I dreamed of boarding my homeward bound flight, a renaissance man, proficient in countless traditional Japanese arts. The prospects of representing my country in kyūdō, quite surprising my family with a Christmas shakuhachi performance, and, abandoning my awful handwriting for my newfound shodō brilliance provided me with a reason to actually look forward to the end of this semester. Save for a dramatic turn of events, these arguably lofty dreams look to be well and truly crushed.
Advised, by the powers that be, not to try my hand at an activity I had no experience in, I regretfully crossed off pretty much every possibility on list. I’m an Englishman. Football is my inochi, how spectacularly original. I stalled before reluctantly accepting that my CIP was to be football. After much research, aided significantly by Yamaoka-sensei, I trotted down to the Kamogawa one fine Saturday morning. Despite not finding the one I had been hoping to, I ended up joining the team that was training there. I say with questionable certainty that this team’s name is Nyū Borā; my understanding is that it came from some Italian phrase.
Football is, in theory, a very rewarding CIP. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the team’s Saturday training sessions, and even then I missed a bunch of them because sometimes there were matches and other times I was getting lost elsewhere during my travels. A team sport whose squads consist of usually 20+ members bound by banter and strong camaraderie, football does provide a solid opportunity to make Japanese friends.
To my relief, the team seemed to jump at the opportunity to count an igirisujin amongst its members; coming from a football-crazy nation helped. Even though they did not add me to their Line group, the players welcomed me with varying enthusiasm, but enthusiasm nonetheless. Many were eager to befriend me in the hope that my English be contagious. I shared meals with a few members, and became as close as my Japanese permits to the only other Doshisha student in this Kyodai circle. Though at times it was tough to keep up with the Kansaiben and speed of speech, conversation was manageable because, unsurprisingly, all of the members were happy to talk about football. There is a strong sense of hierarchy and seniority and an absence of honorifics. Amusingly, when the ball flew into the river the newcomers were expected to retrieve it, and one actually disrobed and entered the water. Upon approaching the team, I was immediately directed towards el capitano, who would often express his surprise at my use of honorifics in emails. This is not different to what one would expect in any other country.
My CIP was enjoyable despite my infrequent attendance preventing my participation in the matches. I made some acquaintances, understood a joke here and there, and tried to improve my embarrassing casual Japanese.
Sebastian, I pride you on playing to your strengths. Being the recipient of an MVP award for soccer – read: football – I can attest that attempting to play said sport while simultaneously practicing your language skills is a staggeringly difficult challenge. I noticed you mentioning that the members were willing to discuss football, and that helped your conversations. In addition to this, what else would you have recommended to me to incite conversations with the students in my circle, as such dialogue virtually never occurred?
Honestly, I was rather surprised when the semester began with a request not to try something new. In fact, I originally saw CIP as a way to try something new. Furthermore, while it is difficult to learn a traditional art–I have been practicing Kendo for three years now–my sensei in United States has always said: “I (sensei) am the living proof that anyone can do this.” So I hope that should you get an opportunity in the future, you do try one of these traditional arts. However, it is a good thing that you were able to talk to lots of people and make friends.
Sebastian, do you know anything else about other football teams and circles at Kyodai? I have a friend who is studying abroad at Kyodai, also an Englishman, who also participates in some sort of football team or club there. In general, how are football teams/clubs/circles organized at Kyodai and Doshisha?