Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Start of the Year

The new school year effectively starts today, though classes don't start for another week.

One of the first items on the agenda: searching for new members of your "circle", if you're a student. It's the equivalent of freshman rush at many colleges, or "Rotation" at Caltech, except that it's centered on particular activities.

So this week, there will be students packing the quad, wearing American football uniforms (complete with pads), karate gi, cheerleader uniforms, kendo getups, anything you can name. There will be concerts by the many music groups, frisbees flying overhead, many fliers handed out. And, as you can see, the sailplane flying club (and the race car club and yachting club) will parade their toys around for people to ooh and aah over. (The young man holding the wing is one of my students.)

It's an exuberant time, full of the enthusiasm of youth. I love it.

In a Japanese university (and, I think, high school), there are no "tryouts" for the basketball team. Anyone can join. So, the basketball team might have a hundred members. The difference is whether you're good enough to get picked to suit up for the actual games, and, when you're at the bottom of the heap, whether you're willing to put up with the long practices (and the usual forms of senior/junior reminders that you're at the bottom, carrying bags, fetching water, etc.). Those who don't get to suit up for the games are presumably expected to be in the stands, leading organized cheers. I have no idea how you manage practice for a basketball team with a hundred members...probably "varsity", "JV", and "dregs" have separate practice sessions, I would guess.

Speaking of which, in Japan, flying gliders is a competitive sport. The Keio team this year took second in the nationals, losing out to perpetual rival Waseda. Dang. I think we won the championship last year...


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