Max Luband: Shakuhachi


For my CIP, I took Shakuhachi lessons at a Shakuhachi players house. I met once a week for two hours, learned a few basic songs and performed at the Otsu traditional performing arts center with my sensei as the culminating event.

The shakuhachi is a difficult instrument and you will most likely need to practice at least a little bit out of lessons. However many of the things that makes the shakuhachi difficult are what make a unique and interesting instrument. For example, the position of your head or how much you are covering a hole will change the pitch of a note, which both allows you to go between pitches seamlessly and demands a greater level of precision on your part to play specific pitches.


My biggest worry going into this was that pursuing an instrument in one-on-one setting means I won’t get to learn and experience Japanese culture as I would interacting with a larger group of people via volunteering, but that wasn’t the case. I learned a lot not just about Japanese music concepts , but also about Japanese ways of teaching and learning. The relationship between me and my sensei was much more personal and extended out of lessons in a way that was different from any music tutors I had learned before. I was very much blown away by his kindness

picture Sensei took of me when we visited a temple


Isaac Lopez: Taekwondo

My activity was Taekwondo which is a kicking based martial art that originated in Korea. Here at my CIP I was able to take lessons/train alongside members of Mivlo Kyoto.

It was really fun! The people are all really nice and the instructors are understanding. All in all I can definitely say it helped improve my technique, with the volume of training we do per day you’re bound to make some improvement compared to when you start.

It helped a lot that I had prior experience, otherwise it definitely would’ve been a bit more difficult in the beginning. Also make sure you have lots of stamina if not sheer willpower, warm ups will leave you dazed and drenched in sweat if you’re not used to it.

Arianna Ruhoy: Volunteering at Mitsuba Youchien

Every Tuesday I would walk to my CIP at Mitsuba kindergarten where I would say hello to the staff and play with the children there while they were waiting for their parents to pick them up. Mitsuba encouraged a very free and loose environment so other than scheduled breaks to eat and clean up, the children felt free to play whatever games they liked. I got to spend time with them and also help them out whenever they needed. It was eye-opening to see how a lot of the Japanese I studied did not overlap with the Japanese the children used, and it encouraged me to get better at conversational Japanese.

My advice to students who want to volunteer at Mitsuba is to be patient, and ask the other teachers for assistance when you are unsure about anything. Such as when a child may not playing fairly or may hurt another child, it can help to ask a teacher for assistance in handling the situation.

Mitsuba Youchien Playground

Mitsuba Youchien Playground

AJ Gallagher: Kyudo

For my CIP activity this semester, I chose to do Kyudo, which is the traditional Japanese sport of archery. I call it a sport, which it is, but it’s more focused on the actions, form, and mindfulness than it is on actually hitting the target. Slowly feeling yourself improve and go from practicing with a rubber band, to a real bow, to a bow and arrow, to finally stepping out into the dojo and shooting at the target was an incredibly fun journey, Overall, I really enjoyed it, but it was pretty uncomfortable at first being the only foreigners in the dojo. It was also Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 or 8, which meant that for people who are living far away from the dojo you can be stuck on campus from noon until 6. Also, the sensei is INCREDIBLY kind and patient, but also talks quickly and in thick Kansai accent, so I’d steer clear of this as a CIP if you’re not confident in your listening ability.

Jasmine Chen: Weaving


weaving weaving weaving

Unactivated fiber-optic headpiece

In my weaving lessons with Haruki and Yuri Kawasaki in Kyoto, Japan (filled with a rich textile art history) I practiced the use of a four-treadle floor loom, learning to measure and prepare threads, design intricate patterns, and weave consistently structured pieces. I made beautiful, vibrant scarves (they are my absolute favorite and often receive compliments), along with a glove, pouches, and a shining, fiber-optic headpiece designed to pair with my future ceramic sculptures.

As an advice, communication and comfort is a common concern in CIP activities: learn to observe. I gained a lot from watching Kawasaki sensei and fellow students, understanding their hand movements and thread handling techniques. The Kawasakis, with their generous, humorous, and patient nature, are fantastic to work with and are very open and supportive to artistic project ideas. Take your time to develop your own way of interacting with them.

Emma Liu Volunteering at Mitsuba Kindergarten


This semester I did my CIP at Mitsuba Kindergarten as a volunteer. Every Wednesday I would walk to the kindergarten and have fun with the kids from 2-4 pm. My routine usually involves playing with the kids (reading books, drawing…) and monitoring the environment to make sure the kids are safe. Throughout this experience, my heart was always warmed by the children’s affection and the staff’s welcoming nature. Every time was a learning adventure, not just for the kids, but for me as well. I observed firsthand how cultural norms shape educational practices, especially in areas like discipline and child autonomy (it seems to me that Japanese kids were given an extraordinary amount of freedom). The most enriching part was definitely seeing the tangible progress in my Japanese language skills and the deepening of my understanding of intercultural nuances. This entire experience was a wonderful blend of teaching, learning, and cultural exchange that is not only enjoyable but also very helpful with my pursuit of engaging in international comparative education

For those considering similar opportunities, I highly recommend it!! Engaging in such experiences can significantly enhance your understanding of different cultures and educational systems. It’s a chance to grow linguistically and personally and to gain invaluable insights into the intricate relationship between culture, language, and education.

Eva Lu: Tea Ceremony

I participated in the tea ceremony for my CIP activity, a Japanese cultural practice involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (powdered green tea). Over the semester, we had eight lessons dedicated to practicing the tea ceremony procedure known as temae.

With just two students participating in the tea ceremony lessons this semester, the two of us were able to have extensive interactions with the teacher both during and after class, fostering constructive communication. In addition to learning the tea ceremony’s techniques, our deep conversations with the teacher provided valuable insights into the philosophy behind the ceremony and the concept of Wabi-sabi, Japan’s nuanced sense of beauty.

I strongly recommend trying out the tea ceremony if you want a quick dive into Japan’s rich cultural heritage within just three months. Fujimura sensei is genuinely warm and approachable. Her teachings not only cover the tea ceremony but also introduce you to Japanese ideology, offering a comprehensive and enjoyable experience. It was a pleasure getting along with her.

Ying Pan: Tea Ceremony

For my CIP this semester, I had the pleasure of learning the tea ceremony (茶道) with Fujimura Sensei from the Wabichakai tea ceremony. Under the guidance of Fujimura Sensei, who has almost 20 years of experience with the tea ceremony, we learned the basic steps of a tea ceremony for two hours each week at a serene temple near Kyoto Station or in the tranquil ambiance of a tea room near Takagamine. Our lessons were conducted fully in Japanese and Fujimura Sensei served us some of the best wagashi (Japanese sweets) every lesson. 

One of the most enriching aspects of this journey was Fujimura Sensei’s generosity in sharing not just her knowledge of the tea ceremony, but also her personal insights into Kyoto’s cultural history. Her kindness and patience extended beyond the tea ceremony, preparing and accompanying us to meals where she shared valuable knowledge that enriched our understanding of the city’s essence. 

For anyone interested in learning the tea ceremony, my advice would be to embrace mistakes as part of your learning experience. Whether it be understanding the language, messing up the steps, don’t shy away from asking questions as you will always learn something new from it. I would also say to approach the ceremony with an open heart and a willingness to immerse yourself fully in its tranquility—it’s not just about brewing tea; it’s about embracing a way of life, a cultural philosophy that celebrates harmony, respect, and mindfulness. 

Luke Leicht: Volunteering at Nishijin Afterschool Center



Every Wednesday I went to Nishijin after-school center from 3-5pm and helped look after the children ranging from 6-10 years old. The volunteering consists of always engaging with the children and ideally forming relationships with them throughout the semester to create a fun environment for everyone.

The staff will usually speak close to zero english, but they are all kind and patient towards any questions or problems you may have. Additionally, despite the language and cultural differences, most of the children will want to seek you out so there will be times when it could get overwhelming but over time it becomes more manageable.

My biggest piece of advice is don’t be afraid to interact with the kids! Use your Japanese skills, whatever level it may be, to engage with the kids and they will give the same energy back.

Jian Soo: Volunteering at Miyakoshi Fukakusa Youchien

I volunteered at Miyakoshi Fukakusa Youchien; activities included reading simple English books to the children (and doing translation to Japanese), playing board games with them (which they loved to cheat at), and generally being a good playmate with the kindergarteners.

Volunteering at the Youchien has been an experience that I will carry with me my entire life. If you like working with kids, there is no better CIP to choose.

Some advice to incoming students: the kids really like to have ‘skinship’ with you: this sometimes includes them just randomly jumping onto your back, sitting in your lap and hugging you. Make sure you are comfortable with some physical contact if you want to do this as a CIP.