If you have Japanese friends with young families, they will probably tell you about the clubs and associations that their children join – with the English school from age three, piano from four, judo from five, the list is seemingly endless. While this can seem like quite a lot for young children to handle, there are in fact many advantages for children taking part in multiple activities, particularly when we are living as expats.
Things can be tough for us, living in a new country, finding our feet in a strange alien world. However, for children in this position, no matter how resilient they seem, this difficulty can be magnified, something to which I can attest from personal experience. Finding friends and new hobbies through out of school activities can certainly ease that transition. It also has the added advantage of helping us, the parents, meet others in similar positions.
As part of the Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, Tokyo Bees is part of an internationally recognised brand. Operating in 26 countries it claims to be the largest provider of affordable school drama programs in the world. From the website: “Children will be involved in speech training, creative movement, mimes to music, story telling, songs, dramatic play and language activities. Children will learn how to interact in a group as well as to nurture their own individual talents and roles. This original international curriculum is extensive and highly creative and encompasses a 17 year cycle- so a child can come every week for 17 years and never repeat a lesson!” Tokyo Bees has classes for ages 3-12, and Children can start at any time of the year.
There are a few music and dance associations around Tokyo. One of the best known is Crescendo Kids Studio in Shibuya. They use the Kindermusik movement and education program, developed for children aged two to seven. As well as music, there are also yoga classes for both children and mothers. In fact the social role of the parents is highly emphasized and encouraged.
For those with small children, from ages 0-5 there is Tiny Tot and I in Meguro-ku, who “strive to bridge language and cultural barriers through music, games, and laughter. Our goal is to engage your child in music and movement activities in many different ways and most all, make learning fun!”
You can also check out Azabu Music Together in Roppongi and Midtown, “an internationally recognized early childhood music program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, and the adults who love them…[It is an] early childhood music curriculum that strongly emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement.”
Soccer is an international language. Turn up almost anywhere in the world and mention it, and people will understand. This is precisely the case at the British Football Acadamy, based all around the Kanto area. Coaches from the UK, trained by the English Football Association (FA), cater to all children of mixed ability between the ages of 3 and 15 years old. Children “develop individual football skills whilst simultaneously [engaging in] positive peer interaction and teamwork, within a fun, safe and friendly, English-speaking environment.”
The Tokyo International Children’s Choir (TICC) was formed in 2012 and is open to all elementary and middle school children. English is the predominant language spoken in amongst choristers, however the songs themselves can be in a multitude of language. While performances are conducted in St Paul’s Lutheran church, the choir is a non-religious organisation and sing a variety of music from diverse cultural traditions, including classic choral works stemming from Christianity (e.g Bach, Handel) and secular works drawn from Broadway, pop and folk music.
As Pablo Picasso once said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” In Japan, a country which loves its anime and manga cartoon from infancy to adulthood, this is perhaps more true than anywhere. Artist and writer Divya Marie Kato can help your child – and perhaps even your own inner child – realise their creative ambitions.
Riko Fujimoto of Fujimoto Piano Studio has taught piano in both Japan and ther US. From her studio in Suginami she teaches both Japanese and English speaking students and runs courses from the early childhood development ‘baby course’ to professionals. You can take a trial lesson for 2,000 JPY, though quite why this is double the price of a trial lesson taken in Japanese, I’m not sure.
Website: www. fujimoto-piano-studio.jimdo.com
Please note that the above out of school ideas are just for information purposes and none are endorsed by Japan Info Swap or the H&R Group K.K.
Image: flickr.com "kindergarten is fun" bywoodleywonderworks (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified