William HB – Urasenke 2


My second semester of Urasenke has been an enlightening one.  I have learned many things about tea ceremony, not least of which were the final steps of the process itself.  While gaining an initiate’s grasp of the movements themselves and allowing muscle memory to develop, I have taken a class pertaining to the history and cultural background of tea ceremony. I have been able to discern, to some minor extent, the meaning of the aesthetics of tea ceremony and the importance of the pottery, and the philosophy behind each tea gathering.  Understanding the way tea ceremony changes according to season is another facet of tea ceremony I have enjoyed studying.  I wish there had been further opportunities to study, as only two sessions a month is rather few, but each one is rewarding and helpful in a new way.  Finally beginning to understand the minimalist wabi-sabi aesthetic with my own hands is something that has had a profound impact on my understanding of Japanese culture and history.

My study of Japanese history has changed substantially during my time in Kyoto because I have been able to connect to historical Japanese people in a way I could not before.  Tea ceremony has been a large part of that.  Making the same movements in the same order as Date Masamune or Toyotomi Hideyoshi; it brings an entirely new meaning to my understanding of the role tea ceremony played in their lives and decisions.  Those connections to Japan’s history lie in more than just the movements in the process.  Each tea style is a family-owned franchise which only sons can inherit.  The various providers of tea utensils are themselves family run and approved by the family heads of the tea schools.  The answers to many things about Japanese history lie in the microcosm of Japanese society that is the tea room.

My CIP has been a critical piece of my learning experience in Japan.  I have met many people and learned about the meaning tea ceremony has for them in their everyday lives.  I have connected with the community in Imadegawa and Kyoto in a way I could not have otherwise.  My study of tea ceremony has also enabled to me to form a better connection with my host family.  My host grandfather’s matrilineal grandfather was a famous potter and there is an entire family of potters living in our neighborhood, not to mention a tea ceremony teacher.  I have come to realize that different pieces of tea ceremony, whether it is the philosophical tenets or the material tools, permeate Japanese society at every level.  I fully intend to continue my study of tea ceremony to the extent that I am able once I have returned to America.

Anastasia Sorokina: Deepest Kyoto Tours (DKT)

Ancient kamado rice cookers, Akira Kurosawa’s former film studios, and the movement to protect Kyoto’s machiya houses are some of the myriad topics Deepest Kyoto Tour (DKT) covers on its tours—and, to my surprise, ones that have made a significant impact on my time in Japan.

DKT is an agency geared toward foreign travelers, its premise being that tourists should get to experience a Kyoto that exists behind the glimmering façades of Ginkakuji brochures. The tours cover a variety of themes, ranging from the possible connections that may exist between Judaism and Buddhism, to Kyoto’s wholesale fish markets. I have DKT to thank for the unique histories it exposed me to during my first few weeks in Kyoto, a time when I still considered visiting konbini one of the most exciting cultural experiences Japan had to offer.

From how meetings are held to how decisions are made between co-workers, my experience at DKT gave me a glimpse into how Japanese organizations are run on a day-to-day basis. It functioned both a nice complement to the broader themes we cover in the KCJS Corporations class, and as research material for an ethnography I’m writing in my language class.

My ethnography focuses on how people handle disagreements in Japan. How do members of a collectivist society in particular conduct arguments?

Amusingly, I witnessed many disagreements and cultural misunderstandings in my time as an intern, particularly between the foreign interns and the Japanese staff. What I found most curious was how the staff responded to the students when we made mistakes—it seems as if in these interactions especially, there was a tendency to repeat a statement that one believes is correct rather than go into more concrete detail as to why one believes in that particular statement.

Let’s take, for example, the time that I got lost trying to meet up with the rest of our group for one of our Saturday tours. I showed up at the JR Uzumasa station, confused as to why at five minutes to nine, I couldn’t see a single person from DKT. When I called the coordinator to ask her if the meeting was still on, she informed me that I was mistaken, as we were scheduled to meet up at the Uzumasa Tenjingawa Subway station. After some deliberation, I understood her command as instructing me to meet her at this station. So off I went, walking for about twenty minutes before I arrived at the station and again saw no one there. I called my coordinator again.

“Hi (Or perhaps more accurately, moshimoshi)! I’m finally at Tenjingawa,” I told her. “Where should I meet up with you?”

“What?!” she responded. “You mean you’re at Uzumasa Kyoruji, the Randen station, right?”

I looked around to see signs for the subway and big Helvetica letters spelling out UZUMASA TENJINGAWA. “No, I’m pretty sure I’m at the subway station.”

And this is where things got a little weird.

“But I told you to go to Kyoruji. You’re at Kyoruji, right? You’re at Kyoruji.”

“No…I’m sorry, I really don’t–”

“You’re at Kyoruji, right? We’ll meet you there. We’re taking the next train over!”

And so the conversation proceeded until I relented and told her I was indeed at Kyoruji, and that I’d see her soon.

To get myself out of this pickle, I decided to hitch a ride toward Kyoruji on the Randen train, a stop for which was right across from the subway. Lo and behold, when I boarded the platform, I saw my coordinator and her co-worker standing just on the other side of the wall that separated subway users from Randen users.

This is just one example of how a number of our interactions went, each of which made me wonder–why is it that no one appears to be listening to my reasoning? What have I done wrong? Is this normal for Japanese adults, or have I just come into contact with some quirky people recently?

If I were to go out on a limb to answer these questions, I’d say it’s a matter of age and people automatically assuming that I’m somehow mistaken in an interaction, whether because I’m younger, or perhaps because I’m a foreigner.

Ultimately, this is only a generalization based on experiences I had with about five people, not controlled for such factors as age, gender, or sample size. I haven’t spent much time observing arguments between Americans, or Americans and foreigners, either. It’s not very scientific discovery, but it’s something to think about. Has anyone else experienced arguments in Japan? Have you seen a similar trend? How have you handled disagreements while you’ve been here?

Malcolm McKinney: Doshisha University Glee Club

One of the downsides of taking a semester abroad in Japan is that I would miss preforming one of my favorite major works, Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor with the Glee Club at my home institution at the end of April. However, when I became acquainted with Doshisha’s campus, I was excited to find out that Doshisha has a Glee Club as well, which I did not hesitate to join. In my previous blog post, I explained just how unbelievably similar my Glee Club is to Doshisha’s, from the inside jokes, all the way to the songs that we sing. Unfortunately, once Doshisha students were let out for spring vacation, the rehearsals were very difficult if not impossible to attend due to the fact that they were either scheduled during Japanese language classes or took place at Doshisha’s main campus an hour away from KCJS campus. Each week I couldn’t attend rehearsals, I became a bit more anxious about whether or not I would be able to fulfill the KCJS CIP commitment.

Toward the end of Doshisha’s spring break, I invited one of the Glee Club’s managers, who introduced himself to me as “Onee-san,” for lunch near Shijo. It was not until recently that one of the other members of the Glee Club told me that the manager was stuck with unfortunate nickname, because he makes a drastic transformation into an onee-san at nomihodai with members of the Glee Club. And as he said the word onee-san, he limped his left wrist for comedic effect, which made his explanation all the more clear. After discussing over a soba lunch about how the Glee Club was doing recently and how he was preparing for shu-katsu, or job-hunting, he pulled out a volume entitled “Doshisha’s Favorite Songs.” As I flipped through the book of sheet music, I came across the song “Ride the Chariot,” a song that the Doshisha Glee Club sang for the audience during a reception after the farewell concert I attended in February. Interestingly enough, at Cornell, we also share the same custom; among other songs, we also sing, “Ride the Chariot” for our audience members, who decide to stick around after our concert. Flipping not much further, my jaw dropped in disbelief when I came across the next song in his book.

It was Franz Beibl’s Ave Maria; a magnificent piece that is so inextricably linked to the history of Cornell’s Glee Club, to the extent that the song itself has become distinctly Cornellian in the hearts of all Cornell Glee Club members past and present.In short, the Ave Maria would have most likely have been lost in obscurity if Biebl had not entrusted it to director Thomas A. Sokol during the Glee Club’s tour in Germany in the 1970’s. Once the Glee Club returned and introduced the song back to the United States, it became instantly popular. As I was still in awe as to how could this song could have possibly traveled all the way to Japan, Onee-san told me that the Doshisha Glee Club preformed Ave Maria several years ago, though it had been before any of the current members were in the club. After talking further about Ave Maria, I asked Onee-san if I could practice with the Glee Club once more, even if it would mean that it would be an inconvenience for me. After asking around, he invited me to the practices that the Glee Club holds for its shinnyu-sei, incoming freshmen that are potential members for the club.

The week before classes began for the Doshisha students, a club fair was held, which made the campus quite bustling with activity. I stopped by the Glee Club booth, where I was greeted with a warm welcome. Not too much later, a recent alumnus from the Glee Club also came by to say hello. Noticing me as the one who likes Biebl’s Ave Maria, he expressed relief that I was able to understand Japanese, since it would be very difficult for me to participate in rehearsals if I had not. Even though he said these praises, it had been difficult to follow the more abstract breathing and vocal techniques in rehearsal. Moreover, being that the Glee Club is composed of all men, during my time in the club, I had quite some difficulty deciphering the words that were spoken to me. Male speech in Japanese is characteristically rapid, seasoned with contractions and slang words, and peppered with Kansai-ben, the dialect of Japanese that is spoken in and around the Kyoto region, which is not taught in the classroom. Contrary to his praises, even his continuing remarks were a bit difficult for me to follow. From what I could piece together, Doshisha’s Glee Club recently had an excellent relationship with the Yale University’s Glee Club, a fact that is clear when one notices that Doshisha’s College Song has been adopted from Yale’s. However, for whatever reason, the Glee Clubs have not been in contact since their last joint concert in the 2000s. Quite ambitiously, he mentioned that it would be fantastic if Doshisha’s Glee Club were to establish a connection with Cornell’s Glee Club, with me as a bridge between the two worlds. Though coordinating such an collaboration would be an undertaking too lofty to imagine, I can not help but wonder how incredible the experience would be if we were to perform together in concert.

Miles Bothwell: 茶道

Tea Ceremony

After nearly a year of practicing Tea Ceremony, I may not be another Sen no Rikyu (famous master), but I do feel like I have learned a lot more from my bi-monthly lessons than just how to prepare and serve tea to someone in a chashitsu.  For the first semester, and much of the second I spent my time devoted to memorizing rule after rule, and proper form after proper form, but did so in the company of salarymen, fellow Doshisha students, old ladies, and of course a fellow kcjs friend.  Through this multitude of interactions, I have seen the inner workings of a society entirely incomprehensible to outsiders, both foreign and Japanese.  And, thanks to participating in various non-tea related events with the organization, I have seen how many of the members live and behave outside of their tea room personalities.

Last semester, the only interactions I had with other members were very limited. It consisted of two experiences outside of the classes: one at yet another tea ceremony at Doshisha’s yearly event, Eve, and one time eating lunch with a fellow Doshisha/Urasenke school student.  Because of this, I may have been “in the Urasenke community”, but did not know anything about anyone in it beyond what they would say in a jikoshokai.  However, this changed early on in this semester when HB and I went to a Urasenke dansei nomihodai/tabehodai party on a Tuesday night.  With a limited Japanese vocabulary, and even more limited speaking skills considering the circumstances, it was a miracle we managed to hold even small talk conversations, but we did.  We did, and we were actively part of the group for once instead of being the gaijin shuffled off to the side room to practice tea ceremony for the week like we normally are. And as a result, each time I participated in tea ceremony classes after that, interactions between us (the only gaijin) and the other guys in the school felt more comfortable; it was on some level an informal “initiation into the club”.

While I started this CIP as a way to get hands on in my previously researched-only studies, I think I have appreciated the experience a lot more because I was also given a modern culture education. Had I just taken private lessons, this would not be the case.  In this way, I am less concerned about the fact that I still cannot perform a full tea ceremony with a kama yet, and am limited to using a thermos for hot water.  Of course there also have been a few hiccups along the way that slowed my progress down to cause this, like my parents coming to one of the lessons.  Looking back on it all, I know I will continue Tea Ceremony schooling as soon as life permits, but for now I am glad to have come as far as I have.


Neena Kapur: Zazen Meditation at Daisen-in

I began the semester working with Deepest Kyoto, a locally based tour group that seeks to explore the more unknown parts of Kyoto. While it was a valuable experience, I ended up switching CIPs come March due to the time commitment required for Deepest Kyoto. The CIP I have been pursuing, as of late, is Zazen meditation lessons at Daitokuji temple. This experience has enriched my time here in Kyoto in so many ways, and I’ve learned so much from it (both in terms of Japanese culture, and in terms of good meditation practice!)

Every Sunday evening, I arrive at Daitokuji’s Daisen-in sub-temple, pay a small fee, and enter an atmosphere of peace and serenity. Needless to say, it’s a good place to de-stress after a long week, and mentally prepare for the week ahead. I usually arrive about 15 minutes early so I can spend some time wandering through the rock garden before settling into the meditation room, zenshitsu. Lessons are open to the public, so while I (and a few others) consistently attend, there are also new faces every week. There are usually 3-5 people in attendance, and the Daisen-in Buddhist Priest, obousan, leads the lessons.

But, what is Zazen meditation? Great question! Zazen meditation is the meditation technique that’s practiced within the Zen Buddhist sect, and it has a few unexpected surprises. While it begins the way most meditation I’ve done in the past does—legs crossed, back straight, eyes closed (or focused on a specific spot), and hand in a mudra—after a few minutes, the priest comes and hits everyone on the back with a long stick, keisaku, with the purpose to keep your mind sharp and awaken you from any sleepy thoughts. Don’t be scared! They hit hard, but, believe it or not, it really feels good, and it really improves meditation concentration. The amazing thing about it is the tradition surrounding how the series of strikes are delivered. On my first day, the obousan instructed me that, to receive a strike, you must bow to the obousan, who bows back, then you lean forward, and he delivers three precise strikes—right, left, left—on your back, for which you then sit up quickly and bow in thanks, then return to meditating. Throughout the entire hour-long session, you can request a strike by the keisaku at any time by putting your hands together.

After an hour long of non-stop meditation (let’s just say that I literally cannot feel my legs for a good five minutes after it), we all retire to the tea-room, and drink matcha and eat wagashi and chat for half an hour or so. This part of the evening is especially nice, because I have the opportunity to interact with the obousan, which is such a privilege and learning experience. Not only does it give me the chance to practice my keigo, but I also get to learn about Zen Buddhism (architecture, meditation practices, the history of the Daitokuji temple, rock garden art) directly from a Buddhist priest. Every evening is a really incredibly experience, because the obousan loves to get to know his pupils, and also loves to talk about history. So, I get a chance to tell him about myself and develop a relationship, while also gaining a unique perspective on Kyoto’s rich history.

This experience has been incredibly rewarding, and it saddens me that in just a few weeks, my venue for meditation will change from the beautiful Daisen-in temple, with cool breezes and rock gardens, to a messy bedroom. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to develop a relationship with and learn from a Zen Buddhist priest, and I hope to continue practicing the meditation techniques I learned this semester upon returning home.

Kaneisha Payton: Kyoto Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA)


The more I volunteered at the YWCA, the more I came to like it. I wanted to help out at an organization that supports women, and the YWCA allowed me to do just that. There are various ways you can volunteer at the YWCA, ranging from assisting with event organization to answering phones on the women’s crisis hotline. Although I did spend an evening at the crisis center, where I learned about some of the more prevalent problems (including domestic violence, abandonment, and employment issues) that women in Japan— particularly, non-Japanese women —face, I ended up choosing to volunteer in the after school childcare program. This program facilitates free childcare to whoever needs it, and even provides meals in the event that the parent needs to work late.  Simply knowing that the service was so necessary was fulfilling.

My favorite part of the experience, however, was definitely hanging out with Chinatsu-chan. During my time there, Chinatsu-chan was the only kid who showed up regularly. Usually, another volunteer and I made sure she did her homework, then passed the time with games or letting her read borrowed manga. I loved hearing her chat about school life and her friends. It taught me a little bit about what the Japanese school system is like from a student’s perspective— from having to clean the classroom to playing surprisingly complicated hand games for the sake of becoming 仲がいい. Moreover,  a lot of her stories were pretty hilarious. She was very energetic, though, so it was occasionally hard to keep up with her. Once, in an attempt to channel her energy, I tried to teach her a bit of kung-fu. It was definitely memorable. As someone interested in teaching English in Japan after graduation, I’m very grateful to have had this experience, but I would recommend volunteering here to anyone with an interest in a laid-back way to be involved in a close-knit community, or working in an environment that supports women.

Tori Moore: Nico Nico Tomato

I have been volunteering at Nico Nico Tomato for the last four months, which is a volunteer organization based out of Kyoto University hospital. My time volunteering is usually divided between working with small children in a playroom within the hospital or spent organizing materials for fundraisers, events, and sometimes making presents for the pediatric staff. The work itself is fun and interesting, but I also enjoy observing the day-to-day operations of one of Kyoto’s largest inner city hospitals.

There were two approaches I took when participating in my CIP; the first was the “official” reason I was there: to experience Japanese in a setting besides my classroom or homestay, in which I think the volunteer work was an interesting and worthwhile setting and let my Japanese language skills develop more naturally. The second approach I took was from the perspective of a pre-medical student observing the operations of a hospital as somewhat of an insider, an opportunity I hadn’t had yet, but one crucial for any pre-med student’s application to medical school.

The last few times I visited Nico Nico Tomato, I have spent the first forty-five minutes or so folding pamphlets, estimating the prices of small toys to be sold for a fundraising “café,” or sticking stamps onto envelopes, all while chatting with the volunteers, who are mostly housewives. I often find myself listening to their conversations more than I participate in them, but as time has progressed in the semester, I’ve noticed that I comprehend a lot more than I initially did. I see this time as good practice for listening and speaking, and it’s usually pretty relaxing as well.

After a certain time or when I’ve finished my job, I’ll go down to the playroom on the floor below and hang out with the kids. I like to think of that as a more rigorous Japanese practice, but I normally am having too much fun to really focus on the language like how I do in a classroom, and rather more how I consider it when talking to friends or my host family. I also always get to bring a thing I made home as well, which is always nice.

I honestly never expected my CIP to be as enjoyable as it eventually became; the first few times I visited the hospital were tiring, too hot, and, on account of not a small lack of confidence in my language ability, quite stressful. However, the hours I put in conversing with the volunteers in the staff office and children in the playroom quickly paid off and I think my listening ability became much stronger as a result.



Koji Spangler: Klexon

During a semester in which you often find yourself on the wrong side of a language barrier, seeing others work on a foreign language is encouraging. In the English circle Klexon, I was not only able to interact with Japanese participants of various backgrounds– I was afforded a different perspective regarding my own Japanese studies. For all the moments you feel insecure, unsure, or even embarrassed during your interactions with native speakers, Klexon is a reminder that the embarrassment or discomfort is not mutual. In many ways, Klexon motivated me to study harder, interact more freely, and test my own Japanese in areas I initially may have shied away from.

As I continued to participate in Klexon weekly, I began to recognize a handful of faces, and became friendly with a considerable number of the circle members. Klexon’s Japanese participants vary in age (as do the native English speakers), but every one is extremely friendly, and very willing to talk. As friendships develop, you may find your English conversations slipping into Japanese. In my opinion, this is one of the great benefits of Klexon. For all the English you speak, you’ll find ample opportunity to work in your Japanese as well (in the all-important arena of informal conversation). With the older participants you may want to keep your Japanese respectful and formal, but you’ll find with your younger friends that slipping into comfortable and informal conversation happens quite naturally. This may be a consequence of the importance and function of age in Japanese relationships, and the way in which age affects interactions (especially in first-encounter situations). In a group setting such as Klexon, where internal hierarchy isn’t clearly defined by rank, significance is placed on age instead. In my own observations, I noted the use of polite Japanese between members of different age groups, but not exclusively from one side. In conversations where an older and younger circle member were speaking, both parties kept the exchanges polite and reserved. It seems that for those with less in common, interactions remain more formal by nature.

In direct contrast to this, I noticed that peers in the same age group would sometimes immediately jump into informal conversation once they realized they were students at the same university, or were both the same age. As a foreigner, you may be hesitant to switch from polite to relaxed conversation with a partner, and you may not know when or how to do so. In my experience, if a peer speaks to you informally, you should probably return the favor. It is at the same time a sign of comfort and friendship. Why reject it? I suppose in many ways Klexon helps a student understand how friendships develop in Japan, and when certain barriers of formality can be crossed and discarded.

Though Klexon has an informal atmosphere in general, one curious point I did notice is that at meetings all the English speakers stay seated, while those who came to practice English rotate from person to person every ten minutes. While this is of course practical, I couldn’t help but feel there was an element of respect attached to the gesture as well. We, as English speakers, provide a valuable learning resource for the Japanese participants. As such, we’re treated by the circle leader almost as guests. I suppose its something you might expect in a society where hospitality and manners are valued so highly.

Ivan Escamilla : HUB Kyoto

My experience at HUB Kyoto has changed my perception of the Japanese community. Having resided in Japan for nearly an academic year, I have gotten accustomed to seeing the intense lifestyle that comes with being a salaryman, usually consisting of people in suits running to and fro within a train station. I have gotten used to the silence that comes with a long train ride that accompanies a slew of people looking down at the floor so that they do not catch anybody else’s eyes. I have even gotten used to the indirect behavior that is the norm here when speaking to just about anyone in society. Although slight variations of these circumstances are present in any situation, HUB Kyoto’s atmosphere provides an excellent foil to the Japanese standard in which the workers there, still maintaining diligence in their work, manage to maintain the relaxed environment that welcomes the fresh new ideas of others. In a society where the nail that sticks out gets hammered down, having a special area in which anyone can enter and present to their community an original idea they have that they think might benefit others stands out so much to me. Such an experience was evident in the Dojo for Change, where although a speaker was presenting this wildly abstract idea to an audience, the audience indulged in the new idea and even had some discussion afterwards. Even in regular work days, which was every Wednesday from around 1:30 to 5, people such as elderly ladies and young men in suits would crowd around the center table at HUB and discuss new ideas, things they had going on, and of course trivial matters such as the weather. The fact that HUB attracted so many different kinds of people, however, is what amazed me most, and I felt pretty lucky to experience it for myself.

Although the ambience and people were always good, the wish would have changed my weekly tasks. Although it was interesting inputting Japanese business card data into a database, as well as draw out layouts of events for the sake of determining better seating arrangements, I felt like I could have done something more. I am not saying I did not like HUB, because I certainly did, it’s just that after a few weeks, I would hear about my classmates and their own CIP projects consisting of playing instruments and going to an art gallery. In other words, my position at HUB was certainly more “behind the scenes” in which I had to do something relatable to office work, whereas I would keep hearing about hobby-like activities that I would have preferred doing. However, from the beginning of the semester, I really wanted to do an activity I could put on my resume, and I do feel like I accomplished that objective. Though I have no true regrets, I would not have minded a little something extra.

HUB Kyoto, from its large theatre room to its large bamboo garden to the kotatsu upstairs, is a unique place. The people that go there are those that believe they can make a change, no matter how big or small. Whether you want to establish a gift-giving economy and write a book about it, or simply want to help set up for events, HUB Kyoto can fit just about anyone’s dreams. Keep in mind, this is not the only HUB in the world; HUB Singapore, Amsterdam, and San Francisco just to name a few, are ongoing projects to this day that continue to work on making communities bright and clean for its people. I am glad I got to see this part of Japan. It gave me a new kind of hope for the younger Japanese generations.

Colleen Gilmore: Zenryuji Nursery School

For the latter half of the semester, I decided to try volunteering at a local nursery school, since I thought it might be a good opportunity to practice my Japanese speaking and listening skills in a relaxed environment. As might be expected, things were a little awkward at first. For one, I struggled a lot to understand anything the kids said. It’s hard enough for me to understand small children babbling in my native language, let alone in Japanese. On top of that, I was not very experienced in dealing with kids in general, so even without the language barrier, I sometimes had trouble figuring out how to interact with them properly.

The good thing about working with kids, however, is that they’re pretty interested in you regardless. For them, it’s very rare to interact with a foreigner, so everything about you in generally fascinating. Without really trying, I came to be pretty well liked, and often had various kids asking me to play with them. I feel like this is really one of the strong points of volunteering with children; while adults, especially in a business setting, can be difficult to approach, kids are much less intimidating and much more inclusive. I was really surprised to find that the kids were pretty willing to explain words you don’t know, and were never too put out if you don’t completely understand them. Because of that, I feel like I was really able to learn a lot about Japanese language that I wouldn’t get from just a classroom experience.

It can be comforting, too, to realize that Japanese children are not so different from us when we were kids. They entertain themselves in many of the same ways I did when I was little, like playing house. Of course, there are certain cultural differences; for example, it took me a while to learn some of the cartoons they like. Really, though, that’s just another part of the fun. As I got to know them better, I became more easily able to relate with them, and all of the awkwardness I felt originally vanished.

All and all, I found that volunteering at the daycare was a very non-stressful way to interact with the Japanese community, and get an interesting glimpse of modern Japanese life. While I had some minor issues at first, overcoming them became a great learning opportunity. Being able to understand the kids’ speech and getting a sense for how to speak properly with them really provided a boost in the listening and speaking area of Japanese that I had always really struggled with. If you’re looking for a CIP that’s both meaningful and fun, I really recommend it.