They don’t always hit each other with sticks.

It rained for the next couple days, and when I went to kendo by myself on Thursday, I found most everyone preparing for the 学際 (school festival).

As a side note, clubs in Japan aren’t superficial things that a handful of people join and show up when they feel like it, they’re an integral part of scholastic life. Not being in a club is an uncommon thing, and many club members have been practicing whatever the club’s specialty is (music, martial arts, drawing) for years. Belonging to a group is important in Japan, so club loyalty is no surprise. I’ve seen a few members of kendo club show up even if they’re not going to participate, just to be with their peers. Mayu sometimes comes and does homework. Atsumi audits an economics class on Tuesdays, so she comes to club early, leaves shortly after it starts, and comes back just before it finishes. I admire and envy that loyalty; as the president of a club at my own university, I find that apathy is my worst enemy, and wish that we had the level of devotion the Japanese have. As for the school festival, I believe the last time I did something like that back home was in elementary school.

Atsumi and her contribution to the signage. I insisted it looked like a turtle trying to eat the soba, rather than a 面, which she vehemently denied.

Anyway, I arrived to find the club members deep in preparation for the upcoming festival. The week before, Natascha and I had found them tinkering with some ideas, but this week was a big push. Rather than work downstairs in the gym, we were on an even higher floor (which I hadn’t been aware of at first) in a locker room, split into two groups. One group was working on the main poster, an elaborate vertical banner with a masked kendo player surrounded by yakisoba noodles — because that’s what the club would be doing for the festival: selling yakisoba for 200円. (I’m told they would be selling doughnuts on the Hoshigaoka campus, but I didn’t hear much more about it.) I’d seen them drawing the outlines the week before, and it was pretty impressive then, but they were coloring it in, and it looked pretty intricate. I joined the other group, who were concentrating on making smaller signs to use as needed, and they encouraged me to make one as well. I sketched a bowl of soba and wrote a brief tagline about the price, but I’m no artist. The others made some pretty basic signs, but still much better than I could have done, and everyone was goofing off. That’s the moment when I decided that joining a club had been an excellent idea, and I’d even picked the right one.

After we all finished our smaller signs, everyone cleaned the place up and we made our way out. The festival wasn’t for a couple weeks, but there was a three-day break in the middle of the following week, so they wanted to be sure everything got done quickly. Everyone split at the entrance to the subway, and I came home to do a small mountain of homework.

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