[From December Issue 2011]
Even before they enter elementary school, Japanese children are kept busy every day with classes. A variety of subjects are available, including swimming, piano, Japanese calligraphy, and foreign languages. Approximately 80% of pre-elementary school children attend at least one class. There are even children who manage to attend around four or five classes. The monthly tuition and other fees for one class can cost between 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen.
There are over 200 children attending Yoseikan, a karate dojo in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Of them, 43 students are in kindergarten. The main reason the parents chose this dojo is so their children can learn self-discipline and good manners. At the dojo qualities of independence are encouraged by teaching children the proper way to reply to questions, how to greet others, how to correctly remove and stow their shoes and correct posture. Yoseikan is not only a place where you can acquire karate skills; it’s also a place that builds mental strength.
“In Japan children used to be taught discipline and correct manners at school and at home, but in modern Japan this is no longer the case. These days adults are inconsiderate of others, and do not exchange greetings. Such adults cannot properly teach their children what is right and what is wrong,” says the head of the dojo, WATANABE Takato.
The mother of a kindergarten student attending the dojo says, “After my child began karate here, he become more positive about facing challenges, he also lines up his own shoes at the entrance after taking them off without anyone telling him to do so. He looks forward to every class saying, ‘Karate is tough but fun.’”
Watanabe says, “Once children acquire that enjoyable feeling that they can do anything they put their mind to, they begin to aim higher and thus develop their natural abilities. In fact, one of our third year elementary school girls won the national championships in 2010.”
Recently, because of the influence of figure skater ASADA Mao and golfer ISHIKAWA Ryo, the numbers of children taking lessons in sports that are typically considered to be for adults only have risen. Kid’s Golf located in Minato Ward, Tokyo, provides golf lessons for children. The most unusual feature of this school is the location of the classes; together with an instructor, children practice on an actual golf course.
PR representative, KOSHIGOE Saeko says, “Japan does not have an environment where children can enjoy a lighthearted game of golf on a golf course. Our aim is to offer an opportunity for children to get a taste of what golf is, and hope they will grow to like it.”
At 37,000 yen for two lessons a month, tuition is rather expensive, but there is no dress code and golf clubs can be rented free of charge. There are currently approximately 40 first to sixth grade elementary school students of both sexes enrolled at the school. Many golf-mad parents sign their children up for lessons, but as children quickly improve they too find themselves completely caught up in the sport.
Giving children the opportunity to study a variety of subjects increases the chances that they’ll realize their true potential. Parents express their love for their children by giving them this chance to grow into respectable adults while enjoying themselves.
Text: MUKAI Natsuko子