Before I came to AIU, I knew a bit about Japanese club culture in schools and universities but what I experienced here was the same as I have expected and completely different at the same time.
On the 1st of September, after the Matriculation Ceremony, all clubs organized a Club Fair, to show off their clubs to potential new members. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of clubs that were eager to receive new members.
School Clubs in Germany
In German schools there are usually no school clubs whatsoever as sporting activities are always organized outside of school by a club, called Verein, and are predominantly soccer, only. As I never joined any soccer clubs I had little to no experience of what being in a club is about.
Clubs at AIU
After careful deliberation, I decided to join two clubs: The AIU Kanto (竿燈) Team and AUWA, a club that focuses on community interaction with the Yuwa area. In the following few paragraphs I’d like to describe my experience so far with the Kanto Team.
AIU Kanto Team
At first I had no idea what Kanto was about. But the team’s performance after the Matriculation ceremony and the following Club Fair gave a small glimpse of what it actually is: A traditional festival that only gets celebrated in Akita City where long bamboo poles, decorated with rice-paper lanterns are balanced through the streets, supported by taiko drums and flutes.
During the initial try-practices, possible new members were able to try out Kanto for the first time and get a feel of what it was about.
Expectations and Reality
By the time I joined, a lot of rumors were floating around that the AIU Kanto Team is one of the most committed and serious clubs on the campus, but after being in the club for around a month now, I can say that it is true and not true at the same time.
The amount of practice (three times a week for two hours) is just as the rumors made it out to be. It is a commitment one has to take serious to progress in the various Kanto techniques.
But the rumor that the senpai in the club are very strict could be not further from the truth.
Seldom have I seen people who were eager to share their knowledge and passion for Kanto with new club members. No matter the questions or how many times we asked, they have always patiently explained even minor details to the newcomers.
My experience on the Kanto Team climaxed at the AIU Festival 2017, as the team had four public performances in total where old and new team members alike could show off their skills to the festival visitors and entertain them.
My favorite experience during the AIU Festival 2017 was the last performance on the second day during the evening, with lit up lanterns and many spectators to enjoy the performance together. That day, I left with a sore throat and hurting hands.
The feeling of finally learning a new technique after so many failures is very satisfying and well worth the challenge. I already look forward to the Homecoming Day performance in November and next year's Kanto Festival to show off the skills I have acquired during the year I will stay here.