In Japan, clubs are known as “maru,” or “circles.” The circle is a symbol of correct, whole things, and so carries one of the most positive connotations of any Japanese symbol. It is also the perfect illustrator of wa (benevolent harmony) in Zen Buddhism:

Clubs in Japanese colleges are not like those in American colleges. The ones at APU meet during class periods (Periods 1, 6, and 7 are very popular for club meetings) and are more organized than most clubs in Rutgers at least. I am a part of Nihongo Netto, or Japanese Net. The name comes from the idea of a “safety net” and the club acts as just that–a way for international students to get support from domestic students. Mostly, you talk to each other. The club leaders are very patient and help correct your speech (Over. And over. And over.) and also teach you new words. Many of them don’t speak much English, and want to learn from you as they’re teaching.

Mm… so today I learned about how to number months. Seems simple, but in Japan, there are over 500 counter-suffixes, each one used to classify a different type of object (i.e. sanmai = three flat, thin objects: think stamps or pieces of paper). So, for months, you say ___kagetsu. 1ヶ月前、日本に来ました。 Ichikagetsu mae nihon ni kimashita: One month ago, I came to Japan.

Clubs often meet in classrooms, but they can also meet in rooms like this:

Your club is literally like your family. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t neglect your club or you’ll regret it. Attend every meeting you can, and if you miss one, immediately e-mail your leader to explain why and to apologize. Networking is a very, very important part of Japanese society, and most professional relationships begin in clubs or through members of clubs (your former club member introduces you to his friend, Mr. CEO).

I don’t… recommend… joining more than one club. You can if you like, but make sure that you can balance. Most clubs meet 2-4 times per week, and even though the meetings last only technically one period, everyone stays after the time to chat, chill, maybe get dinner if it’s early enough. In the first two months of college, it is expected that you will be club hopping, but after a time, settle for one. Maaaybe two if you’re an overachiever. Just be careful–sometimes joining two clubs (especially if one is a sports team) makes it look as if you aren’t giving your all to either–so keep that in mind.

Good luck! Ganbatte! Have fun with your club membership and don’t be too stressed over doing everything right. Just show up to the meetings, be polite and respectful, and contribute to your club’s discussions and events. In time, you’ll wonder how you lived without these great friends~.