Khanh Ta: FBI Filmmaking Circle

For my CIP, I decided to do something that was related to my main major, Film, so I found a filmmaking circle named FBI to join. Because there are neither film-related classes offered nor are there opportunities to boost up my resume during my time here, I figured joining FBI would be a great way to network as I would also like to find work soon after KCJS is complete. Considering that film is my passion, I figured that this would also help me improve my Japanese exponentially as my interest doubles; getting an insight on how Japanese function within the film industry is also a good place to start professionally.

The club meets irregularly as it depends on whether or not there are upcoming film shoots. There are around 4-5 projects per semester being developed, so I had to try to join a project in order to attend film shoots. After messaging them on Twitter and going to the first general meeting, I was able to get the vice president’s contact information and learned about upcoming film shoots through her. There are also many screenings that we get to attend, considering the club also collaborates with other local universities. We even participate in the Doshisha school festival. The professional level of the club really surprised me, as everyone takes their jobs very seriously. Although everything is student-run and self-organized, I was very surprised of how similar it felt like one of my beginner-level film classes back at BU.

Nevertheless, the first and perhaps still biggest challenge that I faced when joining this club was obviously the language barrier. Because film is a very jargon-oriented thing, I had to learn many new industry-related vocabularies in order to communicate with my club members. It’s difficult communicating advices to club members when I was struggling to find the Japanese word for cinematography or light meters. I came into the club originally assuming that – because this is film, something belongs to Hollywood and America – everyone would automatically at least know the English terminologies at least in some shape or form, even katakana. However, that’s definitely not the case, as, after some heavy research, I realized that there are many kanji words for film-industry jargons. I had to self-teach myself all these things before every shoot in order to communicate well with fellow club members. Even slating is different. Because slating is simply saying the scene’s name and takes’ number, I assumed it would be simple in Japanese as counting and listing the alphabet cannot be that different. However, that was not the case when I arrived on set, as the Japanese slating system that the shoot I was in was completely different to what I anticipated. There was actually no slate; my club members simply kept a notebook to keep track. Perhaps this is a result of lack of funding, but even so I was surprised that they did not use a slating app on their phones instead.

Overall, my advice for future students who are thinking of joining this club is that we all need to be very prepared, especially with learning the specific industry-terminologies in advance. This circle is more of a professional circle for filmmakers, as I really do believe and can see that everyone in the club works very hard and takes their duties seriously. Without the CIP, I would say that my KCJS experience would have been much less fulfilling, and I am incredibly thankful for this experience. Not only was I able to make such amazing friends – my first Japanese friends actually! – I was also able to enrich myself with the things related to my career in Japanese.

Mingtian Ouyang: KLEXON

I joined KLEXON since the beginning of last semester. It was a circle with plenty opportunities to make Japanese friends and many fun activities. Most members of KLEXON are either college students or company employees. Among the company employees, engineers and designers make up a great portion. These two fields require them to use English more frequently than other company employees. During the meeting I noticed something very interesting. Before the meeting starts, Japanese KLEXON members would stay in their own seat, busy looking at their phone, while entire ignoring their surroundings. Meeting starts at 7 pm, however, around 6:55, even though most people have arrived, no one seems to bother start any conversation with others. I found this strange. Their goal of coming here is to practice colloquial English, but why do they have to wait till the last minute to do so?  

      When entering the room, some college students tend to greet their friends, who also happen to be in KLEXON. However, the rest members would normally just walk straight to their seat and start playing with their phone. Meanwhile, when foreign students come in to the room, they would greet people they know, and start a conversation right away. I think there are many reasons behind this difference. First of all, there is a different concept of time in Japan. For example, “everything is on time”, “low tolerance for being late” are some impressions Japan has left me. The idea of “doing the right thing at the right time” is critical to Japanese society. Maybe it is currently 6:55 pm and the meeting starts at 7:00 pm, but 6:55 is not 7:00. To the Japanese members in KLEXON, these two times are very different. Therefore, it is not the time to start practicing English because it is not the “right time”. I also asked a Japanese friend from KLEXON to prove my idea. His answer was that this phenomenon has to do with the idea of the “shyness as a national character of Japan” (シャイな国民性). He explains that it is not customary for Japanese to start a conversation with anyone he or she meets. Almost all conversations begin with a formal self-introduction.  Also, some worry that talking to someone before meeting starts might bother them, because strictly speaking it is not the “right time”.

Adam Roberts: Kyoto University (KyoDai) Student Choir

As I wrote in my Japanese blog post, I decided to join the KyoDai Student Choir for my CIP. Having had sung in choirs for a number of years beforehand, I was excited to get back in touch with my musical side, as well as to become friends with Japanese students outside of the KCJS “bubble” and learn Japanese that is relevant to one of my interests.
As to whether or not I feel that I have become a member of the group, I would say that I am not sure that I have. This is not for any lack of trying on my part or friendliness on theirs, but rather the result of circumstances – I was not able to attend each of the thrice-weekly rehearsals due to other commitments. I feel that I did form a sort of bond with them, even if it was less a “true member” bond and more a “visiting participant” type of bond. In order to attain this bond, I made sure to participate fully in rehearsals I attended, as well as do my best to keep up with the technical instructions given – which occasionally proved more challenging than I had anticipated. In order to solidify these bonds further, I participated in cultural practices like otsukimi and giving omiyage when returning from trips in Okayama and Shikoku.
One of the first things I noticed about the choir was how eager some of the members were to greet Natasha (who also joined the choir) and during our first few rehearsals. Their patience with us was something I truly appreciated, especially when faced with a set of papers to fill out about myself which were replete with kanji I hadn’t learned yet! After the first week or so, communication became more difficult. I think that this is due to the nature of choir rehearsals. Usually the only person who talks throughout an entire rehearsal is the conductor – in our case, a junior nicknamed Pierre – and anybody who can quickly interject with a pithy comment. Because my Japanese isn’t quite yet at the stage at which quickly-interjected-pithy-comments become a viable method of communication, a great deal of my communication during rehearsals ended up being non-verbal. Written communication between the Top Tenor manager, Bibure, and I made up most of my active communication, as we discussed rehearsal dates and plenty of choir-related events.
My CIP taught me a great number of things – one of the most significant of which had nothing to do with Japanese at all. To put it clearly, I learned a lot about time and schedule management; not in the sense of making sure you get all of your work done on time, but rather in the sense of managing the things you participate in to avoid dead space in the middle of the day. Related more directly to the CIP, however, I learned that consistent and rhythmic participation can really help provide a foundation for potential relationships. One of the reasons I did not feel like a true member of the choir is because I attended irregularly, which meant that not only was I missing out on rehearsal for that day, but also I was missing out on any occurrences that might have furthered a sense of shared experience among the members. If faced with these sorts of situations again, it would be ideal to attend each rehearsal and a number of extra events; however, in the case that this solution is impossible, it would be better to set attendance dates well in advance, or very clearly state an anticipated schedule.
Looking back on my first CIP log, Fukai-sensei wrote “Before you visit, it’s probably a good idea to think about how long and how often rehearsals are” (in Japanese, of course). In order to get more out of your CIP, I would advise making sure that the baseline commitment for your CIP is not more than you can deal with. My CIP ended up being too time-consuming to be all that it could (and should) have been, which is nobody’s fault other than my own. However, if it is something that you truly have a passionate interest in, then do your best to make it work with your schedule in any way you can, because the personal and practical rewards will be much greater for it.