Sports Day Festival

Just last Friday was the school Taikusai (sports day). As always, it was a great event to go to, in my school’s case, a battle between four coloured teams- red, blue, yellow and green. There were a wide variety of spectacles and fun to be seen- starting off with a ‘mast’ race up a bamboo pole to plant a flag at the top- what I call the Pirates of the Caribbean Special. There was the girls’ tire battle to see which team could get the most into their pile, leading to some pretty wild scenes and the comparatively tame (or so it seemed) boy’s equivalent of getting bamboo rods.

Aside from a lot of sprinting, tug-of-war and group skipping (which looks pretty hard to co-ordinate), there was the ‘theme relay race’, where all the clubs race in their respective styles- the karate club go around chopping and kicking, the judo club doing their judo, the football club kicking footballs and the cheerleaders, well, cheering! Finally came a ‘horse race’ where the students a try to topple others from their group-mount (like piggy-back fighting, but with about four students holding from below. All of this was interspersed with little shows of kids dressed as anime characters and the like chasing ones from other teams, a bit like the intermissions between levels in ‘Pac-Man’.

What made it even more interesting for me was being able to go around and see it all from different perspectives. First from the front by the vice-principal, who very kindly translated the program for me, which was a bit like the ‘television camera view’. In the sweltering heat I really wondered if I had the energy to get up, but after around the 33rd sprint (or so it seemed), I decided it was time to have a walk around and be sociable. It was great to see the students’ enthusiasm and have a chat with them outside the hallowed walls of the classroom. There is just such an atmosphere of fun at the event- a bit like that at Japanese festivals or ‘matsuri’ that you can’t help but be sucked up into it. Along with the sand and sun it really had a holiday feel- all that was missing was the sea!

Switching for a bit, I joined a teacher sitting on a far wall from where you could see everything at once, all the cheering, all the teams, which gave it a kind of timeless quality. I was reminded of the Olympic symbols, the interlocking circles of different colours, competing but still united.  Then I went to see some students again, stopping for some photos with some of the third-graders, which was fun, despite sitting through about seven different cameras. From inside a team, you see them cheering on their own individual members and it suddenly gets a lot more personal as they are so keen on winning- then you move on to another team and suddenly it’s someone else that they want to win. Seeing as they are all my students, I really wanted all of them to win (except anyone fouling, of course, which did happen sometimes, especially with the tires or the bamboo poles). It’s kind of a god-like perspective to have, but I suppose I shouldn’t let it go to my headJ

One thing that is great here with the school sports is the sportsmanship- there was hardly any nastiness, everyone just wanted their own team to win not wanting anyone else to lose. As you often find when around kids, you start to hope that the adults could learn something from them for change. The fact that all the teams got some kind of win (best student in team, etc) was a really good idea as it ended on a good note. The winning red team was happiest, but others also had something to celebrate, quite unlike the ‘winner takes all’ mess of the World Cup. Then, as they played the Japanese anthem at the end, it finally started to rain, which seemed to be to be incredible luck (there was a worry it would have to end early for this).

One thing that was very sweet was that one class had made a ‘momento’ for their former (in some cases current) home-room teacher to thank him, for being their teacher the last year. It was so sweet, individually signed by each and every one of them, with a cartoon of him inn the middle. I was really glad to be there at that moment- even more than being around the red team when they celebrated their victory. As it showed just how much the students appreciate a teacher who really cares about them.

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