In Japan, there are two types of extracurricular activities. The first is called クラブ, or club, the same word we use in English. However, the clubs in Japan are much more strict than their Western counterparts. These clubs demand you practice constantly and become really involved. Typically they’re sports teams and whatnot who will compete nationally.

The second are called サークル, or circles, and are much more like what we call clubs in the United States. Anyone can join, and they can show up or not as they like.

Before coming to Japan, and even during our initial weeks of orientation, everyone advised us foreign exchange students to find a circle and join it. Why? Because it is one of the best ways to meet Japanese people – Japanese people who have interest in more than just our English speaking ability. Japanese people who will speak to us strictly in Japanese. This makes it the perfect place to improve, as well as to make friends.

I mentioned before visiting my friend’s jazz circle. It was after taking several trips to karaoke with this friend and another of the exchange students – a girl with an amazing singing voice – that the jazz circle member invited us to join. He put together an ensemble for us.

We’ve had two rehearsals so far.

During the second rehearsal I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue the circle. Of course I was happy to have been invited for the reasons above, but there were other things working against it. For one, I haven’t played flute since entering college in any substantial way. Not only that, but I’d always played classical or march pieces and really know very little about jazz and the music theory surrounding it. I know I’m not up to the level of the other people who participate, and I hate any comments suggesting otherwise. I don’t need to be patted on the back that way. Secondly, I haven’t had much time lately. The semester is wrapping up with papers and whatnot, I have chores to do, Japanese to practice, relationships to try and make. Lastly, I’ve always hated practicing the flute on my own. It’s fine if I’m with someone, but I absolutely hate doing it alone. During high school I never needed much outside practice, since I was part of a larger flute section who could cover for one another. Now that I’m a soloist in an ensemble I have to go and work things out all alone.

These things almost won over until the guy who made the ensemble said I could be easily replaced. For some reason I got really angry. I guess I’m the kind of person who wants attention, or wants to be needed, because the moment he said it I decided I wasn’t going to be replaced.

When I looked angry he caught on to it. The vocalist said, “She’s always angry at you,” and he responded with, “Yes, she hates me.” For some reason, there’s nothing that I hate more than people saying, “You hate me,” even if I’ve perhaps in passing told them such a thing. I’m just a hypocrite.

Some combination of these things inspired me to stay. Perhaps out of spite. Not that I think my friend will be spited in any way. It’s just my stubbornness coming out.

With this in mind I went down to practice alone today. The jazz room was occupied by a clutter of noise, so I decided to practice in the cold hallway. Though I was sitting out there alone and haven’t met most of the members of the circle yet, every single one who passed by me on the way out muttered the colloquial 「お疲れさまです」(otsukare sama desu), a phrase that means something along the lines of, “We’ve done a hard day’s work.” All these Japanese people I’ve never met giving me that kind of greeting without a double-take felt good.

Just another reason a little more substantial than spite to keep on going. I enjoy playing in a group too, of course.

Our first live is in February. I will appear during it. Will you come watch?


~ by megumiwasframed on January 19, 2011.

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