Skip to content

When I first came to Japan, I was surprised at the number of people who told me what club they were in at school. “Why would I want to know that?” I used to wonder. I was surprised because I didn’t appreciate how big a role bukatsu play in the lives of Japanese people.

Although I can see some advantages of the Japanese system of club activities, it still seems very strange to me, and I suspect that it has a negative effect on education and society in this country. This week, I will tell you what I see as the four main problems of bukatsu. Please feel free to disagree or point out my mistake if you think I am misunderstanding something.

Reason 1: Children should not be that busy.

If you have always lived in Japan, you probably think it is normal for children and teenagers to fall asleep during the day. I can assure you that it is not. Healthy children should not be struggling to stay awake at three in the afternoon. In addition, it seems to me that Japanese children have almost zero “free” time. Their days are basically scripted from start to finish, and in many cases, bukatsu even take up their weekends and holidays. One result of this is that children end up spending far too little time with their families and far too much time with their teachers. This lack of family time can lead to a number of social issues. Another problem is that children never learn to be creative because they are constantly being told what to do. When I was a child, we had lots of free time to make up our own games and plan our own adventures. Many people now complain about shijimachi workers, but it is not really surprising that young people end up like that when their whole lives have been controlled and organized by their schools since childhood.

Reason 2: Teachers should not be that busy.

I often meet teachers who tell me that education is only a small part of their job. In many cases, teachers have so many responsibilities with their bukatsu that they have no time to focus on training, study, or any other kind of professional development. If you want to improve the quality of education in Japan, you have to reduce teachers’ workloads. Also, teachers have families of their own, but many of them never get to spend time with their children even on weekends and holidays because they are too busy organizing training sessions and matches for their students. I think Japan needs to rethink the balance between the responsibilities of teachers and the responsibilities of parents.

Reason 3: Club activities reinforce the senpai / kohai system.

I’m sure many of you will disagree with me on this, but I think the senpai / kohai system is one of the biggest causes of bullying in this country. (I’m planning to do an entry on bullying in the near future.) Putting children into what in some cases are semi-militarized “clubs” creates an environment where bullies can flourish.

Reason 4: Children miss out on chances to try other activities.

Because children tend to focus exclusively on their club activity, they may miss out on the chance to try other things that would be good for them. As I understand it, a boy who joins the baseball club in junior high school will basically live, eat, and breathe baseball for the next six years of his life. If he ends up being a professional, I guess that will be time well spent. If not, however, it seems a very narrow sort of education to give a young person.

To summarize, although I think it is healthy for children to join clubs at school and take part in a wide range of activities, I think that far less time and effort should be spent on clubs, and far more importance should be placed on families and making sure children have time that is truly “free.”

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

33 Comments

  1. YU on Monday September 10th, 2012 at 02:33 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for answering my questions.

    > MOST PEOPLE THINK IT’S CORRECT, THOUGH, SO I AM GOING TO PUT IT IN THE NEXT EDITION OF THE RED BOOK.

    I agree with your idea!
    That was totally new to me.
    Thank you Munta!

    Hi David and everyone,

    Well, I’m not really familiar with the Japanese systems of club activities. Is it really that hard!?
    As I mentioned, I hate exercising, so I always belonged to cultual clubs(文化部), such as tea ceremony club and photography club. And as far as I remember, they were not as strict as sports clubs(運動部) were. I didn’t need to do club activities on weekends or holidays.
    However, when I was in junior high school and high school, all students had to join either a sports club or a cultual club. Actually, I didn’t want to join none of them, but I finally did because that was an obligation.

    > One result of this is that children end up spending far too little time with their families and far too much time with their teachers.

    You’re right, but I don’t think that children would like to spend their time with their families, even if they stopped “bukatsu”.

    I often hear from mom friends that their children never like to spend their time with families, but they like to hang around more with their friends.
    Do you think it is strange? I think it is quite normal. I almost never heard that teenagers like to spend time with their families, at least in Japan…

    > Another problem is that children never learn to be creative because they are constantly being told what to do.

    That is very true.
    I have a feeling that schools (and parents!?) make children do club activities to take away their free time, so that they would have less chance to turn to crime.

    A friend of mine told me that it is an advantage for children to experience club activities when they take entrance exams later.
    Speaking of “advantages”, when I was a university student, it was said that Japanese companies prefered 体育会系 university graduates, because they know well what “a hierarchical society”(縦社会) is.

    > I think Japan needs to rethink the balance between the responsibilities of teachers and the responsibilities of parents.

    So, what do you think parents should do instead of teachers, for example? Should they do 部活コーチ?

    > I think the senpai / kohai system is one of the biggest causes of bullying in this country.

    There’s some truth in what you say, but there have been a lot of news stories about bullying cases between classmates too. They are all of an age.

    > a boy who joins the baseball club in junior high school will basically live, eat, and breathe baseball for the next six years of his life. If he ends up being a professional, I guess that will be time well spent. If not, however, it seems a very narrow sort of education to give a young person.

    Certainly, I don’t think that children’s lives should be fully occupied with club activities, but is there anything wrong with focusing on one activity and aiming at being a professional athelete for several years in their lives!?

    However, I totally agree with your following sentence ;

    ” I think that far less time and effort should be spent on clubs ”

    I’m looking forward to hearing other members’ thoughts.(esp. Fumie!)



  2. Tsuneko Yano on Monday September 10th, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I totally agreed with David’s opinions about the problems of bukatsu. Japanese children are too busy for bukatsu(or juku) to take enough time to stop to think things deeply or experience various things or enjoying the free time with their family, friends, relatives and people in town. As you mentioned, it seems their days are scripted from start to finish for their bukatsu(and juku), and their weekends and holidays are taken up by bukatsu(or juku).

    I live together with in laws. They are always looking forward to seeing their grandchildren(my brother in law’s kids) but can’t see them easily because of such tight schedules of their bukatsu and juku. Focusing on their favourite club activity sounds great, but spending some time with their grandparents is also important. I think they should take the balance between them.

    Finally, I also think that teachers must have enough time to focus on training, study, or any other kind of professional development. Otherwise, they can’t maintain or improve the quality of education themselves.

    Also, it is said that a lot of teachers’ children have many problems because their parents are too busy to spend time with their own children. My father used be a high school English teacher and he was also teaching Judo at bukatsu. He was always very busy and had no time even to teach English to his daughter 🙂

    I’d like to say sorry to everyone because I didn’t reply to all of your comments last time.

    Bye for now.

    Tsuneko



  3. Tsuneko Yano on Monday September 10th, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    One thing I forgot to write, I was in the basketball club at junior high school, mountain climbing club at high school and wanderfogel(similar to mountain climbing) club during the university days. I enjoyed those activities themselves but I didn’t appreciate the semi-militarized senpai/kohai systems in them. Why did kohai have to carry heavier things than senpai did? I’m looking forward to your bullying topic next time. See you then.



  4. YU on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 09:33 AM

    Hi everyone,

    A large number of mom friends tell me that they are also taken up their weekends and holidays by children’s bukatsu.
    They are asked to “support” children’s club activities…

    By the way, as far as I know I don’t think all baseball club teachers at school are school teachers… Am I wrong?

    Anyway, Japanese people are crazy for “bukatu”, that’s true.

    However, as a fan of pro baseball, I like to see baseball fan kids and 甲子園球児 who dream of becoming a pro baseball player.



  5. Tomo on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    It’s been a while since I last wrote a comment. I seem to lose my motivation to study English in summer(when my children are on vacation), and this year, it took me longer to get back to my regular life style than usual. My middle son had a fever and took the day off school on the 4th. And then my daughter had a fever of 39 degrees this weekend. I’m very glad all my children are back to school at last.

    As for the topic, I agree with you that children should not be that busy, and the Japanese system of club activities might have a negative effect on education and society, but I think club activities give students big advantages. Students can learn not only about sports or music but also friendships, cooperation, persistence, and some other important things as a human being. As I mentioned before, my son was in the brass band club(he finished the club this summer.) He only had a few days off a month, so he was always busy with his club activities, but he looked happy even when he was tired because he was doing what he loved. I wanted him to take a day off at least once a week, though. When he was in junior high school, he was in the baseball club. He had to practice every morning, after school, and Saturday mornings, but he had a lot more free time because the school was near our house.

    My middle son is in the track and field club now, and he also has morning, after school, and Saturday morning practices, but he has enough time to spend with his friends and the family on weekends or in the evenings. He often brings his friends(including his “senpai”s) to our house, so I can see he is enjoying himself and has a good relationship with them. I don’t think he is struggling to stay awake at three in the afternoon because he has enough sleep every day(In my house, you have to go to bed at 9 when you are in elementary school, and at 10 when you are in junior high school.), so there is no problem at the moment. As far as I know, my son doesn’t have any problem with the senpai / kohai system. In his club club, they are just friends.

    Basically, students have to be in a club at my son’s junior high school, but you don’t have to join any club if you have a special reason. For example, my niece used to take ballet lessons every day when she was in junior high, so she talked about it with her teacher and decided not to join a club at school. This caused a bit of a problem with her friends, though. As you know, students spend a lot of time with their friends from the club and build a close relationship with them, so my niece sometimes felt lonely.

    Anyway, as I said above, I agree that both children and teachers should not be that busy. They need to find a balance, but I prefer young people who have something they really love and are working hard to ones who don’t feel like doing anything and are just spending time with their friends in front of a convenience store.

    See you soon,

    Tomo



  6. YU on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 02:41 PM

    Hi Tomo,

    Welcome back!
    I’m glad to find your comment here again!

    > Students can learn not only about sports or music but also friendships, cooperation, persistence, and some other important things as a human being

    I agree with you.

    >(In my house, you have to go to bed at 9 when you are in elementary school, and at 10 when you are in junior high school.), so there is no problem at the moment.

    So, I wonder what other children who are struggling to stay awake at three in the afternoon do after their evening practices and in the night. Maybe they go to 塾 after club activities as Tsuneko said(?)and don’t have enough time to sleep!? If so, I’m sorry for them. They shouldn’t be that busy.

    > but I prefer young people who have something they really love and are working hard to ones who don’t feel like doing anything and are just spending time with their friends in front of a convenience store.

    Exactly.
    As I mentioned, that’s why Japanese schools ask children to do some club activities a bit forcibly, I guess. As you know, young people tend to be attracted by doing bad things when they have nothing to do. I don’t think Tomo’s children are the case, though…

    Hi David,

    How is the situation of school club activities in the UK is like?
    You also must have club activities, but how often and how long do students practice in a week?
    Your country has a lot of great athletes, but how do they develop their talent? Don’t they start their hard training since childfood? Or only talented children(sports elites) get strict training programs in special sports schools like in China or Russia?



  7. Munta on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 02:49 PM

    Hello,everyone and Danid teacher!
    this tpoic is a little difficult to discuss!
    I almost agree with your opinion.
    But I think “Club activities reinforce the senpai / kohai system” is good.
    when I was a junior high school student,Senpai is こわい and we must not resist I thougt.
    there were some rurle .For example スカート短くしたら呼び出し,if I become Snpai’s favorite Kouhai,I could wear 好きな靴. At the time,we must not be めだつ than Senpai.
    Thinking at the time now,it is very strange.
    But we can think we must speak けいご、大人には さからわない。。。。
    i think Bukatu has good point and Bad point!
    But i think i am good i did Bukatu!^^

    Munta



  8. YU on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 04:28 PM

    【correction】 Sorry!

    >How is the situation of school club activities in the UK is like?

    – How the situation of school club activities in the UK is like?



  9. rinko on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 05:02 PM

    Hi David and everyone.

    I don’t know the situation of bukatsu nowadays much, but seeing my niece who belongs to a brass band club of highschool,I feel it’s a bit different from the old days when I was a student.
    She often told me about her senpai,like having a party with them after the contest they took part in or giving presents for each others’ birthday..something like that. There was nothing like that when I was in a club of school, and the relationship of senpai and kouhai was much more strict than that although there was no bullying.
    And once I asked my niece if it’s hard and tough for her to go to the club everyday even during the summer vacation,but she simply replied to me “It’s not hard at all. We just need to practice much to get the first prize at the contest. And it’s really fun to chat with my friends and senpai after the club!” As Munta mentioned, the situation and relationship of them are changing, I think.
    To tell the truth, I didn’t like bukatsu much when I was a student.My friends of club were very good but I had to be always nervous about senpai during the club,and also there were not many kinds of clubs that we all were interested in in my school at that time.So it’s kind of obligation of school to join the club because whether you belong to it had a quite big influence on a school report(内申書) for an entrance exam of next school.

    I admit that students are very busy about bukatsu.But I think there are more reasons of the lack of family time and sleeping time of childeren ,such as “juku”and using 携帯 untill late at night.

    About teachers,

    >I think Japan needs to rethink the balance between the responsibilities of teachers and the responsibilities of parents.

    I agree with David.

    Hi YU
    >A large number of mom friends tell me that they are also taken up their weekends and holidays by children’s bukatsu.
    They are asked to “support” children’s club activities…

    Very true! I don’t know how many times I was told that (子供が運動部に入ったら、本当に親は大変よ!!)by my friends….although my son is only 2 years.

    Hi tomo.
    I’m glad to find your comment,too.
    You must have been so busy in this summer!

    See you everyone!

    rinko



  10. David Barker on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 07:10 PM

    Hi everyone,

    I’m at Kussharo-Ko tonight. I did some more cycling today, but only 50 km this time. I actually felt pretty good. The weather is not great, but it’s supposed to pick up from Wednesday.

    Thanks for all your comments. I can see that there are a lot of benefits to being in a club, but do Japanese children really need to do so much of it? When I was a child, we went to school at about 9, left at about 3.30, and didn’t go near the place again until the next day. I don’t think I ever went to school at a weekend! I take Tomo’s point about the things that children learn from being in a club, but I was never in a club, and I learned those things anyway. Even if you think bukatsu are good for children, though, they are certainly not good for teachers and families. It is crazy that families have to organize their whole lives around a child’s club activities.

    Regarding the point about splitting responsibilities between teachers and parents, I remember something that happened to me just after I arrived in Japan. One Friday, I had a date with a woman who was a teacher at a junior high school. At about 8 o’clock, she called me to ask if we could change it to a different day because one of her homeroom students had been arrested for stealing a bicycle, and the police had asked her to come in to the police station.
    “Did he steal it during school time?” I asked.
    “No, it was at night,” she replied.
    “So what does it have to do with you? Surely his parents should be taking care of this!”

    I had no idea what she was talking about, and she had no idea why I would be so surprised! Again, if you have only ever lived in Japan, it may seem natural that a teacher would be called before the parents, but that is completely incomprehensible for people from Western countries. As I said, I think teachers in Japan have far too much responsibility for things that have nothing to do with teaching.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s stories. I’m going to go for a walk, and then I’m heading to my favourite onsen – Kotan no Yu.

    PS YU – that sentence should be “What is the situation with club activities in the UK?”



  11. YU on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 07:17 PM

    Hi rinko,

    > So it’s kind of obligation of school to join the club because whether you belong to it had a quite big influence on a school report(内申書) for an entrance exam of next school.

    That is exactly the same story as I heard from a friend of mine. Her daughter was planning to take an entrance exam for a very high-ranked high school in my area. Her school grades were all excellent, but my friend was very worried about her 内申書.
    Her daughter was in the tennis club at school, but she wasn’t the captain or didn’t have any remarkable “fine” records in the tennis tournaments, so she might fail not due to her lack of academic ability, but because of her “unattractive” 内申書… that was my friend’s anxiety. Finally, her daughter passed the exam, though…

    I’m already happy with the fact that my son keeps going to swimming school. I don’t really mind if he is a good swimmer as many of other mothers do, but how severe school life for children is!!
    I’m already getting anxious…..

    Speaking of school grades, once I got a grade of 4(of 10, means 2 of 5) in PE when I was in junior high school. I didn’t care it at all, but in the next term, it suddenly became “8”. I was very surprised because my athletic ability was same bad as it was in the last term.
    I learned later that I got the “8” because all the subjects needed to be at least higher than “6” to take an entrance exam for a prefectural high school in my area.
    So, (4+8)÷2=6….なるほど!
    Thanks to my school teacher’s “illegal act”, I passed the entrance exam. ありがとう、先生!



  12. YU on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 07:36 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for the correction.
    I actually thought my second sentence still sounded strange…

    It seems that you like onsen very much.
    My husband always complains that the temparature of Japanese onsen water is so high that he can’t stay there long.



  13. Fumie on Tuesday September 11th, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for choosing the topic that I had requested. It’s interesting to know how foreign person think about club activities(bukatsu) and it’s the first time that I hear an opinion about bukatsu from foreign person. As for me, I don’t have much negative thoughts about bukatsu.

    Reason 1: Children should not be that busy.
    I agree with you. My son belonged to a soccer club and also went to a cram school(jyuku) when he was in junior high school. After he came back from soccer practice, he had to grab a bite and hurried to jyuku. He was always so worn out and fell asleep in the living room often. I feel so sorry for him.
    But as YU pointed out, most teenagers don’t want to spend time with their families. They prefer to hung out with their friends. I think the problem of student’s lack of creativity and shijimachi workers (people who don’t know what they should do until their boss tell them what to do) are not only the problem of bukatsu but the problem of Japanese education as a whole.

    Reason 2: Teachers should not be that busy.
    That’s so true. They sacrifice their own lifes and their families. They are worn to frazzle. Teachers should focus on teaching and improving their skills. They(authorities) should hire some people to take care of other works including club activities.

    Reason 3: Club activities reinforce the senpai / kohai system.
    I’m not sure if senpai(senior) /kohai(junior) system leads bullying. Because of this system, students become polite. Students start to speak honorific words/expressions when they talk to older people and give greetings from them (自分からあいさつするようになる)after they join bukatsu. It’s important to acquire those manners and it’s necessary to get along with others in Japanese society. Having said that, this system has some semi-militarized customs.

    Reason 4: Children miss out on chances to try other activities.
    That’s may be true. But devoting oneself to one activity isn’t so bad if it is what they really like. Some students drop out and if they try one activity and think they can’t continue they can change to another one. I belonged to a soft tennis club when I was in junior high school. Although it was so hard and I didn’t have much free time , it was a good memory. (Since I wasn’t good at it, I couldn’t play in tournament. Still I could enjoy that.) Their physical strength are most supreme when they are teenagers and they have the urge to move a lot. 体を動かしたい。By training their bodies during those times, they build up their bodies and raise their physical strength and mental strength. For me, bukatsu is one of the sweet memory of adolescence. Aims of sport activities are winning the tournaments. They practice so hard to win like the case of high school baseball tournament. Through hard practice, team members share happiness, sadness and tighten their bonds. I think those experiences will good effects on their later life. I wonder are there any equivalent activities in Western countries? Maybe American football and cheerleading?

    I’m glad to hear you had a good time today and go to onsen again.

    Looking forward to hearing other member’s thoughts.

    Hi Tsuneko,

    I’m so happy to see your comments again!

    Fumie



  14. Anne on Wednesday September 12th, 2012 at 12:49 AM

    Hi David and everyone,

    When I read your entry, I felt your concern seemed to focus on sports clubs, but as you know, there are two kinds; athletic and cultural activities.

    I’m not familiar with the recent situation about bukatsu, so my understanding might be wrong.

    I joined soft tennis club in junior high and two different cultural clubs(so to speakかけもち), reading club and broadcasting club.
    I really have a good memory toward them even now.
    My two sons were in tennis club when they were in junior high and senior high. They spent their time with club activities after class on weekdays but not on Sundays. I guess how much students have to be involved with depends on each region or each school.

    >Another problem is that children never learn to be creative because they are constantly being told what to do.
    —–I don’t think so. Even though students are told to play or behave, they create how to deal with it, and I think it’s a kind of creativity.

    >Reason 2: Teachers should not be that busy.
    —I agree with you, but I wonder how each school arrange other person who is in for teachers. Do you think parents should help students with club activities as volunteers?

    >Reason 3: Club activities reinforce the senpai / kohai system
    —-I don’t think senpai/kohai system necessarily bad and I think there are lots of advantages.
    These days children don’t have enough chance to mingle with different ages, bukatsu is one of the places. As Fumie mentioned, they learn “being polite” and “respecting seniors.” You might say you can learn this concept outside school. Yes, but this is one of the places to learn about it.

    >Reason 4: Children miss out on chances to try other activities.—Children focus exclusively on on thing; is this a bad idea? If they don’t feel depressed, I don’t think this is bad even though that won’t be their future job. Only being professional isn’t the purpose of joining the club activities,right?
    I also think this way; “Children get the chance to experience new thing.”
    Some of the students learn how to play tennis.
    Some of the students learn how to dance nicely.
    Of course, if you want, there are a lot of places to learn outside school, but not everyone can afford to pay for that.

    >I think that far less time and effort should be spent on clubs— I agree with this point. One of the problems with bukatsu is that it’s an obligatory one, especially in junior high. For students who don’t join, it’s really a burden, so students should have the choice whether they want to do or not.

    By the way, without the devotion, you don’t hear the word “。。。甲子園.”

    Hi tsuneko,
    Glad to see your comment here!

    Hi Tomo,
    Welcome back!

    David, you really like onsen, don’t you? One of the great things when you travel( or visit Hokkaido) is enjoying yourself at onsens,right?

    Anne



  15. YU on Wednesday September 12th, 2012 at 01:48 PM

    Hi David,

    > I can see that there are a lot of benefits to being in a club, but do Japanese children really need to do so much of it?

    As Anne mentioned, I don’t think they don’t need to do so much if they don’t want, but they should do if they want.
    As other members mentioned, I think “bukatsu” is basically a good thing, but who should guide children of bukatsu is a different matter.

    > Again, if you have only ever lived in Japan, it may seem natural that a teacher would be called before the parents, but that is completely incomprehensible for people from Western countries. As I said, I think teachers in Japan have far too much responsibility for things that have nothing to do with teaching.

    I think so too and I can kind of understand that people from Western countries like you see such a custom very strange.
    However, “school teacher” isn’t an ordinary job, it’s a very responsible job.
    In my opinion, “school teacher” is a “holy” job(聖職, but nothing to do with church!), as well as “doctor” is. As you know, (good!)doctors work night and day, save someone’s life even in the plane during his vacation.

    I agree with you that they have also families of their own, but if they want to spend plenty of time with families, they shouldn’t choose the job(school teacher) from the beginning. They must have known well that “school teachers in Japan are very busy all the year round”. It might sound mean, but I mean, I want them to be very sure if they could do such a hard, responsible job before they become a school teacher.

    A friend of mine from my high school(male friend) became an elementary school teacher. About 15 years ago, we dined out with other friend of ours at Yakiniku restaurant and decided to go to South Korea together during his school holidays.(とっても単純だけど!)
    Then he told us that he had to tell his school 1. destination, 2. flight No., 3.hotel name, 4.travelling companions, etc…, and if his homeroom students did something bad, he would need to stop travelling and go back to Japan immediately. He didn’t look frustrated with the system at all at the time. By the way, he didn’t need to go back to Japan in the middle of our travelling, after all. 🙂

    This is the story I heard from a friend of mine yesterday. Students don’t go to school on Staturdays in my city. As you know, older generation like me went to school on Saturdays too, but Japanese students started to have 2 days off in a week since Japan adopted “ゆとり教育”, so did teachers. It is said that this caused the decline in the scholastic ability of Japanese students.
    So, parents of our city asked our city to resume the old school schedule(only Sunday off), but it seems that it was rejected by schools and teachers of our city. And my firend told me, “I can kind of understand teachers. Finally, again, it is a matter of money. Our city doesn’t spend money(budget) for hiring more teachers, that’s it. Japan became poorer, this causes teachers so much trouble.”

    Hi Anne,

    > Of course, if you want, there are a lot of places to learn outside school, but not everyone can afford to pay for that.

    That’s very true!

    > By the way, without the devotion, you don’t hear the word “。。。甲子園

    Sorry, may I ask you what you meant with this sentence!?



  16. Anne on Wednesday September 12th, 2012 at 09:22 PM

    Hi Yu,

    *By the way, without the devotion, you don’t hear the word “。。。甲子園

    *Sorry, may I ask you what you meant with this sentence!?
    ーーーーFor high school students who have been playing baseball,”Hansinn Koshien Stadium” is the final ground where they want to play. “Koushien” is a kind of ‘magic word’ for them; they devote their lives hoping for playing there.
    Recently you might hear other phrases such as “ダンス甲子園”,”まんが甲子園”(which is held in Kochi Pref.), and “書道パーフォーマンす甲子園.” So the name “甲子園” has become the symbol of final stage where students compete with. I guess those students have almost zero ‘free’ time.

    *訂正;
    > Children focus exclusively on on thing
    ーーーChildren focus exclusively on one thing
    >. For students who don’t join
    —For students who don’t want to join

    Bye for now,

    Anne



  17. amo on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    Hi David and everyone,

    As you know, I don’t have any children, so I really don’t know much about the current situation of club activities in Japan. I grew up in Japan so I should know about club activities, but as far as I have read your entry and others’ comments, the club activities in my time were a bit of different from now. I don’t think that I didn’t have enough free time in my school days. There were no club activities in my elementary school, so I had plenty of time to spending with my friends and families. I was in the basket club in junior high, but it’s not obligated, so if you didn’t want to join a club, you wouldn’t have to. When I was in high school, I wasn’t interested in club activities at all but earning money(lol) I did some part time jobs:) but it wasn’t every day, so I still had some free time.
    What surprised me was most of you had mentioned that joining club activities was a kind of obligation.

    >Children should not be that busy.
    I agree with you, but like I said, I had plenty of time to do what I want so I still can’t believe that children are that busy.

    >I can assure you that it is not. Healthy children should not be struggling to stay awake at three in the afternoon.
    If you say so, I wasn’t a healthy child because I was always sleepy, no matter how long I slept. To tell the truth, it hasn’t changed at all, I am always sleepy.

    >Teachers should not be that busy.
    I totally agree with you. I feel very sorry for them. By the way, I can’t believe the story about a school teacher who were dating with you. I thought that that kind of thing should be taken care of by their parents.

    >Club activities reinforce the senpai / kohai system.
    It might be so, but it depends on clubs, I think.

    >Children miss out on chances to try other activities.
    Like others mentioned, I don’t think that it’s not that bad idea to focus on one thing. If you lost your interest in what you are doing, you can quit and join other things. I think that you don’t need to stick to it if you don’t want to.

    I have some questions about the topic, but it’s already past midnight so I should be in bed.

    Good night and sleep tight:)

    amo



  18. Fumie on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 06:48 AM

    Hi YU,

    >~they shouldn’t choose the job(school teacher) from the beginning.

    I’m afraid I disagree with your opinion about that. If people know that the teacher’s job is so demanding and have to sacrifice their own lifes, who would choose to become a teacher? I read a newspaper article that many students who passed the test of becoming teacher ended up declining the offers. I definitely think they should reduce the workloads of teachers and teachers should have less responsibilities. I often heard enthusiastic teachers end up having mental illness because of lots of pressure and overwork.

    Fumie



  19. Anne on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 09:08 AM

    Hi YU,Fumie and everyone,

    I agree with Fumie. Of course teachers should focus enough energy on teaching students, but if they are forced to devote their lives 24/7, as Fumie mentioned, some of the teachers burn out and end up falling into depression. Having said that, I agree with the following part.
    “school teacher” is a “holy” job(聖職)”
    Parents should have the respect for teachers and I don’t want”でもしか”teachers. Is that what you meant?

    By the way, I had a chance to talk with a guy from NY, and asked about Bukatsu and situation there. According to him, students need to reach certain level to join some clubs especially when it was popular, students are required some skills. It’s not an obligation and not every student is interested in them, so some of the clubs need to recruit members. He joined lacrosse and wrestling because the high season is different. As for people who organize matches or take care of students, kind of substitute teachers are in charge of those roles, not teachers, and they are paid. It sounds a good idea, but I’m not sure if schools in Japan have enough budget to hire those teachers or not.
    Instead of joining clubs, children join local clubs, and they don’t need to be good at playing, so they just enjoy playing. Mostly parents are deeply involved with organizing club activities, so he said, “I was lucky because my parents were so supportive.”

    I’m not sure if I understood what he had said precisely and the time was limited. Anyway, this is one aspect concerning club activities in foreign countries.

    Anne



  20. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 09:26 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    Thank you for your comment! 🙂

    >who would choose to become a teacher?

    I know exactly what you mean and I think you’re right, but I wonder “Who would choose to become an emergency physician(doctor)?” if you say so.

    I didn’t mean that school teachers should sacrifice their lives(families) and work until they have mental illness, but what I wanted to say is that “under their current working conditions” they should think well how their life and future families would be before choosing the job. And if they are still interested in the job, they should become a teacher. (残念なことですが、今の学校教師の労働環境をよく鑑みた上で「教師になる」という選択をするべき。これはお医者さん(特に救命、産科医)にも共通して言えると思います。)

    > I read a newspaper article that many students who passed the test of becoming teacher ended up declining the offers.

    So, I think they made a right decision, it might sound strict, though. I don’t think they can bear the current working conditions of school teachers.
    If they had chosen to become a teacher, it would have caused them so much troubles later.

    > I definitely think they should reduce the workloads of teachers and teachers should have less responsibilities.

    I agree, but still, “school teacher” is a very hard and responsible job, even if the workload were reduced.

     私も何でもかんでも教師にやらせるのはどうかな、と思います。不思議なのはなぜ昔の教師は同じように大変だったろうになんとかやっていた、でも今は教師の不満が爆発しているのか、ってことです。昔も今も学校の教師が部活顧問を兼任し、生徒が悪いことをしたら警察に行ったのは同じだと思うんですよね。そういった悪い(変な)慣習は変わっていない。

    私の友達が言うように職員数が減っている、というのももしかしてあるのかな、とも思います。要するに国や自治体が教育に予算を割かない。人数が減って一人当たりの仕事量が増えている!?
    あるいは、教師という職業自体昔ほど尊敬されなくなった。最近は無理難題をいうばかりの親もいるし。だから先生たちも誇りを失くしつつあるのかもしれない。「これだけ毎日生徒のために走り回っているのに、もうやってられない」、みたいな。

    外国ではどうか知りませんが、日本では崇高な精神(ある意味ボランティア的精神も)を持ち合わせてないと務まらない、と思います。そういう意味で現代においてはなおさら教師は医者と同じように「聖職」だと思います。



  21. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Hi Anne,

    I’m sorry, I forgot to write about ○○甲子園.
    Now I can see what you mean, thank you!
    Speaking of 甲子園, I’m going to Tokyo Dome to watch 巨人阪神戦 with my family this Sunday.
    Yesterday, Kanemoto(Tigers) announced his retirement, so this Sunday’s game will be his last 巨人阪神戦 in Tokyo Dome. I’m going to say
    “お疲れ様~、ありがとう、アニキ~!” to him.

    > Parents should have the respect for teachers and I don’t want”でもしか”teachers. Is that what you meant?

    I never heard “でもしか先生”, but I checked Wikipedia. Hummmm, it says that there were lots of “でもしか先生” in the late 70’s – when Japan was richer and could afford for hiring many teachers, and therefore the quality of teachers wasn’t so good). That means I learned from those でもしか先生!?

    By the way, as I wrote to Fumie, what I meant was that you shouldn’t choose to become a school teacher without considering the current terrible working conditions of school teachers.
    今はかなりの覚悟がない限り教師になるのはやめた方がいい、ということです。自分が苦しんでそれこそうつ病や自殺に追込まれるケースも多いみたいですから。



  22. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Hi Anne and everyone,

    > As for people who organize matches or take care of students, kind of substitute teachers are in charge of those roles, not teachers, and they are paid. It sounds a good idea, but I’m not sure if schools in Japan have enough budget to hire those teachers or not.

    I see. That sounds ideal for teachers.
    I often hear that Japan spends (almost)least expenditure for education among developed countries.
    I can remember that when I was in school(= でもしかteachers period!), each class had an assistant class teacher(副担任) and class teachers and assistant teachers shared the work.
    How about now? Fumie, Tomo, do you know about it!?



  23. Tomo on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Hi Munta,
    Nice to have you with us :-)(Sorry, I forgot to say this last time!)

    Hi YU, rinko, and Anne,
    Thanks for your messages!

    >So, I wonder what other children who are struggling to stay awake at three in the afternoon do after their evening practices and in the night. Maybe they go to 塾 after club activities as Tsuneko said(?)and don’t have enough time to sleep!?

    Like Rinko pointed out, I also think those students don’t have enough sleep because they go to Juku at night or stay up late using their cell phones. My niece, who is a second grade junior high school student, is one of them. I teach English to her on Wednesdays, and she always looks tired and sleepy. I asked her what time she goes to bed the other day, and she said that she usually goes to bed after midnight. She stays up late using her cell phone or watching videos on her iPad Mini.(She doesn’t go to Juku.) She is in the tennis club, and she practices in the mornings, after school, and on Saturday mornings. I told her she should be in bed around 11(before midnight at the latest) because lack of sleep causes a lot of problems, but as you know, it’s not easy to resist temptation especially for young people. I think one of the reasons many children today are not healthy is that they have lots of “useful” things like cell phones, computers, or game machines. If parents let their children have these things, I think they should set some rules and make their children follow them until they are mature enough. As you know, the Internet is very useful, but it’s also a source of temptation, and children can access the Internet even from portable game machines.

    Hi David and everyone,

    >I was never in a club, and I learned those things anyway.

    I think that’s because you were a healthy child. You have nice parents and grew up in a good environment. As you know, there are a lot of children who have little motivation(無気力な子供たち). I see those students at my son’s junior high school too. There is a time young people tend to think like “working hard is not cool”(一生懸命になることは格好悪い) or “acting bad is cool.” Children who have something they love and can devote themselves to it is lucky because many cannot find what they really want to do, and I was one of them. I want my children to learn 何かに一生懸命になること. Sports, music, studying, and activities outside school, anything will do. Club activities can give students a chance like that. They shouldn’t be something students have to do, and students should have a choice, though. At my oldest son’s club, students decide the practice schedule or what to do themselves.

    > It is crazy that families have to organize their whole lives around a child’s club activities.

    I agree. I didn’t take care of my oldest son when he had club activities on weekends unless there was a special event, so he had to take care of his needs himself including breakfast. I did it for him when he was in junior high school, but I get up early to make lunch for him on weekdays, so I need a break too!

    As for the story of your friend, I think it’s the parents who should take care of the case.

    See you soon,

    Tomo

    PS YU, in my son’s schools, each class has 副担任, and each club has 副顧問, and they share the work.



  24. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Hi David,

    > As I said, I think teachers in Japan have far too much responsibility for things that have nothing to do with teaching.

    You’re right, but I don’t think all school teachers(elementary, junior high and maybe high school teachers) need to do is teaching. The character of their work is different from the one of univiesity professors. University students are already adults, but school teachers teach children. So, it cannot be avoided that they are involved in matters of students nothing to do with teaching “to some extent”. (This might be a very Japanese way of thinking, though…)
    Having said that, there’s a limit to teachers, and developing their teaching skills by training, studying is also a very important thing. As you mentioned, recent parents might be depending on teachers too much…

    Hi Tomo,

    >I also think those students don’t have enough sleep because they go to Juku at night or stay up late using their cell phones.
    > I think one of the reasons many children today are not healthy is that they have lots of “useful” things like cell phones, computers, or game machines

    I see. Children today are lucky having such useful things around them, but they are so attractive that children can’t renounce using them even when they actually need to sleep. As a result, chilren become unhealthy. I agree with you that parents should set some rules.

    > PS YU, in my son’s schools, each class has 副担任, and each club has 副顧問, and they share the work.

    Your son’s school seems to be a good one.
    After posting my last comment, I checked Internet and found out that many schools in Japan can’t afford for hiring assistant teachers today. I wonder my city is poorer than the city you live…sigh… No wonder more and more parents like to send their children to private schools…
    My son is starting school in two years, so I’m getting interested in Japan’s school education systems very much.

    See you!



  25. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 02:21 PM

    【correction】

    can’t afford for hiring => can’t afford to hire



  26. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 04:27 PM

    I translated my comment to Fumie into English.

    私も何でもかんでも教師にやらせるのはどうかな、と思います。不思議なのはなぜ昔の教師は同じように大変だったろうになんとかやっていた、でも今は教師の不満が爆発しているのか、ってことです。

    I also don’t think that you should press all the responsibilities to teachers. However, I wonder why teachers in the old days managed to do all those things somehow, but teachers today can’t and explode with anger.

    昔も今も学校の教師が部活顧問を兼任し、生徒が悪いことをしたら警察に行ったのは同じだと思うんですよね。そういった悪い(変な)慣習は変わっていない。

    I think it is the same now as formerly – “School teachers doubles as class teacher and club coach at work. They are called from the police when their class students did somthing wrong.” Old strange customs at school like that die hard.

    私の友達が言うように職員数が減っている、というのももしかしてあるのかな、とも思います。要するに国や自治体が教育に予算を割かない。人数が減って一人当たりの仕事量が増えている!?

    As a friend of mine told me, it might be because the number of teachers has fallen. In other words, the government and local authorities spend less education budget today than they did before.

    あるいは、教師という職業自体昔ほど尊敬されなくなった。最近は無理難題をいうばかりの親もいるし。だから先生たちも誇りを失くしつつあるのかもしれない。「これだけ毎日生徒のために走り回っているのに、もうやってられない」、みたいな。

    Or it might be because teachers came to be not respected as they used to be. I also often hear stories about “monster parents” who always make unreasonable demands from schools and teachers.
    They simply can’t understand why they’re still accused though they always work hard for students.
    That is maybe why they’re losing pride in their profession. And at last, they feel like throwing out their job.

    外国ではどうか知りませんが、日本では崇高な精神(ある意味ボランティア的精神も)を持ち合わせてないと務まらない、と思います。そういう意味で現代においてはなおさら教師は医者と同じように「聖職」だと思います。

    I don’t really know what the situation in other countries is, but I don’t think in Japan you can fullfill teacher’s duty unless you are a person of a “great” mind(incl. volunteer spirit). In that sense, I think teacher today is getting more and more a “holy” job, so is doctor.



  27. YU on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 04:40 PM

    Sorry, I forgot to translate this sentence.

    人数が減って一人当たりの仕事量が増えている!?

    The workload per teacher is increasing because of the reduction in teacher numbers!?



  28. Fumie on Thursday September 13th, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Hi YU,

    Thank you for your comments.
    I think teachers and doctors are indispensable jobs: we can’t live without them. So government should allocate more budget on education and medical services. Because of poor working conditions less people become doctors and teachers. And that leads each person’s workload increasing. That’s a vicious circle. If their working conditions were better, I think more people would choose those jobs. There are many young people who are eager to save people’s lives and who are eager to teach and nurture children. I think it’s a real loss that motivated young people decide not to choose those wonderful jobs because of ugly truth(poor working conditions).
    夏川草介さんの「神様のカルテ」を読んでるんですが、著者自身も医師で、医療現場の医者の過酷な労働状況、犠牲にしている家族、自信の生活を描いています。「医者は、患者のために命がけで働くべきだという。この国の医療はくるっているんだ。医者が命を削り、家族を捨てて患者のために働くことを美徳とする世界。夜も眠らずぼろぼろになるまで働くことを正義とする世界。」
    小説を引用しました。私はこのような医療現場も、先生の労働状況(先生の状況はお医者さんほどではないと思いますが)狂ってると思うし、間違ってると思うし、改善すべきだと思います。

    Fumie



  29. amo on Friday September 14th, 2012 at 08:38 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    You’ve got my vote:)
    I wanted to write about YU’s comment but I was to tired to do so last night. But it seems that I don’t need to because you’ve already written what I wanted to so thanks;) About the book that you mentioned, I haven’t read it yet but I totally agree with his words. Japanse should stop thinking that “it is normal for them to work for their lives, because they are doctors(and teachers)” and should notice that it was a strange way of thinking like he said.

    I got to go, it’s my station.
    Bye, have a nice day everyone.
    amo



  30. YU on Friday September 14th, 2012 at 09:41 AM

    Hi Fumie and amo,

    Fumie, I know the title of the book. I think it was made into a film last year!?
    (主演はたしか櫻井翔と宮崎あおいだったかしら!?)

    I’m a bit anxious that you both still get me wrong (I tried to explain my thoughts well, but it seems that I failed it again).
    But anyway, I actually agree with you both that their horrible working conditions should be improved, but the point is that this issue(=So government should allocate more budget on education and medical services) has been discussed since long(maybe 10-15 years), but nothing has changed in reality. This horrible situation is actually nothing new.

    So, what I wanted to say is that young people should think well before choosing the jobs(doctor and teacher) under “CURRENT” horrible working conditions”, though I totally agree with what Fumie meant with following sentences ;
    “There are many young people who are eager to save people’s lives and who are eager to teach and nurture children. I think it’s a real loss that motivated young people decide not to choose those wonderful jobs because of ugly truth(poor working conditions).”

    By the way, I guess teachers who are around age of 45-60 might be upset and confused because their working condition has totally changed since the time they became a teacher.

    I’ve got to go!

    See you!



  31. Anne on Friday September 14th, 2012 at 09:48 AM

    訂正;
    >”They are paid.”–“They get paid.” sounds more natural.

    Hi YU,Fumie,amo and everyone,

    >I don’t really know what the situation in other countries is, but I don’t think in Japan you can fulfill teacher’s duty unless you are a person of a “great” mind(incl. volunteer spirit). In that sense, I think teacher today is getting more and more a “holy” job, so is doctor.
    —I think so,too. But it is also true that in Japan, there are a lots of cases based on a tacit understanding(or ‘pressure’) like “you should do because..”, and those make people less motivated or depressed.

    See you soon,

    Anne



  32. Fumie on Friday September 14th, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Hi amo,

    I’m glad that we are on common ground.

    Hi YU,

    Yes, the book was made into a film.
    Please, don’t worry. I think I understand what you mean. 先生や医者の労働環境が過酷で、改善すべきだと思っているけれど、現実ではこの国ではその件が叫ばれても何年も変わらないままだ。なので、それでもその仕事を選ぶのなら、自分の人生を犠牲にすることなどを覚悟の上ですべき~ということが、YUの言おうとしてたことではないですか?

    >By the way, I guess teachers who are around age of 45-60 might be upset and confused because their working condition has totally changed since the time they became a teacher.

    I think so too. They used to be more respected by students and parents and they had more authorities.

    Fumie



  33. YU on Friday September 14th, 2012 at 01:25 PM

    【correction】
    > I know the title of the book.
    => I have heard of the book title.

    Hi Fumie,

    > 先生や医者の労働環境が過酷で、改善すべきだと思っているけれど、現実ではこの国ではその件が叫ばれても何年も変わらないままだ。なので、それでもその仕事を選ぶのなら、自分の人生を犠牲にすることなどを覚悟の上ですべき~ということが、YUの言おうとしてたことではないですか?

    Yes, exactly!

    During pregnancy I got to know a female medical intern. At first, I was a bit worried if she really had enough knowledges and skills to see an “old” pregnant woman like me. One day I asked her why she wanted to become an obstetrician though it is one of the hardest ones among a large variety of doctors. She replied, “I know it well, but it’s the only doctors always see “healty” patients. And I like to see their happy face looking their new born baby.” After the conversation I got to like her somehow.

    I always wanted to see “female” obstericians, but it was quite hard to find them. I think it is because of their hard working conditions. I can hardly believe that female obstericians manage to work and raise their young children at once. So, I really hoped that their working conditions should be improved for young medical trainees like her at the time.