This past week has been really busy. I finished up some last matters of business. Also classes started Thursday, but before that was a sort of circle festival. (In Japan, they don’t call them clubs. They’re circles.) During the circle festival, all the different circles of the university try and recruit new students. Of course in my case, I’m not a freshman, though since I’m a study abroad student, I sort of fit into the category. There were lots of different booths representing all kinds of clubs, from sports to martial arts to choirs to dance groups, to a literature club, clubs that do volunteer work, cultural clubs and so on etc. (The photo below doesn’t do justice to how many people were there earlier in the day.) There were so many that I wanted to do, but most clubs take up enough time that people only join one. I wanted to do something Japanese, which narrowed down some, but there were still a lot. In the end, I chose to try out the Japanese martial art Aikido. I thought Aikido was unique among the martial arts because it is mainly for self defense. (Generally speaking, I’m by no means an expert.) Aikido has a concern for the attacker’s well being also.
These circles also treat their newcomers very well. Some of them will hold Hanami (flower viewing) parties at a cherry blossom area nearby the university. There they’ll provide all kinds of sweets and treats, and drinks from juice to soda to sake. We’ve had a good bit of rain this week too, so on the not so sunny days, the circles would take their newcomers to a restaurant and treat them to a meal. The Aikido club has actually done this for me a couple times now. I asked them if they do this for us all year, and they assured me that it was just for now to welcome the newcomers.
The Japanese in general have been very hospitable to me, wherever I’ve been, whether if it was at my dorm, at the university, or even if I was opening up a bank account, the Japanese did a great job serving me and helping me out with whatever I needed, sometimes giving me even more than I needed. When I was purchasing a cellphone and a plan to go with it, the company employee gave me a welcome bag that had not just the cell phone and plan papers, but also mento candies and bags of hot chocolate mix. No extra charge. What did I do to deserve hot chocolate mix from a cell phone company?! Where’s the connection?? I don’t know if they do this for everyone, or just for me because I’m a gaijin—from the impression I got from my Japanese friend, it was probably the latter—but either way, the Japanese have been incredibly kind towards me. I just wish I knew enough language and culture so that I knew how to pay them back, or If I’m even supposed to pay them back.