An extracurricular activity for a child is a must in Japan.  But maybe not for the reasons you are thinking.  The true reason is this:  If you live in Japan, you constantly gets asked by nosy busybodies curious acquaintances, “What clubs do your child do?”  If you don’t have a satisfactory answer, everyone will think that you allow your child unlimited access to video games and youtube and that’s all your child does all day long from morning til night, seven days a week.

But if you simply say, “Aikido!” the questioner is happy, and you can move on to other topics.

My son has been in a few clubs.  Some I have been happy with.  Some not.  I didn’t really realize that some are better than others and it is really worth checking them out thoroughly before plunking down money.  So anyway, here are our clubs and my opinions of them:

1.)  Aikido:  Simply put my son in this at age four because this is Japan and it’s the country of martial arts.  And don’t all little boys love to fight?  (Mine does.)   Despite my lack of research, we lucked out with GREAT teachers.  LOVE THIS CLASS.  If you live in Fukushima City, it is on the top floor of Spal.  See you there.

2.) Swimming:  My son and I played in water together quite a bit, but I just couldn’t teach him how to swim.  He wasn’t having it.  So I put him in swimming class. I wasn’t really happy with it, because they are divided by levels, my son being in the lowest, of course.  Well, they paddle boarded constantly.  Constantly.  They never seemed to advance.  Whenever they had the specific day to “test up” to the next level, something went wrong (illness, other engagement) and he never moved to a higher level.  We eventually quit due to the mess that followed THE EARTHQUAKE and never rejoined.  I would like to have gotten him back into it, but he had no desire.  They do swimming at school, plus we do water play in America quite a lot.  So I think he’s okay in swimming.  He is just not going to be another Michael Phelps.

3.)  Robot Class:  This was my husband’s idea, because my son LOVES robots.  It sounds neat, doesn’t it?  Robot class?  Well, it sucked.  The kids got a bunch of legos and played with legos while the teacher did nothing.  So a LOT of money for Lego play.   No longer in this club.

4.) Sunday School:  At our church, and free.  My son hated it.  I hated it to be honest, because it was after a very long mass, and we didn’t finish until so late. Like swimming, and robot class, it got disrupted by THE EARTHQUAKE. When we came back, my son didn’t want to rejoin and I did not make him.

5.)Play Cult: We joined this a little over a year ago, so relatively recently. Not exactly an extracurricular. We pay money monthly and occasionally watch plays (in Japanese) or musical performances or whatever. They have get-togethers, some of which we attend and some which we don’t. I really enjoy this, and I know my son does, too. It’s a nice way to spend time together. Japan works so hard at separating child from parent that it is good for us to keep our closeness as long as possible.

6.)Mommy Mommy English School: This is our own version of an English school! I teach him English with textbooks every morning. I don’t think he loves it, but I think he appreciates it, with the understanding that it makes him stronger in literacy. Not really an extracurricular, but it is the best investment and what he has learned the most from. (Aside from Aikido, which is a totally different type of thing.)

7.) Yamaha Music: Did this with my son when he was a toddler. Fun. Seems like long long ago. I am sure he doesn’t even remember it.

There you have it! My son’s clubs, present and past! I am not a Tiger Mom, so my list is pretty short. But I guess my main advice is to look carefully at the club before entering, especially the teacher. (And ask the question: Will the teacher change? There is no point in starting with a great teacher, only to be switched over to a sucky one.)