What are Circles and how is it different from a Club?

Universities in Japan usually have a circle/club system where students join as a part of their extra-curricular activities. A club is usually more serious than a circle which demands more commitment and usually has a rigorous schedule. Clubs also participate in various contests and tournaments and put up a display worth the event.

Both clubs and circles are usually seen participating in the school festival where they either showcase their work or sell food and promote themselves. They are an important part of a student’s life.

What are the types of Circles available?

Each university has its own history of clubs and circles. Circles are extremely diverse. From sport circles such as badminton, volleyball, horse-riding, and more to literary circles such as newspaper writing, philosophy, book reading to music and dance circles; there is something for everyone in the list. Universities can have over 100 circles easily given the diversity of interests.

In Tohoku University, for example, there is also a law research circle and city planning circle. Hence, you can think about what you may be interested in, there is a chance that the university may have it already.

Is it possible to establish your own circle in an university? How?

Universities are liberal and usually give freedom if someone wants to establish a new circle. However, each university has its own set of rules and regulations.

Tohoku University, for example, requires at least 6 months of establishment, an academic supervisor and about 5-10 members to apply to be a circle. You can contact the student life support section of your university and they can provide you more information.

The story of my Circle

Since I was a prolific student writer in Indian newspapers as a middle school and a high school student, I wanted to have a similar experience in Japan. However, I could not find any student-run English newspaper on campus and this is when I thought of establishing one.

I gathered a team of my friends and discussed the idea of establishing a newspaper. Since we did not have any funds to print it, we used a part of our scholarship money to buy a domain and run a website. After about a year, we applied to become a formal circle and succeeded in becoming one. We could easily prove our success of one year as our readers grew from mere 10 to about 7,000 from across the world and we could get university professors to write columns and articles for the newspaper. This aided in a successful application.

The newspaper circle usually conducted interviews and reported about student events at the university. Later on, we also received funds to print special copies of our newspaper once a year from the university.

How to manage a circle and secure its future?

Managing a circle requires a lot of administrative work. Each year, an annual report must be submitted to report the work of previous year. It also requires managers to attend club/circle meetings at the university. Yet, when done properly, a circle is an extremely good experience as it opens up new opportunities for members and teaches the necessary social skills.

It is also important to train the future leaders of the circle so that a circle has a sustainable future. The work of the leader also includes the training of next leaders.

Tips on making a new circle

Try to find something different and something that is not available at your university. Japan has a lot of untapped potential in exploring various clubs and circles. Find your calling and you can end up exploring unchartered territories in your university life.