess, that`s what I had to go through to truly understand the `Japanese experience`.

Frustrating. Starting my community project, I thought everything was going to be straightforward. I was to come in on Wednesdays from 1:00 – 3:00 to the classes Mr. Ueno assigned to me. But after the first day of volunteering, Mr. Ueno informed me that the following Monday was a holiday and the students were also taking the Monday after that off because of a Sports Festival. I realized that Mondays were a convenient day to have tests and holidays. Therefore, I was frustrated that I couldn`t come to help at the Middle school more. I tried to come on another day of the week but couldn`t because I had KCJS classes. Even more, I ended up changing which classes I helped with. The teachers were confused as to which classes I was helping with on that particular Monday, as well as not knowing when a class was moved to the morning instead of having it in the afternoon.

Awkward. Because I was only able to come a few days, I was not able to get to know the students well. It was also because we were both shy to talk to each other because of the language barrier and because there were over 60 students, too much to know one another. Therefore, when I arrived early I did not know how to occupy myself. The students would stare at me shyly. I would try starring at the wall as if it was the most interesting wall in the world. When I stepped into the classroom, the students were in their cliques, so I felt intrusive if I joined their conversations. They also did not remember who I was or my name at times. I felt very much like an outsider, and it was very hard for me to become an insider especially with the language barrier and the age gap.

Culturally shocking. When I came to Japan, I expected to be disappointed that all I had read in mangas and seen in anime were going to be proved wrong. They were nothing but stereotypical representations of Japanese culture. Instead, I found myself surprised that the Japanese students were similar to what I had read and seen. The uniforms were the same, the personalities were the same, and even the rituals (such as the awing when someone from a different class came to visit) were the same. I also found it hilarious when, once, I turned back from talking to Mr. Ueno, the boys were changing their clothes to go to PE in front of me. They didn`t seem to mind my dropped jaw as they happily skipped out of the room. Furthermore, the Japanese language itself made me upset when I realized the students were speaking to me in des/mas form. It further isolated and labeled me as a ‘soto’ stranger.

Despite these overabundant emotions, overall I had a wonderful time. I gained much experience and started to become a part of a Japanese community, something I could not have experienced in America. It was very interesting to observe Mr. Ueno and Mrs. Ogaya teach English. Mr. Ueno was nice and informal with his students. He liked showing movies and examples of American culture to his students. Mrs. Ogaya was fast, efficient, and playful with her students. In her classroom, we played bingo and sang jingle bells to keep up with English. When both teachers taught grammar, they related structures to Japanese grammar. This confirmed my reasoning to learn Japanese; teaching English can be more efficient if you know the language of your students. Oppositely, the classes were mostly taught in Japanese, which I found counter-active to the students’ learning process. Students mostly spoke Japanese and had little time to practice speaking English.

As time passed, I also learned how to deal with the problems I had at the beginning of the community project. I explained to Mr. Ueno that I would like to know when I would be helping out and he sent me schedules of when and with which classes I would help with. To avoid awkwardness, I tried to come exactly on time to classes (which isn’t exactly a solution, but oh well). When I was early, I would shop around the area before going in. One time though, I was late to class and was very apologetic. During passing time, I would go to the bathroom (sigh, quite sad I know) or try to make conversation with some students in the classroom (yay). Although des/mas form made me upset, it made me even happier when the kids used plain form with me. As suggested by one of the other helpers at the middle school, I signaled to them that it was okay to use plain form with me by using plain form with them too. This was hard for me since I am so used to speaking formally. The ending of my community project felt like it was just the beginning. I had finally gotten into the uchi, communicating well and joking with the students. Mrs. Ogaya was sad to see me go. This experience has motivated me even more to become a teacher.









僕はバザーカフェという同志社大学の近くにある喫茶店でボランティアをしています。バザーカフェはマイノリティーの人が働いてお金をもらえる場を提供しています。それで、民族のマイノリティーの人や発達障害(はったつしょうがい=developmental disorder)がある人がバザーカフェで働いています。