In the second semester of 2016 I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad at Ritsumeikan University, Osaka, Japan. During that time, I also undertook an internship with Japan’s longest-running independent English publication, Kyoto Journal.
Initially focusing on Japan, specifically the ancient capital of Kyoto, the quarterly magazine has broadened over the past thirty years to include insights and perspectives from all of Asia. The publication is run and produced by an incredibly talented and committed team of volunteers based locally, nationally, and internationally.
I discovered Kyoto Journal while searching for articles about Japan, trying to do some ‘pre-reading’ before I arrived in a new country. I loved the style of the magazine and was interested in the articles and the volunteer nature of the publication, so I emailed them to see how I could get involved. If you’re on exchange (or even if you haven’t left yet) and you find an organisation that you’re really interested in – reach out to them! You never know what might happen.
My role as an intern varied quite a lot. I did research, collaborated with other volunteers to build information databases, participated in brainstorming for new projects and PR, interviewed a local apprentice artisan, provided feedback on a crowdfunding campaign, and helped to prepare for an upcoming photography exhibition. Kyoto Journal does not have a designated office space, so work was done and meetings were held in coffee shops, public spaces and at Impact Hub Kyoto, a co-working space to which Kyoto Journal has a membership. I enjoyed this transient and collaborative approach to working, which also allowed me to see parts of Kyoto that I would not have otherwise encountered.
The volunteer nature of the work meant that the entirety of the Kyoto Journal team that I met, whether online or face-to-face, were very committed to and excited by what they were doing. Being a volunteer also allowed for a great deal of flexibility – I was based in Osaka and studying full-time, so it was understood if I could not make it to Kyoto on short notice. Everyone else has jobs, families and other commitments as well, which makes for a dynamic and engaged team – volunteers who have made time in their lives to be involved. Everyone wants to be there and bring their best to the job.
As far as I know, this flexibility and work-life balance is atypical of jobs in Japan, but I would assume that this comes down to the fact that involvement with the editorial side of Kyoto Journal is entirely volunteer-based.
Despite my short stay, lasting only a few months, I was made to feel very welcome and valued. It was incredibly rewarding to work with such a passionate, talented, diverse group of people and I’m very grateful to the Kyoto Journal team for allowing me to be involved with this unique publication. I’m looking forward to being involved in their Kyoto photography exhibition when I return to Japan in April!