Leah Sorkin: Pacorn Tennis Circle

For my CIP, I joined Pacorn community tennis circle in Saiin, a neighborhood in southwest Kyoto. I decided to join the tennis circle because I wanted to find a CIP where I could be active but also meet people. When I first joined the tennis circle, I found it very difficult to figure out how practices were structured. It was obvious that there was an implicit hierarchy and that there was a certain order of drills within the practices, but no one verbally communicated any of this to me, so I was very confused for a couple of weeks while I figured everything out. It was also cold! Playing tennis outside in January is not the most comfortable, although aside from a few mutterings of “samui!”, no one ever complained. Throughout my time at the tennis circle though, the weather has warmed, and both the organizer, Ageta-san, the people I came to understand to be chosen by him as informal leaders and instructors, and everyone else were exceedingly welcoming. They tolerated my rusty tennis skills throughout the drills, and pulled me aside to help me learn or fix certain strokes one-on-one.

On the more social side of things, I never managed to break past small talk with anyone, but the circle provided me with the opportunity to meet many young Japanese professionals, an opportunity I probably would not have had otherwise. While most of the members of Pacorn are men in their 20s and 30s, who are often difficult to engage in conversation, especially, I think, from my standpoint as a young American woman, a few of them have reached out to me, especially more recently, and the few women in the circle have engaged me in interesting, if shallow, conversations. One very vivacious man introduced me to a great number of people a few weeks ago, and while I could not possibly remember all of them, his introductions helped with some of the hesitation around speaking to me, especially around whether I could speak Japanese.

All in all, I am glad that I dragged myself all the way across Kyoto to Saiin a few times this semester to get to play some tennis and interact some of Kyoto’s young professionals. I would recommend joining Pacorn to future KCJS students, especially if you live close by!

Julia Cancio: Kyoto Tennis Circle

For my CIP I attended a tennis circle here in Kyoto where lots of people from the community attend practice regularly.  Because I play tennis at my home school, I was really excited to use my CIP as an opportunity to continue practicing even while here in Japan.  Most of the people I practiced regularly with were in their twenties or thirties and had already graduated college, but there were also some college-aged players that I was able to get to know.  In my opinion, the fact that I was able to make friends outside of a college setting really offered me a different view of Japanese society, and I found it to be a very valuable experience.

When I first went to a practice I was pretty nervous; I knew it would be okay, though, because I knew that we would all have tennis in common.  The first few practices I was shy and didn’t really speak with anyone, but as time went on I pushed myself to move out of my comfort zone and start to try to have conversations with the people I was regularly practicing with.  Everyone has been so kind to me, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to get meals with the circle members.  I’ve made some great friends and have learned a lot about many of the participants individually.  I think it’s been really interesting to be able to talk about Japan’s culture and language with people who are out of college (we’ve had conversations on everything from education to keigo), and I’m also very happy that I’ve had the opportunity to share about the United States (and my thoughts on the recent presidential election featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) with people who maybe wouldn’t have known anything about it otherwise (outside of what is shown on the news).

Overall this has been one of the best and most memorable parts of my time here as a part of KCJS.  The tennis, of course, has been fun (and necessary for my training), but the best part about it was the relationships I was able to form.  Without the CIP it’s possible I wouldn’t have been able to make as many friends as I have here and so I’m really glad to have had this experience.

If anyone is interested in going to the circle in the future here is the link for their website:


They have beginner level players all the way up to collegiate level players so anyone can go and play!

Kamuela Lau: English Assistant, Kaiseichuu, Klexon

I have chosen to be an English teaching assistant as my main CIP for this semester. Due to the discrepancy between the American academic calendar and the Japanese academic calendar, I was unable to continue volunteering at Kaisei Junior High School, and thus I joined an English-conversation circle (club) in Kyoto called Klexon.

I went to Kaisei five times. The first time, I felt that the class period was quite long, and by the last time, the it seemed that the class went by extremely fast. The most rewarding aspect of this experience was the conversations I had with the students; although during the class period, I mainly spoke English, before the class (during their lunch break), I spoke and shared my experiences with them in Japanese.

Interestingly, the Japanese students learning English in a classroom setting appear to have similar difficulties as English speakers learning Japanese. For example, verbs like ageru, morau and kureru, which all have a deictic fuction often marked by a preposition in English, are often difficult for students learning Japanese. Likewise, the students in the class appeared to have trouble with the prepositions in English.

I have only gone to Klexon twice, but I have already found it to be a good experience. The Japanese people in the circle are all there to improve their English ability, and thus they are very open with foreigners, and are happy to make new friends. For example, after the first meeting, I was invited to get some food with some of the other members.