What About the Children?: Japanese Club Activities

In America, some kids play on their Nintendos. Others smash mailboxes and hang out at the local malt shop. Japanese kids, on the other hand, belong to various clubs, that often suck up all their free time. Sports usually practice daily, even on weekends and during summer vacation!!! Teachers may also coach sports as part of their jobs, meaning they don’t leave school till after sunset, and as far as I know, it’s thankless, unpaid extra work. Your club activities become your life, to the point where a good 80% of essays for “What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?” was answered with “club activities.” And, well, despite the time-suck, they are pretty cool. Here are some I found especially interesting:

Tea Ceremony Club

It would not be a Japanese high school without a club devoted to one of the most Japanese things ever– the tea ceremony.

Flower Arrangement (Ikebana) Club

It would also not be a Japanese high school without another club devoted to another one of the most Japanese things ever– traditional flower arrangement.

Kendo

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Let’s not forget who does the killing to put flowers on the table– the hard-working swordsman! It’s both a PE activity and a club.

Shodo (Calligraphy) Club 

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The Japanese writing system was pretty much adapted from Chinese, so the art of writing beautiful kanji is just as appreciated here as it is in China. I tried my hand at writing riku, the closest Japanese equivalent of my name.

Koto Club

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Traditional Japanese floor harps.

Aikido/Judo

If it was invented in Japan, you bet your buttocks that it’d be a thing in high schools.

Broadcasting Club

Members learn how to be professional announcers, like on the radio or commentating sports events. There is a very particular tone, rhythm, and cadence to it. They’re basically learning how to talk like train announcements (NOT MY VIDEO), except all the time. Broadcasting Club are usually the ones who preside over such public events as Sports Day, giving the play-by-play over loudspeaker. The club at our school is particularly good, having been to the national finals at NHK (Japan’s BBC) in Tokyo. There is a LOT more to it than just speaking slowly, and it’s tough to explain what makes it so special, but think about how professional recordings sound, and how difficult it actually is to emulate that.

Baseball

If you didn’t already know this, you might find it interesting that baseball is actually the #1 most popular sport in Japan. It is so popular, that some of my coworkers were actually surprised that baseball is also a favorite in America. They thought they were the only ones.  It also has a surprisingly long history– for example, the local baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers, has been around since 1935.

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