Students take action to raise awareness of violations in the current law and seek further information through student surveys.

One of the hallmarks of Japanese junior high school and high school life is participation in an after-school club activity, known as bukatsu in Japanese. These club activities are often divided into sports clubs and cultural clubs (such as art club, calligraphy club, or traditional culture club), but the specific number and type of offerings vary by region and school.

▼ Among the standard sports clubs, baseball and softball remain top aspirational choices for many students.

Joining a club is also not just a casual commitment. Students are typically expected to attend their club of choice almost every day after school for a few hours, as well as on Saturday mornings (which is a huge burden on teachers, too). If that sounds like a massive expectation on top of homework and, well, just letting kids have time to be kids, rest assured that club activities are technically optional to join…but are they really?

▼ “It’s Saturday morning and I just want to sleep…luckily no one can see me yawn under my kendo helmet!”

It’s exactly out of concern for the above point that the non-profit Japan Youth Conference petitioned the Japan Sports Agency (JSA; a division of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), on March 9 to find out what’s really going on at schools across the country. In the petition, they expressed concern about more than a few cases of junior high or high school students being forced to join a club activity against their will despite current JSA guidelines clearly stating that participation should be voluntary.

▼ The Youth Conference was established in 2015 to provide Japanese youth with an opportunity to have their voices heard by the government and effect policy change. Here’s a commemorative photo after the Youth Conference submitted their petition to JSA.

As next steps, the Youth Conference has asked the JSA to raise nationwide awareness about this issue, to request a survey be implemented among Japanese students in order to gather more facts about the status quo, and to better inform teaching staff that they must not mandate students to join club activities. If the recent relaxation of certain policies in Tokyo public schools is any indication, perhaps we’ll see better enforcement of voluntary participation in club activities in the near future.

Source: Kyodo News via Yahoo! Japan
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