In Japan we say that Autumn is the time for reading, eating and sports and by the calendar, October 10 is the official Sports Day in Japan. Probably for that reason, October is the month that schools, kindergartens and neighborhood schedule their Sports Days. This weekend I was invited to the neighborhood elementary school Sports Day events. I know quite a lot of the kids who go there because a few of them come to English and I see a lot of them when I do crosswalk duty in the mornings, so even though my own kids are not around I attended and took lots of pictures.
Sports Days are mini Olympics with lots of class events and dances performed etc. The school ground is decorated with flags and banners and a lot of work goes into preparing for this biggest event of the school year. The mayor will send a telegram, some politicians make the rounds and give speeches, the principal gives a speech, as well as a couple 6th graders pledging fair sportsmanship and effort. All the parents and grandparents attend and make huge picnic lunches to enjoy during lunch break and there are even booths set up by vendors selling cotton candy, snow cones, and grilled squid. A big festival for all! There were too many events for me to report on all of them but here a couple of my favorites.
There was the Giant Ball Race where the 1st graders rolled a ball taller than themselves around a post and relayed it back to their team. Three or four kids were trying to control their ball and of course couldn't see where they were going or their teammanship would go haywire and they would be rolling into the surrounding audience. Great fun for all!
Another event was the Bamboo Pull where the teams try to collect the most bamboo poles for their side. Sort of like a tug-o-war except the kids tug on poles and as each pole gets taken to the team line, all the members run to help pull the next pole until you've got loads of kids from both teams trying to get the last few poles to their side. That was quite exciting.
There was also a wonderful traditional dance performed by the 4th graders and the highlight was the little happi coats that the parents had been asked to decorate to make them personal. That was wonderful to see and of course I'm always partial to hand work so I enjoyed seeing how creative the mothers were. Some kids had their names appliqued in felt to the backs of the happis, some had designs and spangles. I wish I had been asked to make something like that when my kids were in school. I probably would have spent weeks working on it! ( A patchwork happi coat?)
And my absolute favorite event is the Kumi Taiso performed by the 5th and 6th graders. This starts out with each child doing some gymnastic position alone and then gradually two kids will perform together, then three, then five until there were about 20 to 25 kids forming pyramids and acrobatic positions. It is actually quite moving to see all these kids moving together in rhythm by a signal from a teacher's whistle.
Anybody want to join a three legged race?