Extracurricular Activities

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What are Extracurricular Activities in Japanese School

In Japanese schools, teachers coach students’ extracurricular activities.  So do I and I have been coaching girls’ volleyball team for three years.  This is a quite unique system and I remember it was difficult to explain what they are like when I stayed in the US.  Sometimes those ordinally but different custom is hard to have people from other culture understand.  

In short, students do some sports or cultural activities “at school” after school and most teachers coach their activities.  It is called “bukatsu” and generally Japanese people think it is “club activities”.  In English, however, bukatsu is translated as extracurricular activities, because they are regarded as “extra” in school curriculum.  Still, since the activities deeply influence school system, almost all teachers have to get involved.  Thus, some teachers have to contribute even they do not want.  This is actually a big controversial issue.

Coaching Sports I Have Never Played

As I mentioned above, I support girls’ volleyball team.  Surprisingly however, I have never played volleyball.  That case sometimes happens because some teacher has to take the responsibility.  I am struggling coaching it due to lack of my experience as a player.  So in this three years, I have learned the rules or practices of volleyball.

Negative Side of the Activity

Time Consuming

Club activity is really time-consuming work.  Usually, students practice for 2-3 hours four days per weekdays and for half a day one day on weekend.  It means we, teachers, has to be the place to supervise.  As you can guess, it leads overtime work.  According to questionnaire, Japanese teachers work the longest in the world.  I think one big reason is this.


Being coach of the activities requires responsibilities.  It is no wonder if a student gets injured when they practice a sport really hard.  Of course teachers have to take care of him/her.  If it is bad, teachers have to call his/her parents or take a hospital.  Also, when they have matches or join competition, teachers have to take them.  To prepare those matches, teachers make handouts to announce. 

Little Allowance for Overtime Work

Even though it takes time and requires responsibilities, teachers get little allowance, like 800 yen per hour, which is lower than working at a convenience store.  Why?  I can only say that is how that is. 

Mainly for those reasons, some teachers do not want to get involved these activities and there is even a signature-collecting campaign against bukatsu.

Positive Side of the Activity

Good Place to Learn Communication

This is for students and club activities allow students to learn how to communicate with others, mainly senior or younger students.  In Japan, younger students should show respect to seniors and this culture is strongly provided by bukatsu.  Through rigorous but earnest relationship, students learn good communication skills.

Students Positive Attitudes towards the Activities

Students usually choose one activity they want to participate, so in many cases students are very positive towards the activity.  They want to play the sport and they normally practice hard.  Some students who do not like studying and not so motivated get really enthusiastic when they are in the team.  In that sense, bukatsu give those students place to belong.


I would have never played or learned volleyball if I did not become the coach of volleyball team.  No experience as a player is not easy for me and almost all the time it is very tough.  However, I can say it is quite good experience.  For teachers and for students it can be said that bukatsu provide opportunities to learn something.

My Opinion

For me, surely bukatsu is not always easy, but I do not say I do not like it.  It is a part of Japanese culture and I do not want to deny it.  Like “friend” is not always comfortable to us, it has positive aspects and negative aspects.  Still we can accept it and see ways to coexist.  Now bukatsu is controversial and I am not sure what it will be in the future, but I just want to see what happens and try to do my best.


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