Japanese University Life: Choosing Between Clubs and Circles - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Japanese University Life: Choosing Between Clubs and Circles

It is time for another semester at Ritsumeikan University, and with the spring semester comes the recruiting week where the older students tries to make the newcomers join their interest clubs or
"circles" (サークル). During this week the campus is filled with people wearing strange outfits, having performances or just trying to trick you into accepting their flyers. There are so many different kinds of clubs/circles, and it can be hard to know which ones you should choose.
The main difference between circles and clubs is the level of intensity. The clubs are known as being very strict; in some of them they might want you to go to all of their practices including the ones that are being held during holidays. They usually have practices many times a week as well.. Circles on the other hand is a lot more laid-back, and some circles only have practices a couple of times each month. People share a common interest, which they practice together only for the fun of it. Some join clubs/circles just for the social part as well, and mainly aim at making friends during the circle/clubs social events and parties rather than focusing on the circle's practices.
A Christmas tree at campus during orientation week in April..? Well, I guess it's Japan, after all..
However, you should notice that these are just a general distinction.. There are clubs that can be loose on rules, as well as stricter clubs. As a foreigner it might also be worth mentioning that not all of the circles/clubs have English-speaking members, but in general Japanese students are happy when they get the chance to get to know foreigners and practice their English. And it is a good chance for you to make some Japanese friends and practice Japanese too:)!
Some examples of clubs and circles can be: Sports such as tennis, basketball, swimming, baseball, soccer, material arts (karate, kendo, kenpo, judo, taekwondo etc etc), dancing, drawing, photographing, foot-massaging, you can learn how to put on a kimono, languages, acting, tea ceremony and you-name-it. There are all sorts of clubs and circles out there, and the school's introduction week is your chance to talk with club/circle members directly and ask them about their practices and rules.

A dancing club having performances on the main scene
A circle where the members give strangers foot-massages. Oh yeah.. xP
One of the theater-clubs at school
A guy in a banana-costume!

Some Japanese girls in traditional outfits

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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  1. Hi!

    I am waiting to hear from Ritsumeikan (same campus) as to whether or not I have been accepted into the GS program. How common is it to participate in multiple clubs? I ask because I study Kendo and would love to join a Kendo club but I also really love theater (have been in theater since I was a child) and the smiles in the photograph seem so friendly.


  2. Hi Em!

    Although it is most common to join one club and focus on that one, I see no reason why you can't do both as long as you have enough time for it.!
    It is hard to say anything without specific knowledge about the clubs you want to join though, since they differ a lot when it comes to number of practices a week etc. But if I'm not mistaken there are at least more than one theater club, so I suppose it should be possible to join one that doesn't collide with your kendo-practices.!
    If you have any more questions about clubs or about life at Ritsumeikan in general feel free to ask;D

    ..And good luck with your application!


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A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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