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A closer look at student clubs interested in recruiting international students

Introducing you to some of the student clubs interesting in recruiting international students

Waseda University prides itself on having the most number of international students among all Japanese universities, with over 7,400 students attended Waseda in 2017. This year on September 22, an additional 861 international students joined us as freshmen for the autumn intake. To all international students thinking of joining a student club (commonly known as ‘circle’ in Japan), we have interviewed three of them which are excited about recruiting potential international students as members.


Mads from Denmark performing at one of the shrines in Kanagawa prefecture

Aoki Iihama, Chief-Secretary
School of Humanities and Social Science

Q. Could you tell us more about Kanzeikai?

“Kanzeikai is basically a Noh circle. Besides practicing Noh once every two weeks at Waseda University Student Center, we receive professional training from a Noh instructor once or twice a month.

In our usual practice, we would first practice shimai, which is a 5 to 10 minute simplified or extracted version of the actual Noh of which the principal parts of the dance are extremely enjoyable. After which, we will also practice utai, which is the vocal part of a Noh performance. As you get better, you will ready to challenge yourself to a full Noh play which may take three years depending on individuals to get to that level.

Also, we would jointly perform with Noh circle members from other universities once or twice a month at a Noh theater, Japanese shrine or outdoor stage.”

Q. How many international students are there currently in the circle? What are some of the good things about having international students in the circle?

Meal after performance

“We did not have any international students until April this year when a student called Mads from Denmark joined us. Unfortunately, as he was only on a short-term exchange program, he has gone back to his country in August. When he was with us, we had to spend extra time explaining the terms and dances to him. But thanks to him, there were increasing interactions and communication between even Japanese members, which we did not have previously. He had made our circle livelier than before.”

Q. Do you have any message for students and prospective members?

“When Mads first joined us, he was already very good at Japanese. Nevertheless, by joining us, he was able to spend more time with local Japanese students outside class and further develop his Japanese language skills. Please do consider coming for a trial or observing the Noh circle to see if you like it.”

International student’s perspective

Mads Johansen (from Denmark)

Q. Could you tell us why you decided to join Kanzeikai?

“When I was studying in Denmark, I had the chance to watch professional Noh performers from Japan performed at my university. Since then, I became really interested in Noh. When I came to Waseda and got invited by Kanzeikai by chance, I decided to give it a try and joined the circle.”

Q. How did you feel after joining the circle?

“I didn’t have a big problem conversing in Japanese even though I am an exchange student because I studied Japanese for about one and half years before coming to Japan. Nevertheless, I must say the members of Kazeikai are really nice and patience to me. They would explain and teach me Noh in a very easy to understand way. About performing Noh, I think it is really challenging to dance and do the vocal parts at the same time. Between June to August, I was given the chance to perform to the public for about three times with the rest of the members at the University Student Center and shrines. It was an incredible experience.”

Q. Do you have any message for students and prospective members?

“The dormitory that I was living in consists of mainly international students and hence I didn’t get to practice speaking much Japanese at the place I stayed. But at Kanzeikai, I have to communicate in Japanese and my Japanese naturally improved even before I realized it. I think as international students, we seldom have the opportunities to learn about traditional Japanese performing arts back in our home country. Therefore, I strongly encourage everyone to give it try.”

Waseda Salsa Party

Waseda Culture and Art Festival in June

Bryan Salazar Cuadros, Chief-Secretary &
Shun Tonegawa, Treasurer
School of International Liberal Studies 

Bryan (right) from Peru & Shun (left) who lived in Malaysia until 20 years old

Q. Could you tell us more about Waseda Salsa Party?

“We are a Latin Dance circle and we perform dancers such as the Salsa and Bachata that originated from Cuba and Dominican respectively. We practice twice a week at the University Student Center and perform during university events and festivals including Waseda Culture and Art Festival.”

“We are a very internationalized student circle as about half of our members are international students. Our international student members come from all over the world including China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium … you name it! Interestingly, even though we are a Latin Dance circle, our Chief-Secretary Bryan is the only member from Latin America, where the dance originated from.”

Dance practice at University Student Center

Q. Could you tell us what are the good things about having international students of various backgrounds in Salsa Party?

“Because our circle consists of members from across the globe, we are able to maintain a sense of freedom and friendliness. You don’t have to worry about age and the vertical relationship with your seniors which exists in a lot of circles made up of mainly Japanese students. We are a student circle where Japanese and international students can forge friendships through dances. Also, as we have so many international students as members, students who are not very comfortable about their Japanese language skills or have just started learning can join us at ease. Our members speak English and Japanese, as well as many other languages.”

Q. Do you have any message for students or prospective members?

“Even on days we don’t practice dancing, our members hang out with each other. We are so close to each other that we would travel together to other parts of Japan or countries during summer vacation. Our international students all feel at ease in Salsa Party. You are free to join us even if you have no experience in Latin dance or dance in general. Why not come any pay us a visit? You can think about joining later.”

International student’s perspective

Johnathan Park (from Australia)

Q. Could you tell us why you decided to join Salsa Party?

“Before I came to Japan, I decided that I would try out things that I have never done before, such wearing a Kimono or doing a traditional Japanese dance. Last year in September when I came to Waseda, I got to know this Japanese student through W-Mentor who is a member of Salsa Party. He told me about and invited me to Salsa Party, and I decided to you the circle.”

Q. How did you feel after joining Salsa Party?

“My student exchange at Waseda University is almost coming to an end and I’ll have to return to Australia very soon. If I hadn’t joined the Salsa Party, I feel that my exchange wouldn’t be as fruitful and rewarding. Some international students came to Japan and were shy to make friends with the local Japanese, and ended up spending most of their time in their own room at the dormitory. I think I would have ended up in a similar situation if it weren’t for Salsa Party. Besides being able to make friends with Japanese and international students, I also feel that I was really lucky to be able to perform in public during university events and festivals.”

Q. Do you have any message for students or prospective members?

“I think it is a waste if you were to come to Japan and spend most of your time only with people from your county or other international students. It’s even worse if you were to just do nothing in your own room or apartment. I’ve gained so much precious experience but taking the first step to try out new things. It can feel uneasy to join a student circle without any friends, but just have the courage to do so and you will not regret it.”

Chamber Choir

Choir performance at  St. Mary’s Cathedral (Tokyo) in 2017

Tomohiro Murotani, Chief-Secretary
School of Culture, Media and Society

Q. Could you tell us more about Chamber Choir?

“We are a circle founded in 1960 and we sing Church music mainly from the Renaissance and Baroque era. The lyrics of the songs are usually in their original European languages such as German, Latin and English. As such, Japanese students like myself often have to look at the Japanese translation to understand what we are singing.”

“Our singing mentor is a countertenor that has rich experience singing around the world. As such, we are also expected to demonstrate high quality performance. Every year in June and November, we would sing at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo. Additionally, Waseda’s Chamber Choir is the only student circle in Japan that has the privilege to sing at the cathedral.”

Q. How many international students are there in the Chamber Choir? Could you share with us some of the benefits of having international students in the circle?

“In September last year, three international students joined us and they are currently still with us. Our singing mentor often says we sound like we are singing in Japanese when we sing in European languages. I feel that international students have helped us to improve on our singing pronunciation and made us feel much confident in our performance. After training, we would often go out for a meal and that gives us opportunities to learn about cultures different from our own.”

Q. Do you have any message for students or prospective members?

“We have already started practicing for the concert to be held in November, but newcomers are still welcome to join us in our performance if they join us now. You don’t have to worry if you have no singing experience or can’t read music scores. As long as you enjoy singing and want to sing with us, we are more than happy to welcome you. Even our international students sometimes take the leading position or solo part of the concert. Do consider joining us!”

International student’s perspective

Mureau Alexandre Emmanuel (from Belgium)
Center for Japanese Language

Gathering party after performance

Q. Could you tell us why you decided to join Chamber Choir?

“Last year in September, I joined the welcome event fair organized by ICC or Intercultural Communication Center. At the event, many student circles were being showcased and Chamber Choir also happened to gave a performance. I was really touched by their performance and thought it would be really nice to be part of the circle. As I also have a love for classical music since I was 15 years old, I decided to join the Chamber Choir.”

Q. How did you feel after joining Chamber Choir?

“The concert at the St. Mary’s Cathedral was the most unforgettable performance for me. I felt nervous when I stepped onto the cathedral as it was my first time doing so. Nevertheless, it felt great singing in front of a big crowd at the cathedral. Reading the comments from the audience who came to our concert also made me feel very satisfying and happy. The party after the big event was also a memorable one.”

Q. Do you have any message for student for perspective students?

“If you love singing, you will definitely like the Chamber Choir. Even though I’ve only joined the circle for a year, the members of the circle have become my lifelong friends. The keyword to doing anything is to ‘enjoy’ it. Don’t forget this in whatever thing you do.”

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