After being in Japan for over 3 weeks we finally began our classes, and it’s been very different from in the US. First off, all the classes I’m taking are entirely in Japanese. None of my professors are speaking any English, which is really putting my prior studies to the test. Not only that, but I also have class on Saturday! It feels very Japanese that way, but I’m not sure how I feel about having class six days a week. However, school isn’t all about the classes! It’s also about having fun and meeting new people! As such, I’ve joined a few clubs on campus and made some new friends that way. In a couple of the clubs I’ve joined we’re learning some traditional Japanese dances, and it’s been really interesting to see how the different clubs and students teaching the dances go about it.
In one club, Waseda International Festival, we’re learning a fishing dance from the Hokkaido region in northern Japan called “Soran-bushi” so that we can perform it at the school festival next month. Aki is leading the dance, and he’s trying to explain the movements in English as well as Japanese, but despite studying in New Mexico for a year, he struggles with explaining things sometimes. Rather than trying to barrel through it he asks an American who is familiar with the dance to explain things when it gets too tough. It’s really nice to see that kind of humility in a leader who can accept their limitations and trust others to make up for them.
In another club, Waseda Dance Society, it’s not simply about learning steps and choreographed movement. Instead it’s about learning the culture and history of Japanese dance. They have a few introductory club meetings where they talked about the fans that they use and the names of the different parts of the fans, as well as how to walk and move your head. The student leading that club also had everyone do the variations between how men and women move in the dances. I found it interesting that rather than have someone else in the club explain what we were doing in English or anything, she instead used very physical explanations. After all, it’s a language that we can all speak.
I’m excited to continue being involved around campus and learn more about the dances and culture of Japan and see how the rest of the semester goes!