Kaela Brandt: Assistant English Teacher

At my home school, I am majoring in CSHD (Child Studies and Human Development), so for my CIP I really hoped to do something where I could work with kids. I am also interested in education, so when I explained my wishes to 中村先生, she was able to connection me to 末光先生 (Suemitsu-sensei), who is a private English tutor for young children.中村先生 called 末光先生 ahead of time to explain my situation, but I was also able to make the phone call and talk to 末光先生 myself, to ask if she would take me on as a teaching assistant. I really appreciated this initially process, because I was able to receive some assistance while also having some agency in pursuing my CIP.

末光先生 holds private English teachings at her house, where she and her sister live. Her sister teaches in arts and crafts, so not only is their home decorated beautifully, but the room dedicated to 末光先生’s lessons truly looks like a real classroom! They have visuals and posters of all kinds, games, calendars, abc and counting frames, and books in both Japanese and English for kids as young as kindergarden all the way through late middle school/early high school. I typically attend lessons once a week, for around 1-2 hours. The lessons I assist with are for two young girls, one 10 years old and the other 12. Transportation to and from my CIP is quite easy, as 末光先生’s house is close to Kitaoji Station, only 2 stops away from Imadegawa on the Karasuma line.

I have truly had the most wonderful time during this CIP. I very much enjoy the learning process, so having the opportunity to see and participate in these classes is such a privilege. Linguistically, seeing the way English is taught and experienced by native Japanese speakers is super interesting as well. Many of the materials 末光先生 uses are similar to what I used when I was younger, but seeing firsthand the small differences and approaches to how English is taught has been fascinating. There are many references to American culture that even 末光先生, someone who has studied English the majority of her life and even lived in the U.S. at one point, is puzzled by. I was usually able to shed some light on these elements, but sometimes even I was stumped as well!

The two young girls I worked with were shy at first, but quickly opened up after a few lessons, and we have now grown quite close. What surprised me most was how funny they are after getting more comfortable! We are often able to laugh about various things during our lessons, whether it is bizarre American culture references, the difficulties of grammar in both English and Japanese, or the events of our days. Something that definitely helped us feel closer was when we started to incorporate some more Japanese into our lessons. At first, 末光先生 only wanted me to speak English during the lessons, since it is important to have the exposure of a native speaker for any language learning process. However, 末光先生 also gave me many opportunities to practice Japanese, which helped with my confidence, and made the kids feel more comfortable as well. Before the lesson begins, I explain the events of my day and ask questions to the kids in English. At the end of the lesson, we normally do the same thing, but in Japanese. Also, 末光先生 will sometimes have me read short children’s books in English, but then repeat the same thing in Japanese.

I have also had the opportunity to speak Japanese at events outside of the lessons. For example, 末光先生 held an Oden Party, which was attended by myself, 中村先生, and a few of her students. We all ate oden while taking turns reading our book of choice to the group, all in Japanese. I read Urashimataro, and I was very nervous, but everyone was so kind and encouraging! Also, 末光先生 held a Halloween party, in which I met nearly all of her students and participated in a short skit of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Besides the reading of a short Halloween story, I spoke in Japanese to the children, which worked well, considering my level of Japanese is definitely still at elementary level. I found, also, that it is quite easy to get along with children even with a significant language barrier. Body language and overall demeanor carry much weight, and at the end of the day, many children just want to be around someone who will listen, which I more than happy to do.

Of all the good things to come of my CIP, I am perhaps most grateful for the relationship I have built with 末光先生. She is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met, and is inspiring both as a teacher and a human being. She and her sister have made me feel so welcome in their home, and even have me over for dinner from time to time. We have long conversations in a mix of English and Japanese, and they are endlessly patient with me as I try to match their very good English with my very poor Japanese. They are always excited to share all they know of Japanese culture, and ask many questions about America as well. This semester, KCJS was not able to have host families due to COVID-19 precautions. However, 末光先生 and her sister have made me feel a little bit of what that might have been like, to be so cared for and accepted in a way I did not expect. I encourage anyone who wishes to do a CIP in a classroom setting/working with kids to also engage with the adults in these roles as well; they are extremely passionate about what they do, are more than happy to share what they know with you, and you never know the bonds you may form along the way! My CIP experience is one I will cherish forever, and is definitely one of the most memorable aspects of my time in Japan.

Nicole Tong: Kurama Gakai

For my CIP, I participated in Kurama Gakai, an art circle at Doshisha.

I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed the experience. Since COVID policies dictated that the circle couldn’t reserve meeting rooms in advance, it was necessary to contact the circle the day of in order to find out where it would take place. Out of the four methods I tried (Twitter, LINE, Peing, email), only the last one actually produced an answer. Once I went to two meetings, after missing several, I was able to get the LINE contact of one of the circle’s leaders, and she has been helpfully messaging me where to go. If you are interested in joining Kurama Gakai, I’ve heard that the circumstances will improve starting next semester, but in general I’d recommend joining a circle that has a dedicated club room (BOX).

The meetings last either 1.5 or 3 hours, and are centered around one activity. I had originally picked Kurama Gakai as my CIP because I thought it would be more freeform, and was sorely disappointed – if you’re not looking for structured meetings where everyone is expected to draw the same thing, don’t join. I would say the club activities hit the annoying point of usually being something I don’t particularly want to do – which is a good thing, because it pushes me outside of my comfort zone – but also taking up way too little time – which is a bad thing, because it means I can hardly improve from the experience. All in all, 1.5 hours a week isn’t a lot of investment, but it’s also a paltry amount of drawing time if you actually care about your art but struggle to find opportunities to work on it while cranking out daily Japanese homework and essays.

As for people who want to join so they can talk to Japanese people – I maybe talked for a total of ten minutes across seven weeks.This is probably mostly my fault for being completely socially inept, so I’m sure that those with either adequate social skills or Japanese skills won’t have much trouble as long as you pay for the admission and membership fees.

The earlier you pay your fees, the better. If you wait too long to make your move, you won’t be able to get reimbursed. Participating in a circle, multiple times, without actually becoming a member, just makes you feel like you’re being a burden and freeloading off of the people you’re trying to form friendly relations with. Assumedly it also makes them feel the same way about you, preventing you from joining the circle’s LINE group and leaving you perpetually outside the loop.

In short, I think your enjoyment of your CIP will depend primarily upon your attitude. If you accidentally land a bad CIP, the best thing you can do is to work proactively to change it to a better one, instead of throwing your hands up and accepting your situation because “It’s not really that bad” or “My teachers think I should keep doing it” or “I don’t want to send another email to another club.” Otherwise, you’ll probably regret it.

David Massart: Volunteering at the Higashi Kujo Children’s Soup Kitchen (子ども食堂)

My CIP consisted of volunteering at the Higashi Kujo Children’s Soup Kitchen located at
Kyoto Southern Church. On Thursdays every week, Pastor Baekki Heo, his wife, and some
volunteers (ranging from lower school to university to parents) would prepare a delicious dinner for community members — anyone was welcome. These affordable meals would cost adult customers around ~3 dollars, and no charge for children. I would arrive at around 5:30PM and start working. Due to afternoon classes, I was only able to volunteer from 5:30PM – 9:30PM. During my shift, I would spend the first two hours serving customers, and the last two hours cleaning dishes (including a ~10 minute dinner break). Serving customers was pretty straightforward: put food plates on a tray and bring the tray to the correct location.

The space in the church wasn’t too big but every week a little under 100 customers would
come and sit with their families, friends and loved ones to enjoy a meal. The pastor and his wife do incredible work to build a community full of people that care about each other. One of my most memorable experiences was when one of the customers, a mom, came to the kitchen and helped us clean dishes because we were a little understaffed that day. It’s times like these that made me appreciate my CIP and the generosity of the community surrounding the church. Beyond learning my way around a kitchen in Japanese and serving customers, I was also given the opportunity to interact with a Japanese community and observe a different facet of society in Japan. However, the friendliness and casual atmosphere at the church and amongst volunteers and customers completely crushed any preconceptions. As a beginner Japanese student, I wanted to impress (or rather not disappoint) and use keigo on my first day. During the subway ride I quickly memorized whatever formalities I knew and told myself I would try to use them as much as possible. Believe it or not, within the first 5 minutes of talking to the pastor, I threw keigo out the window and never looked back. The friendly manner in which I was treated and the casual atmosphere amongst everyone there quickly made me realize that it was impossible not to answer back in casual fashion. Apart from kitchen vocabulary and formalities, another big barrier for me to cross was the Kansai dialect. I already knew that I was coming in as a beginner and that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with the speed of most of the volunteers, but add a different dialect to that and my head was just spinning at the end of the day. On the bright side, I was able to learn a lot from the volunteers and felt that I had a better grasp on the dialect and the language after only a few times volunteering!

Throughout my “CIP journey” I learned to be more independent in regards to learning
Japanese. I quickly found out that many of the other volunteers at the church wanted to speak to me in Japanese, but were often hesitant to spark up a conversation. I learned that most of the time, the onus was on me to try and start the conversation. A big piece of advice I can give to prospective or current students at KCJS (regardless of your CIP) is to take advantage of the opportunities that you are given to learn and try to engage with the Japanese community as much as you can. It’s the best way to improve and a great way to make friends in a foreign country!

Hearing from other students’ CIPs it seems that my experience with formalities in Japan may be a pretty rare and unique one, so I would not advise on relying on my experience alone. However, I can say that at my CIP and at most places in Kyoto, locals are always friendly and willing to help you! I am so incredibly honored for the opportunity I was given to volunteer at the church and temporarily be a part of their community — I will most certainly miss it.

Jared Hwang: Volunteering at a Children’s Food Kitchen (子ども食堂)

Throughout this semester, every Thursday, I’ve had the honor to volunteer at the Higashi Kujo Kodomo Shokudo (東九条子ども食堂), or Children’s Food Kitchen.  It is run on the third floor of the Kyoto Southern Church, by the pastor Baekke Heo, a third generation Korean born Japanese. The kitchen is open to anyone and everyone: adults, children, families, or anyone who is in need of a warm, cheap, homecooked meal (free for children, 300 yen for adults). Every Thursday, volunteers, mostly students, gather at the kitchen from the early afternoon to the evening to prepare, cook, and serve food in meals that have been prepared weeks in advance to both be healthy and appeal to the Japanese palate. The end result is a bustling kitchen filled with people from all walks of life: students getting work done, regulars chatting with the kitchen staff, kids running around having fun by the small designated area with toys, or even a national taekwondo champion.  For me, this was the first time I had volunteered at a food kitchen in any real capacity, so I didn’t really know what to expect. However, in just a short time after arriving there, I could truly sense the amount of passion and kindness that goes into the Kodomo Shokudo project, by both Baekke-san and all the rest of the staff. It truly is a kitchen run by the love that these volunteers have for their work, and the bond that’s created with the surrounding community is all the better for it.

During my time volunteering at the Kodomo Shokudo, I was also given a unique opportunity to observe the culture and spoken language in depth. I have to say, even coming into the experience as an official “beginner” at Japanese, I did not understand as much as I thought I would. As is the case with native speaker of any language I’m sure, the casual speech was spoken at a much faster pace than what I was used to. What’s more is that the Kansai dialect was often used, leaving me even more confused, albeit entertained. The kitchen was also extremely casual, which certainly was in opposition to my expectations: newcomers being treated with relatively polite speech, which would slowly transform into the casual style used amongst friends. This assumption was immediately destroyed after just the first day, where the entire staff was so incredibly kind and friendly, that polite form would just have been odd to use.  Throughout my time volunteering I was also able to pick up many Kansai-dialect words, which I am thankful for as Kansai-dialect is a wacky and unique style of Japanese that is great fun to use.

At the same time, I’m not sure how many comments I can make about what I learned about Japanese culture at the Kodomo Shokudo. What I can say is that everyone at the Shokudo, staff and customers alike, have treated me with such kindness and approached me with so much curiosity and interest in my background and where I’m from, and never turned down the opportunity to make conversation and be patient with my less-than-great Japanese. We often had the most fun when the staff would attempt to say something in English, and I would tell them how off they were with their pronunciation. There was a true curiosity and interest in my being foreign, while at the same time being wholly accepting of me into their small community. And, the same kindness that was shown to me is shown to everyone who enters the doors—the way that regular customers interact with the staff and especially Baekke-san and his wife, truly show the bond and appreciation for the customers by the staff, and vice versa. In fact, I asked Baekke-san why he decided to open the Shokudo two years ago, and the answer was simply “I had the space and the kitchen, so there was no reason not to use it to help the community.”  It doesn’t hurt that the Shokudo often is heavily influence by Korean culture and food, and is established in an area with a large Korean population.

Ultimately, I am beyond grateful that I was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Higashi Kujo Kodomo Shokudo. Seeing the passion and kindness with which Baekke and the staff work with every Thursday has not only inspired me to study Japanese language and culture harder, but also seek out a similar volunteering opportunity back home. I am appreciative beyond words for the staff always treating me as an equal and a friend, and I will certainly miss and think about this experience and the people I met once I return home.

Ellen Ehrnrooth: Dance

I initially started out this semester with the intention of volunteering at an NGO so I could improve my formal Japanese skills – something I felt like I was lacking, both in terms of my ability to use it and identify when to use it. I settled on an NGO that a previous KCJS student had had a fantastic semester with, and I was excited to take on the challenge. However, I quickly realized that I did not have the time to contribute meaningfully to the work they did – I felt quite strongly that I was causing them some trouble by being there as a foreigner with questionable Japanese skills. Although my time there was brief, I still learned a lot – I found it really interesting how the keigo dynamics worked in regard to me as a foreigner, and I was called Ellen-san instead of Ehrnrooth-san – then again, I do have possibly the most difficult-to-pronounce-in-any-language name conceivable.

After I came to the decision to switch CIPs, my mind wondered about what was best to do. I had had a less-than-ideal experience at my CIP last semester, which was taking dance lessons. However, I am the world’s most enthusiastic dancer (albeit a not particularly skilled one), and I realized that it was worth giving it another try. Last semester I mostly took K-pop dance classes, which may have been the cause the lack of a community feeling – the majority of the people in the classes were high schoolers and were there with their friends, and it was hard to relate to them in many ways. For that reason, I decided to take classes at a couple different studios with a wider demographic of students this semester, and the styles I’ve focused on have been waacking (a style born out of 1970s Los Angeles LGBT clubs) and hip hop – and I am happy to report they have been a success compared to last semester.

In a sense, it has been a very multi-lingual experience. First of all, the number of random English words that are a part of the vocabulary dancers use continues to surprise me. Both waacking and hip hop find their roots in the U.S., so it makes sense that the technical vocabulary would travel over – but some of the words used have very obvious Japanese counterparts, so the usage of the English words feels kind of unusual.

Not that I am complaining; it does make understanding the instructions much easier, especially when they are combined with the onomatopoeic sounds the instructors sometimes use to describe movements. This has been a challenge, albeit an amusing one. I am really bad at remembering the meaning of Japanese onomatopoeia, and often get it wrong when trying to explain things in conversation, to the amusement of my Japanese friends. However, the power of guesswork can go far, and usually I am able to figure out pretty quickly what I’m being told to do. The times when I don’t, however, are pretty obvious.

Those times of confusion were communicated pretty instantly with my facial expressions, which actually ended up being to my benefit. I think I emote visually a lot, which means the teachers would come over quite often to help me out as it was immediately obvious when I was confused. This was an interesting parallel to my classmates, who tended to just try and focus on drilling the mistakes on their own until they fix them. The different routes we took to get to a place of understanding has been an interesting thing to observe.

Lastly, dance to me is a language in itself – so even when I had some difficulty understanding what was happening around me, when everyone performs the choreography together, there is a sense of mutual understanding. This common understanding went far, and I felt much more welcomed in my classes this semester compared to the last. The teachers took an active interest in asking about me and introducing me to the class, and the students followed suit, with me exchanging contact info with some of them. I think taking classes in more niche styles (waacking and style hip hop fall into that category) helps – people who have niche interests, in my opinion, tend to mostly be happy to find other people who have those same interests, even if there is something like a language barrier that can get in the way of communication.

The studios I attended most often can be found here and here.

Ellen Ehrnrooth: Dance

For my CIP, I have been taking a variety of private dance lessons. I dance back home at Tufts University and figured that this would be a good way for me to participate in a community as I have skills to bring to the table. I have taken a range of class styles, from hip-hop to waacking to K-pop, and I have enjoyed being able to continue a hobby I enjoy so much. I go once a week at least (and sometimes more if I have purchased the monthly pass at the studio which lets you go as many times as you want). I also went to a meeting for one of Doshisha’s dance circles.

There have been a number of things about these dance classes that surprised me. Before starting, I had an image in my head that there would be a reasonably strong sense of community within the dancers as dancers (in the US at least) are generally pretty sociable. I also was hoping that the fact that we had a mutual language in the form of dance would be a good way to circumnavigate the language barrier that exists with my questionable Japanese skills. However, at the dance classes I really had to make an effort to have an interaction with anyone there, as they mostly kept to themselves. A number of times I asked fellow students for help with basic things, which in a few instances led to conversation and LINE exchanges, but for the most part people were fairly solitary. Interestingly, the one time I tried taking a class in Tokyo, I had greater success, with people coming up to talk to me and Chungsun Lee (who I have been taking classes with). Also, the way that one is greeted at dance studios was super interesting to me – I was initially very confused when they said ohayou gozaimasu to me when I walked in at 8pm. It turns out that that is custom for the entertainment world in Japan, and not a reflection of my studio’s inability to tell the time.

The one time I tried attending a session of one of Doshisha’s dance circles, I wasn’t met with much success. It was an informal practice as they weren’t training for anything in particular at the time, so people were just practicing what they wanted. Nobody made an effort to come and talk to me at all, which was really surprising – when I participated in dance communities back at Tufts for the first time, people always came up and introduced themselves and made an effort to make me feel included, even when I was a total beginner. I tried to chat with a few students, but as polite as they were, they evidently were not particularly interested in building any sort of connection with me. I think this was the instance in which I really realized how strong the uchi/soto dynamic is in Japan – they were perfectly friendly towards me, but as an outsider I was not invited to join in anything.

Overall, my experience has been pretty good. I don’t necessarily feel like I have been able to join any community specifically, but for the most part I have been able to just fit in with the rest of the people there as someone who is there to dance and learn. I think for the spring semester, I would like to find a more community-oriented CIP, though, and continue with the dance lessons for fun.

Avni Rajpal: Volunteering with Niconico Tomato

Like many KCJS students before me, I volunteered with Niconico Tomato at Kyoto University Hospital for my CIP. I spent time making artsy decorations and doing activities with the children and their parents. Having read a bunch of previous students’ CIP blogs I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was going into, but the experience surprised me in a number of wonderful ways.

I was initially struck by the unique linguistic challenge that comes with volunteering to help kids alongside a group of おばあちゃん (grandmotherly older women) – switching rapidly between casual and formal speech. I had gotten used to a です/ます(formal) in the classroom and short form with my host family kind of lifestyle, and I greatly struggled with the fact that in the real world things aren’t quite so smooth. For weeks I lived in fear of offending one of the volunteers, or potentially addressing a baby in 敬語 (honorific speech). Through this volunteer experience, I was able to practice and improve my speaking to be appropriate to the situation and involved.

Another thing that really blew me away was the painstaking detail in in all the craftwork. For Halloween and Christmas parties for example, every card was made incredibly patiently with a number of different details carefully assembled together to create something beautiful, colorful and fun. Maeguchi Sensei told me that everything was taken care to be absolutely perfect because for the kids, every event could potentially be their last. This really touched me and made me more truly appreciate the happy environment that niconico Tomato creates for chronically ill children and their families in an incredibly tough situation.

The volunteers were kind and helpful, and though I was shy at first I began to feel like a part of the group with time. I had a lot of fun with the kids, because sometimes even when a group of lovely volunteers dedicates their day to planning a new and exciting activity, everyone just wants to play with blocks in the playroom. I might not have made lifelong connections through this experience but I’m glad I was able to meet the people I did and see the world of good that well organized volunteering can do.

Francesca Kamio: Tamisa Yoga and Kyoto Cooking Circle

Coming into KCJS, I didn’t have a CIP in mind, and honestly, I was a little lost. My clubs and activities at Tufts didn’t quite translate to a circle I could join at Doshisha nor did I have experience in a sport of performing art. I bounced between Bazaar Café, calligraphy, a cooking school, and a hiking circle. Eventually, I settled on yoga at Tamisa Yoga and the Kyoto Cooking Circle ー two of the best decisions I made during my time here.

Tamisa Yoga is located on the popular shopping street Teramachi, about a 20 minute bus ride from Doshisha. The street’s hustle and bustle, with tourists and locals alike, is a refreshing contrast to the serene atmosphere inside the studio. While I did not have extensive experience before taking classes at Tamisa Yoga, I chose yoga because I was looking for a way to destress and relax. I began by testing out a few different classes to see which style I preferred, eventually settling on Rusie Dutton with Asako-sensei. If you end up choosing yoga as your CIP, I suggest attending the same class every week, so you can develop a relationship with the teacher and also familiarize yourself with the teacher’s routine. Because let me tell you, holding a yoga pose, mentally interpreting yoga instructions in Japanese, and simultaneously trying very hard to not make a fool of yourself, is extremely difficult! After a relaxing class, chatting with Asako-sensei is often the highlight of my day. My friendship with her is definitely part of the reason why I return every week, even after a long day of school.

Me and Asako-sensei. Definitely take her class if you have the chance!

Me and Asako-sensei. Definitely take her class if you have the chance!

I supplemented yoga with monthly classes at Kyoto Cooking Circle. While called a “circle,” Kyoto Cooking Circle is not your typical サークル affiliated with a university ー it is actually a class offered to the public at a local community center. Kyoto Cooking Circle also provides me a steady community within Kyoto ー I only wish it was offered more often! From the staff to the regulars that return every month, everyone is kind, accommodating, and excited about food. In the three classes I attended we made okonomiyaki, fall 和食, and nabe. After preparing the meal, we share what we’ve made over tea and conversation.

Emailing is not necessary in signing up with Tamisa Yoga. Your first time visiting, attend the class of your choice and pay for your pass then.
Facebook is the best way to find out and sign up for upcoming Kyoto Cooking Circle events. Make sure to fill out the form!

Lahna “Fury” Sheron: L’s Cat Rescue

After a few attempts to join more KCJS-typical CIPs, like an aikido circle and a choir, I sat down and considered how I actually wanted to participate in Kyoto’s community. The answer to this question, like many others in my life, was cats. I had volunteered for a few years with cats back in America, so I knew the gist of what I was signing up for. My language class sensei located a shelter about a minute’s walk from the Kamikatsura train station. (「=L’s=猫の家族探し」。)
It clicked early on to me that the patient people who worked at L’s were willing to guess at my dubious vocabulary until they understood what I was saying, to my relief.
The first day I got there, there were three kittens who had been born only the previous week and abandoned in the street by their mother, pictured here: http://catls.blog5.fc2.com/blog-entry-477.html
I got to see them saved by the people working there, and sometimes even care for them myself, which was tremendously satisfying since I’d only ever volunteered with cats over the age of 15 back in the states. I remember one week I became very startled to see a very large bump on one of their bellies. I was extremely worried because I’d only ever seen that size of bump on cats who had cancer. I quickly looked up the word for tumor and told the owner of the shelter. She kind of laughed and told me to my relief that it was just a hernia. I don’t know how that little guy got a hernia at three weeks old, but he’s still fine scampering around and I know the word for tumor now.
This is just one of the many stories I have of the good people at L’s saving lives and legitimately caring about their animals. The interesting thing people don’t tell you about many shelters in Japan is that they, like L’s, take place in private homes and living spaces, and are filled with animals to which volunteers donate their time, money, and love. I was shocked to learn this, and am elated there are such good people in Japan fighting under the radar to save animals’ lives, both inside and outside NPO’s.

If your host family or Japanese friends are interested in adopting or sponsoring a cat, please visit http://www.cat-ls.edisc.jp/ for details.

Joseph Tsuboi: Kyoto University Karate Club

One of my goals before coming to study in Kyoto was to practice karate-do in Japan. I began shitō-ryū karate-dō when I was seven years old back home in California and I spent much of my childhood and early adulthood in the dōjō. Away at school in Boston, I have found it difficult to continue competition training and I mainly practice or teach when I am back home during vacations. Therefore, other than summer breaks, it had been a while since I had trained rigorously and continuously. Before leaving California, I talked to my sensei about karate-do in Japan, wondering how different it would be and whether I would be able to fit in easily. My sensei told me about locations in Osaka where I could practice, but, luckily, I was able to find a club that practices shitō-ryū karate-dō at Kyoto University.

Since I began practicing with the Kyoto University karate club, I have learned a lot about both karate techniques and also relationships within Japanese extracurricular activities. The first thing that was apparent to me was the senpai-kōhai social hierarchy within this club, which is prevalent among various groups. Though I had studied a bit of keigo before, I did not actually have experiences in which I could practice, so my keigo knowledge was put to the test during my initial contact with the club through email. When I showed up during the first week of the semester, I could immediately discern who were senpai and team captains. Though this karate club is taught by senpai who are either graduate school students or fellow undergraduate students, kōhai still bow to them in passing. Yet, at the same time, high and low level belts all train together and I was impressed by the skills of the lower levels students. Thus, the senpai-kōhai relationship is definitely intimidating, but the respect towards other members the club produces a great practice environment.

Additionally, I have learned quite a bit about kumite, or sparring, technique. This club splits up based on those who want to practice kata, or form, and those who want to practice kumite. I stuck with the kumite group, mostly because that’s what the majority of the group practices. Back home in my dojo, I take on a senpai role to many of the younger kids and I am expected to teach at times. At Kyōdai’s practices, I am once again kōhai and I have had to adjust my training mentality to accept critique and to be willing to change my techniques. This was not an easy thing to accept at first, but, truly, I know that I have learned a great amount of new skills. As a result, I have become more comfortable and confident in my kumite techniques thanks to Kyoto University karate club, and I hope to bring back what I have learned to my dōjō.