Timi Chang: NicoNico Tomato Volunteer

For my CIP I volunteered at NicoNico Tomato, a Kyoto University Hospital volunteering organization dedicated to children who are unable to leave the hospital due to their illnesses. As someone who had the experience of volunteering in several schools, mental facilities and senior homes, I was expecting a somewhat similar experience at NicoNico Tomato. However, the volunteers at NicoNico Tomato had shown me a whole new level of commitment and care that made my experience at Kyoto University Hospital unique and unforgettable. From making small Christmas gift baskets for children to decorating the entire playroom into a Halloween themed photoshoot, the volunteers showed incredible attention to details and ensured that the children in the hospitals are getting the experience they would get if they were able to attend schools.

Although I did not get to interact with the hospitalized children as much as I would like to, I spent a lot of time making crafts and decorations with the other volunteers of the organization. We would often sit around the table and chat while we handmade gifts and cards for the children. At first it was hard to have conversations with the other volunteers because most of the volunteers at Niconico Tomato are slightly older and already know each other quite well. However, they were all extremely friendly and loved to listen to my stories as a 留学生 in Japan. Therefore, as I spent more time with them, having conversations became easier and more natural. They shared videos of their grandchildren and pets with me, taught me how to act appropriately when talking to elders in Japan, and even gave me advice on how to be a independent and happy young adult. These are the things that I never expected to get from a volunteering service in a hospital. As a KCJS student in Doshisha, you find yourself surrounded by people who are more or less similar to you. By joining NicoNico Tomato, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and meet some Japanese people who shared my passion and are more experienced in life. Their loving and compassionate personality not only made my experience in the hospital memorable, enriched my entire study abroad experience, but also inspired me to continue to devote myself to volunteering.

Lauren Guz: Cooking Classes

For my CIP I took cooking classes at La Carriere.  I was the only foreigner in my classes which made it a really interesting experience.  In the first few classes I wasn’t able to understand most of the directions, and had to rely on watching more than listening, but as classes went on I started to pick up more and more words.  Eventually I could ask about specific cuts, what heat to put the stove to, etc.  My Japanese in regard to specific food and cooking techniques was probably not 100% correct, but I was able to get my meaning across, and being able to communicate better translated into the food I made, which also became better and better.  I also had opportunities to talk to Japanese women, ranging in age from 18 to 70, which gave me many opportunities to practice all speech styles, from casual to polite and even keigo.

After a long day of regular college classes and studying, listening to Japanese for a few hours could be tiring, but it was always worth it when I could sit down with the women and eat the delicious food we had made.  Everyone was always really nice to me, and it was a great experience.

It provide me a place and a role in Japanese society as an actual individual and not just a foreigner.  Usually when I try to integrate myself into Japanese society, my role in the setting would very much be defined by being a foreigner.  However, when I was in the cooking classes I was just another student there to learn how to cook.

Will Fitzell:KLEXON

This semester for my CIP (Community Involvement Project), I chose a different route than I did last semester by deciding to join an English conversation circle.  While it did take me awhile to find out about this circle, I have been able to attend this circle’s events three times thus far (and I intend to go to the group’s next two meetings as well before I leave Japan).  The group is open to anybody who wishes to attend, and of course by nature of it being a circle which focuses on English, foreigners are especially more than welcome to attend.  While the group does feel somewhat artificially structured in the sense that it has its activities scheduled rather precisely, it is definitely a worthwhile experience.  The structure of every meeting starts out with a sort of “speed dating” like part where one row of people stay seated and every three minutes or so the person who one is talking to moves one seat over to talk to the next person.  This is a good way to meet people quickly, but always reintroducing oneself can be a bit cumbersome.  In addition, if you have started a great conversation with somebody that you would like to continue, you’re out of luck once people have to rotate.  If you run out things to talk about during this portion of the meeting, you can always fall back onto the default topic which they provide you (in my experience it was usually something like “your favorite childhood food” or something else often pertaining to one’s childhood).  Usually during this part, people often elected to talk about, since I am obviously a foreigner, where I am from, what I am doing in Japan, where I have traveled in Japan, how long I will stay, and any other number of things that come up naturally in the conversation.  After the “speed dating” part of the meeting, for the rest of the time, people are given a random number and all split into these randomly assigned groups.  There are different prompts and topics to talk about, but this is a fun part to talk to people in a group setting about different things.  First everybody introduces themselves one-by-one while the others make comments back about things (I would always mention how I am an Asian studies major and how I really love Lady Gaga, for example).  One of the assigned topics I can recall offhand was about a dream we have had while sleeping (which was a great chance for me to show people how weird my dreams are).  Another was about games we loved to play as children, for example.  At some point, the conversation strays from these assigned topics into a more natural one where you get the chance to better connect with the people you’ve just met.  For me, I have a MUCH easier time expressing my real personality when I use English, so I felt like I could really truly be me, and if somebody didn’t understand something, I could always of course explain it to them in Japanese.  All in all, through Klexon, I did meet a LOT of very cool people, and I even had one or two people ask for my LINE contact information.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of chances to go to these meetings despite the fact that they were held every Tuesday evening, and as a result, I was disappointed in that I feel like I didn’t make any real friends from this circle.  My advice for anybody wishing to join this circle would to be more proactive with that by attending meetings more and also the group’s additional non-meeting events (which I unfortunately was never able to attend).  The meetings themselves were certain enjoyable even though the Tuesday evening meeting time forced me to cancel my host family dinner time every Tuesday.  One unfortunate thing I thought about the meetings was right when the official meeting time ended, nobody stuck around to talk more outside of meetings which I feel would have been valuable for really making connections with other people.  But, at the end of the day, Klexon was a very nice and very convenient circle to join that I would recommend for casual fun and getting to talk to people.

I can’t in all good conscience make any sweeping claims about Japanese culture as a whole from my time at these meetings, but perhaps a few cultural characteristics can be inferred.  Particularly, the most noticeable, to me at least, is how structured and regularized this group is.  It feels much less like a place to make new friends and much more of a place to get in something of an hour of English practice at the same tightly scheduled time every single week.  Meetings start promptly at 7pm every Tuesday evening and end promptly at 8pm.  At that time, everybody leaves the room (a different circle has its event immediately after in the same room), and everybody returns on their merry way, nobody stays after to further pursue conversations.  It ultimately feels like a less natural and more artificially scheduled and carried out sort of affair.  Perhaps this could be a reflection of Japanese people to treat such opportunities as just another time slot to fill versus a time to just relax and talk to new people.




このミーティングはすごく楽しかったと思います。さすがに、英語だけ話すという事実のおかげで、本当の性格が表れやすいと思います。将来、たぶんKLEXON の友達ができるでしょう。

Will Fitzell: G-FRONT Kansai

For my CIP, I joined an LGBT circle called G-FRONT KANSAI in Osaka.  My reasoning for joining an LGBT circle was because I had the desire to learn about the differences within American LGBT culture and Japanese LGBT culture.  While I only was able to attend two meetings of G-FRONT, I feel that I was able to learn quite a bit.

First, LGBT culture has a number of unique vocabulary items, and learning new words and the equivalents to American LGBT culture words was a very cool thing for me.  The way LGBT circles operate in America versus Japan is also rather different.  In American LGBT circles (at least the ones at the University of Michigan), a person’s pronouns are asked, sexuality is never explicitly stated in self-introductions, and personal questions are often not asked for fear of making a person too uncomfortable.  At my LGBT circle here in Japan, I was asked to state my sexuality in my self-introduction, was asked several times what my ideal “type” is (we even had a session where we all talked about our ideal type of boyfriend which was the focus topic of my first G-FRONT meeting).  At the second meeting I attended, the subject was much more complicated—it focused on the issues of being LGBT while in care houses for the elderly.  Unfortunately, the conversation was so complex and rapidly spoken about that I was essentially unable to contribute anything truly meaningful to the conversation, which was a shame.

G-FRONT seems to do activities and events for different types of people, so whenever I went to a meeting it was all gay men (meetings/events for lesbians or transgender people are separated for example).  One distinct thing I noticed right away about G-FRONT was that, because it is not a college group, the members were quite a bit older than I.  In fact, the youngest member besides me was 34, the oldest being in their 50’s!

After each meeting and get together that is part of the official G-FRONT itinerary, about half of the group goes out to dinner to get some food and a few drinks, so I was invited and joined them both times I attended a meeting (after the first meeting I went to, I was also taken to a real Japanese gay bar in Osaka, which was a very eye-opening experience for me, but not after the second meeting).  These dinners occurred at the same restaurant each time (indicating the habitual, group spot of choice), and it was at this setting that I got to have more “real” and informal conversation where I learned new words specific to Japanese LGBT culture, the phone apps that gay men in Japan use to meet each other, and all sorts of interesting general information about the gay experience in Japan.

My CIP experiences have been extremely rewarding and fulfilling.  My identity as a gay male has always been one of my most salient identities, and so back in America at college, my friend circles are LGBT-based and I am very involved in the community.  Having been in Japan since June 2014, it wasn’t until I joined G-FRONT in October 2014 that I had any sort of connection to LGBT people in Japan, and I am very glad that I have begun to make these connections.  I greatly look forward to my participation in this circle throughout the next semester that I spend in Japan.

Jared Slawski: Piano Circle

This semester I participated in Doshisha’s Piano Circle, and it proved to be a very interesting experience, despite being nothing like I expected.  For starters, there was no set “meeting time” for the circle.  Instead, there was just an open room in the Shinmachi campus building where club members could come in, play piano, and talk.  I went to the club almost every week, and stayed for a few hours every time.  However, I probably played a grand total of about 20 minutes of piano.  The rest of my time was spent talking with the club members.  We would talk about all sorts of things, from our majors, to our favorite music, to our favorite characters in Super Smash Bros.  It was a very informal environment, which I think helped me quickly get comfortable with participating every week.

Although convenient, the flexible time schedule of the club did have its downsides.  Since people could come whenever they wanted, and the club was comprised of about 70 people, I would rarely ever get the opportunity to meet the same person more than once.  This made developing any sort of deep connections practically impossible for me.  However, although the people would constantly change on a weekly basis, the general atmosphere of the club remained the same.  People would often bring their lunches to the clubroom, and just chat with the other members there.  Occasionally someone would play the piano, but there was never any real formal practice.

After seeing this week after week, I came to the conclusion that Japanese students use the Piano Circle as a way to meet new people with similar interests, and keep in touch with friends in a smaller, less crowded setting.  Actually playing piano is secondary to talking with people and hanging out.  When I think about it this way, I feel like this concept is reminiscent of my experiences joining clubs at University of Michigan.  While some clubs have serious, regimented schedules, a lot of them exist for the sole purpose of making the campus feel smaller, and providing more opportunities to get to know other people who like the same things that you do.

All things considered, I’m glad the Piano Circle turned out to be the latter kind of club.  It was great getting the opportunity to speak with Japanese students in a relaxed, informal setting.  However, as I mentioned before, it’s a real shame I didn’t have many opportunities to develop any deep connections with people, as I would often see them only once, and then never again.  Despite that, I feel like my participation in the club has taught me a lot about daily student life, and how similar it is to my own.



サークルは「G-FRONT関西」と呼ばれています。私の初めてのミーティングの前に、プライバシー(LGBTの問題)を守るという理由で、大阪に着いた時に、G-FRONT のスタッフは大阪にある南方駅で私を迎えに来てくれました。本当のミーティングは私の思ったこととちょっと違っていました。私も含(ふく)めて全員(ぜんいん)で5人だけでした。全員はテーブルに座って、自己紹介をして、サークルの目的や行事について話して、新しいメンバーとして私に行事とサークルの写真を見せてくれました。その後で、全員は同性愛者の男性だから、「好きなタイプ」(容姿や性格など)というトピックについて話しました。

ミーティングを終わったら、メンバーと一緒に居酒屋に行きました。その後で、グループと私はゲイバーに初めて行きました。レストランもゲイバーで、日本のLGBT の文化について話しました。一晩だけとはいえ、日本に着いてから、本当の日本のLGBT の文化について習ったと思っています。





Cameron Bothner: Impact Hub Kyoto

Impact Hub Kyoto is an intense choice for CIP, make no mistake. The organisers,
since day one, have referred to us as interns, and it’s an accurate designation.
Impact Hub is no minimal-effort choice, but I’ve never been one to pick the
minimal-effort option.

If I had one fewer draw on my attention, then I would have been able to give as
much of my time as Impact Hub initially wanted. They asked for three hours of
work and one long hour of check-in meeting a week, plus regular attendance and
assistance at events. And I would have given it all, too; Hub is a cool
organization building the right kind of community and encouraging the right kind
of innovative-slash-disruptive ventures. As it turned out, after a near
thirty-hour weekly commitment to Japanese class, two arduous afternoon classes,
and an understandable desire to form meaningful personal relationships in this
new country, I only had two hours a week to spare. To see it written makes it
look like very little, but it was enough time each week to finish a draft of my
flyer template which I would receive comments on the following week.

More than just being an interesting project, however, Hub is a great place to
meet friendly, interesting people. The space, a cool retrofitted Noh Theatre,
encourages collaborative work and conversation, and there were always a few
members milling about. Impact Hub members are by their nature fascinating
people: artists, activists, academics, and entrepreneurs, and at events or
during the afternoon, conversation was always engaging.

However, either Hub is not really a characteristically Japanese organisation, or
Japanese organisations aren’t really that different from American ones. (I’m
inclined to think that it’s certainly not the second option.) Impact Hub
encourages individual creativity and emotional honesty, and a number of the
members’ English was better than all of our Japanese. This made Hub a
comfortable place to work, certainly, but I recognise that that aspect runs
contrary to the goals of the CIP.

Impact Hub Kyoto is not the CIP for everyone. In fact, it wasn’t the CIP for
everyone, and some found others after a few weeks. But I found it a valuable

カメロン・ボスナー:Impact HUB京都

私はImpact HUB京都でインターンシップのCIPをしているが、それを通じて親切で真面目な日本人と有意義な関係を築くことが出来た。よく習ったり、いい経験を得たりしているので、感謝している。では、HUBで何をしているか説明しようと思う。HUBではよく面白いイベントが企画されるが、他の人にイベントのことを詳しく知らせる必要がある。だから広報のために、宣伝ビラのテンプレートをデザインしている。将来のイベントの細部が簡単に入れられたり、見た目が纏まりがあるイメージを呈したりすることがテンプレートをデザインする意図である。