During the spring semester of KCJS 2015, I joined the table tennis circle of Doshisha University. It proved to be a great experience as I had the opportunity to improve my table tennis skills, interact with Japanese students and learn more about their life and culture.
I chose table tennis circle for my Community Involvement Project because I was always interested in table tennis and I didn’t have the opportunity to practice in the States. Since spring semester is a not a good time for KCJS students to join University circles (KCJS spring semester overlaps with the 2-month long spring break in universities in Japan), I didn’t expect to be able to join the table tennis circle at Doshisha. I initially contacted some table tennis clubs outside school but none of them worked with my schedule. Finally, a Japanese friend of mine told me that she heard that the Doshisha table tennis circle still held weekly trainings in February and March. I quickly contacted the circle and joined their training.
The skill level at the circle was professional. The circle held 3-4 training sessions a week, with each session lasting for 3 hours. The training was conducted in the form of rotational one-on-one matches. Around 80% of the members are male. Yet, it would be presumptuous to assume that girls are any weaker than guys—when they are wielding a racket playing against you across the table, you should expect nothing less from a female opponent. Girls in the table tennis circle do not subscribe to the gender stereotype, and the relationship among members in the circle can be best described as “camaraderie”.
People were very friendly in the circle. Some might be perceived as shy at first but once I talked to them, after a joke or two, they would soon treat me as a close friend. I happened to become a very good friend with the captain, as we both shared a passion for cycling and table tennis. He would conduct individual sessions with me to improve my skills. Aside from training, we would always talk about a good array of topics: his part-time job, hometown near Kyoto, favorite food… his girlfriends…and other stuff… of course. Other members would always label him as a “bad boy” (I guess it’s equivalent to the English word Playboy). True enough, he was often absent from trainings due to “various” reasons, which only further raises my respect for him, as he demonstrates a value that is outrageously worth emulating among “salarymen” in Japan nowadays—if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, I am sure he will be a good salaryman in the future given his outstanding leadership skills—particularly in planning nomikai (drinking parties), an important skill that is now apparently one of my biggest takeaways from my CIP.