An Observation on School Clubs in Japan

One thing that I think is fairly apparent, at least through anime, is that school clubs seem like a bigger deal in Japan. And from what I’ve seen, they are. Which also makes sense because anime has to based on some semblance of reality, right?

Well, I don’t have too much to say on this topic, but figured I’d write about one point that I feel like is pretty important when it comes to the popularity of clubs in Japan vs. how they are back home in Canada (and likely in the US also).

School Frequency

I’ll start off by pointing out the frequency of schools here. Now, as always, this is just from what I’ve personally seen / been told, and having only worked in Nagano, I can’t speak for the entire country. It’s possible that other prefectures do things differently.

But from my experiences, and I don’t know the exact reasons behind it, but it seems like there are a lot of schools in low population areas. I don’t know the details, but whatever the reason is, it leads to some very small schools. Like one of the junior high schools I teach at, which has only about 80 students total.

But that’s still enough for three classes – I know that there are schools out there that have more staff than actual students, as one of my Japanese friends used to work in a junior high school like that in Southern Nagano. Each grade had less than five students, with the second grade only having a single girl. Kind of sad to think about. As much as school can be annoying or worse, having to see the same people everyday, imagine being the only kid in your entire grade!

So yeah, I don’t know the reasons for it, but it seems like there has to be a school for every so many square kilometres, or something like this. Possibly regardless of how many people live in the area? It’s a strange thing. It’s also possible that this is due to people moving away from rural areas and into urban areas over the decades, causing formerly thriving schools to dwindle in student population.

School Buses

And the natural question to follow is: why do such small schools exist when they could just bus students to more populated schools? I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Maybe some areas do this.

Maybe road conditions in certain areas are such that they don’t want the liability. Maybe they think that walking to school builds character. Maybe Japanese bureaucracy is just too slow to react to changing populations. Who knows, I’m sure there are reasons though.

Despite these really small schools, in general there’s no question that population density is much higher in Japan. And naturally, Japan is not as large as Canada or the US. Really what this means is that on average people will live closer to school, and so, school buses aren’t as necessary to get kids to and from school. I don’t live / work in a big city, but I believe that in those areas students tend to take public transit. From a fairly young age, even. There are some schools I know which have a dedicated train stop out front, with the station name translating to something like “In front of so-and-so school”.

And if they don’t use transit, for the most part, they’re walking. Or being driven by their parents. From what I see, mostly walking.

School Clubs

And finally, what does all of this mean for school clubs?

Well, it means that students don’t have a bus to catch after school.

Back home, for the schools I went to anyways, the end of the day meant catching your bus to go home. And the buses wouldn’t wait forever. For example, at my high school, you had about 15 minutes from the final bell to get to your bus before it’d leave. As there was another high school in town that used the same buses, they were on a strict schedule. I can’t speak for everywhere, but I’m pretty sure buses are a common way for students to commute in Canada and the US, and they tend to leave fairly shortly after school is over.

Basically, most Japanese students seem to not have to worry about catching a school bus, and most tend to live within walking distance of their school. Or take public transit. Again, can’t speak for everywhere. But it seems like this is the case.

So there’s no real rush to get out, giving students more time to join in club activities and such. At my schools, for example, on Wednesdays even when there aren’t any club activities, many students will really take their time in leaving. I’ve seen students still hanging around in the entrance area chatting 30 minutes after their final homeroom class ended. There’s just not nearly as much of a rush to leave.

That’s basically the gist of what I wanted to say.

Now, I will say that I believe that this is likely more of a “club activities aren’t a big deal” in Canada in the US issue than it is a “club activities are a big deal” in Japan issue. Because club activities are a big commitment regardless of if there is a bus or not – they aren’t just an hour after school once or twice a week (like they were in my high school, for example).

Club activities are generally around two hours, four days a week (where I am anyways), and students won’t find themselves going home until the evening. At my schools, that means around 6:30pm. Which feels pretty crazy to me, but when you consider how many Japanese people work late due to the work culture and so on, I guess it makes sense. Not as many students have to be home for 6pm or whatever for dinnertime. Teachers also work late here, staying until after 7pm oftentimes, from what I’ve heard.

So when you see those scenes in anime where the students are walking home at sunset, I can say that this situation is probably not all that uncommon due to how late they go home after club activities.

And of course, club activities in general are a bigger part of the culture here, meaning there is more focus on them and whatnot. I do think that cultural differences are likely the biggest difference between how much they are emphasized in Japan versus Canada / the US. But then, there are many factors which led to the culture being the way it is, and school buses are one example of something that certainly would have influenced why clubs aren’t as popular back home.

So there you have it, just an observation that I’ve had regarding school clubs here in Japan.

It’s an interesting difference in culture that does play a large role in many people’s lives here, and understandably so, given how much time they spend engaging with clubs throughout their student lives.

I’d be interested in hearing if anyone else has some thoughts on this topic.

Until next time,
Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “An Observation on School Clubs in Japan

  1. I’d imagine the population density is similar to the UK and we generally don’t use school buses either. There are some rural areas that bus all the village children to a central school. I used to walk and there were definitely times when the sun had set as I was walking home after sports.

    With the rural schools, and I went to one for a short spell, there was a late bus for anyone that did a club. It would take longer to get home as it went through all the villages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t remember there being anything like that for my schools, I think parents had to pick their kids up if they stayed for sports or whatever.

      But yeah, I was surprised that there are some super small schools here. At my school with ~80 students, there aren’t enough students to fill a single sports team across all the sports clubs. Kind of a bummer for them, because they can’t really get that experience of competition until high school.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The OtakuSPhere: Snail Love, Relaxing fishing and he did what? – In Search of Number Nine — An anime blog

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