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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2013 Spring Issue]>[Person on the cover] Cheering Squad’s female leader with TOEIC 930

Hakumon CHUOIndex

Person on the cover

Cheering Squad’s female leader with TOEIC 930

Arika Honjo
4th-Year Student in the Faculty of Economics, Chuo University

Arika Honjo is the female leader of the Chuo University Cheering Squad, which has the female leader for the second consecutive year. At entrance ceremonies, games at the Jingu Stadium and the Hakone Ekiden, Arika cheers as loud as she can and makes grand gestures. Arika was born in Los Angeles, U.S.A. and lived in Australia before returning to Japan. She entered the Cheering Squad in order to study traditional Japanese culture. Correct manners, regal bearing and graceful elegance of her are the ideal characteristics of a Japanese woman. Although the Cheering Squad tends to be male-dominated, a new wind of change is blowing.

Pouring water on herself

During a spring game of the Tohto University Baseball League game held at the Jingu Stadium, the Chuo University Baseball Team was being defeated badly. Arika poured water on her head. She continued to hold the large pot upside-down over her head. Chuo supporters packed into stadium seats were shocked and looked at each other in disbelief. Who would have thought that this small woman would take such drastic action? This incident took place last April, which was still cold despite being spring. Thanks to this spirited support from 3rd-year students called associate executive, Chuo supporters sitting in the 3rd-base seats were energized.

Arika’s fellow 3rd-year student (at that time) Yūki Takei (3rd-year student in the Faculty of Law; graduate of Tochigi Prefectural High School) powerfully beat a large taiko drum. The Cheerleading Club danced with big smiles. The brass core band played the Chuo school song and other cheering songs. This powerful combination of support had a varied pace and good rhythm. Anyone watching and listening to the cheering couldn’t help being excited.

Known as the leader of the Cheering Squad, Arika has a rich voice and clear language. Her good manners make her appear as the ideal student to older alumni. “We may have lost the game, but our cheering is the best in Japan!” Next, alumni raised their voices.

Arika and other Cheering Squad students in the same grade are now 4th-year students.

“We cheer as representatives of Chuo University. Our role is to unify athletes and fans. In order to support athletes, we also train ourselves mentally and physically.”

Yūki Takei became Vice-Leader of the Cheering Squad and was appointed as Chairperson for the Athletic Federation on April 1st. Together, Arika and Yūki will create even more excitement for Chuo University Athletic Federation and Chuo University Sports.

Training the body and mind

Arika and Yūki hold very tough practices. Most baseball games take more than 3 hours. At automobile endurance races, Squad members cheer for 6 hours straight. At the Hakone Ekiden held at the start of the New Year, Squad members cheer in freezing winter winds at the start in Otemachi, Tokyo and at the goal in Hakone, Kanagawa,

Squad members build basic physical fitness by running. The Cheering Squad runs endlessly around Gymnasium No. 1 on the Tama Campus. “Your voice must come from your stomach.”—This teaching makes it essential to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.

Every day, Squad members complete the following kind of training. They leapfrog while singing cheering songs. They hold stones or weights and swing their arms. In training known as 100 Real Cheering Songs (leader: 100 times), they practice shouts of encouragement for students which are performed at venues such as the Jingu Stadium. Other training includes lowering their bodies into a squatting position and holding for a long period of time. They climb mountains in Hakone (5th section of Hakone Ekiden), do forward crawling, handstand and pushups, push wheelbarrows, run hill sprints and do V-sit-ups (keeping their lower back on the ground, they raise their feet and head simultaneously, all while singing cheering songs).

This kind of training is performed almost every day. Correctly completing each portion of the training builds mental strength. Members discover new aspects of themselves when they become able to perform a new physical feat.

When returning home, Arika does 100 sit-ups and lifts a 10-kilogram dumbbell. The Vice-Leader and other junior fellows of the Cheering Squad also exercise at their homes.

“I love exercising,” says Arika. “I often played with my two younger brothers. If my father offered to play soccer with us, I was the first one to kick the ball. Also, I often watched the Koshien High School Tournament on television.” Arika’s father holds black belts in Kyokushin karate and judo. Her mother was a volleyball player. Sports have always been a big part of her family.

Refusing to lose to her younger brothers

Arika did not join at teams or Squads when she was a student at the Raymond Academy High School, a private international school in Yokohama. Outside of school, she formed a band and played the bass. “My younger brother’s excelled at sports and I gave up any hope of competing with them,” says Arika. When I entered university, my mother encouraged me by saying ‘You are better at sports than most normal girls.’”

The enthusiasm towards sports which had been dormant in Arika began to run through her mind. She approached a representative of the Cheering Squad who was distributing Squad flyers at a welcome event for new students. “May I have one of those?” Arika asked.

Arika was invited to the Cheering Squad booth. She looked at photographs while drinking tea and eating the Chuo University rice cakes that she was given. She felt interested in the photographs showing activities of the Cheering Squad.

Another reason Arika was interested in the Cheering Squad was that one of the older female students had also lived overseas when she was younger. “I was really impressed by Kaname Kiyosawa, who was a 4th-year student at that time,” says Arika. “She talked about the EIKEN examination and TOEIC. I realized that I could study, obtain certificates and improve my physical fitness as well. I had also heard that the Cheering Squad values tradition.”

Before entering Chuo University, Arika consulted with one of her male friends. “I want to learn about traditional Japanese culture,” explained Arika. “What club should I enter?” Her friend recommended that she join the Cheering Squad. In fact, that friend had belonged to a cheering Squad himself in high school. He told Arika about his experiences with tradition, loyalty to one’s school, good manners and discipline.

Arika decided to join the Cheering Squad. She was so committed that she even invited other new students to join the Squad, despite being a 1st-year student herself. During her first year at university, she commuted to school wearing an order-made student uniform and had a short haircut. Due to this appearance, she was mistaken for a male student.

Great responsibility of the Leader

Minna-no-Yume Award 3: Encouraging all of Japan from the stage

On January 30th, Arika stood on stage at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo and gave the following greeting: “I am Arika Honjo, Leader of the Chuo University Cheering Squad!” Her statement sent waves of surprise through the 8,000 spectators filling the audience seats. Arika was taking part in Minna-no-Yume Award 3, an event where participants discuss their dreams (sponsored by Nippon Broadcasting System and J-Wave).

Immediately before Arika took the stage, the popular musician Motohiro Hata had sung passionately and interacted with the audience. The audience was still buzzing when Arika took the stage and changed the venue’s atmosphere with her short greeting.

Continuing from the proceeding leader Mai Fuki (graduated in March 2013), Arika is the 2nd consecutive female leader of the Cheering Squad. This only adds to the attention which she attracts.

In addition to supporting athletes at sporting events, the Cheering Squad is invited to many functions including a ceremony to congratulate the Women’s Marksmanship Team on their national championship and an event held by the Association for Strengthening the Ekiden Team to motivate runners. Participants in these events are suddenly enlivened when Arika and other Squad members enter. The Cheering Squad leads everyone in singing the school song and creates even more excitement by singing other cheering songs. Venues are filled with the singing of people with their hands on each other’s shoulders.

“I’m happy to have a chance to speak with many people at such events,” says Arika. “They happily tell me that ‘I haven’t sung the school song for such a long time. It makes me recall my time at university.’ As students, we learn a lot about society by speaking with alumni.”

Actually, Arika has her share of worries. After becoming leader, she feels a heavy weight of responsibility. She receives opinions from many people regarding the operation of the Cheering Squad. There is little praise for her work; in fact, she is mainly criticized.

Last year, Arika was supervising practice for five 1st-year students. Social conditions are starting to affect even the tradition of the Cheering Squad. If the new members were to quit because they found practice too hard, it would be bad for the Squad. However, it is also unacceptable for discipline to fall apart due to excessive kindness. Tommy Lasorda, former coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers MLB team, once said the following. “Controlling athletes is difficult. It’s like having a small bird in your hand. Squeeze too hard and the bird is crushed. Relax your grip too much and the bird flies away.” Arika also reflected on this dilemma every day.

Together with friends in the Cheerleading Squad and Brass Core Club

There is also something that Arika has looked forward to for a long time—a clash of siblings with her younger brother Kento, a member of the Hosei University Baseball Team (Kento is a 2nd-year student, plays outfielder on the baseball team, and is a graduate of Hosei University Daini Senior High School.) “My brother and I talk about how great it would be if Hosei University won the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League and Chuo University won the Tohto University Baseball League, resulting in a national championship game between our universities or the Meiji Jingu Tournament,” says Arika. “I’ll cheer for my brother until his team wins the Big 6 League.”

After cheering, Arika returns to being a cheerful young woman. She smiles often and is always talkative. She can speak English at the same level as Japanese. Her TOEIC score is 930 (maximum score of 990) and she has passed EIKEN grade Pre-1.

“Chuo graduate Kaname Kiyosawa is unbelievable,” says Arika. “Last time I talked to her she had a score of 985. She continues to study even after graduating, which makes me realize that I have to do the same. No matter how difficult practice is, my friends from the Cheerleading Squad and Brass Core Club always encourage me. Such support really helps me persevere.”

Arika is filled with energy—time for a cheering song

♪Now is the time to seize victory! Let’s go! Let’s go! Chuo! Chuo!

Origin of her name

“People often ask me if my name is ‘Arika’ because I was born in America,” laughs Arika. “Of course, I tell them no!” Apparently, Arika’s name came from the popular television drama Tokyo Love Story that her parent’s enjoyed watching. The heroine of the drama was Rika Akana (portrayed by actress Honami Suzuki), a woman who returned to Japan after spending her childhood overseas. Arika’s parents wanted to give the same name Rika to their eldest daughter. However, considering the number of strokes in the name, they decided to add the Chinese character (pronounced as a). Arika is also easy for both Japanese and English speakers to pronounce, which was important to Arika’s parents. The drama Tokyo Love Story was broadcast on Fuji Television Network in January 1991.

TOEIC

TOEIC, or the Test of English for International Communication, is a standardized test implemented throughout the world as a broad assessment for the English communication ability of non-native speakers. The maximum score is 990. A score of 860 or higher indicates the following: “Sufficient communication ability as a non-native speaker. The individual is able to correctly understand vocabulary, grammar and syntax, and is able to use the English language fluently.” (From documentation of the Institute for International Business Communication (IIBC), the organization which implements and operates the TOEIC).

Chuo University Cheering Squad

At the far right of the front row is Vice-Leader Takei, who also serves as Chairperson of the Chuo University Athletic Federation.

Founded in 1946. Divided into 3 groups: Cheering Squad, Cheerleading Club and Brass Core Club (Brass Band). The 3 groups cheer as one.

  • Every year, the Cheerleading Club independently enters the All-Japan Collegiate Cheerleading Championships. During the 24th Championships held last December, the Chuo Cheerleading Club advanced into the finals. Cheerleaders compete by exhibiting superb teamwork within the 2-minute 30-second time limit. Special movements include coordinated group gymnastics known as towers. Athletes maintain a high-level of concentration and compete seriously while smiling the whole time.
  • Similar to leaders of the other clubs, members of the Brass Core dress in student’s uniforms for both men and women. The Brass Core performs under the slogan of resonating sound, excitement and jubilant cheers. The core also cheers together with the Cheerleading Club. Similar to the Cheerleading Club, the Brass Core is known for its refreshing performances and smiling members.