Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sports Day 2011

It seems that I didn't write about Sports Day last year, but it was one of the events I was anticipating most this year. Sports Day is a day-long competition between the different classes in each grade. The grades also join together in blocks (so class 1 of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students are one team, etc) and compete against the other blocks. The day starts out with an opening ceremony where all the students march by with their classes. It's very militaristic looking, and I have a very hard time seeing American students not refusing to do it. When I say marching, I mean marching. Their arms and knees need to reach a certain height on every step and the must be in sync with their classmates. They practice marching for HOURS in the days leading up. Next on the program in radio taiso- or radio exercises. Pretty much warm up exercises. If you've seen the Michael Keaton movie Gung Ho, you know what I'm talking about. It's actually pretty fun. However this too needs to be executed perfectly and thus requires hours of practice.
The events themselves include 50m, 100m and 200m sprints, 800/1500m (girls/boys respectively) runs, relays, and then the fun events. At my junior high school, the first years have an obstacle course relay, the second years have a jump rope contest- all the students in each class jumping with one long rope per class, and the third years have a mukade race. I don't know if I've mentioned mukade before, but it's the word for centipede in Japanese. So this race requires all the students in each class to have both legs tied to ropes in a single file line- think single-file three-legged race, but with 40 students.
First year relay
Mukade race

The event ends with a big traditional Japanese dance. At my school, all the grades come together to perform soran, the fisherman's dance. Apparently, it's rare for the three grades to perform the dance together; at most schools each grade does a difference dance. Further, my students seem to be extraordinarily good at it! My friends told me it was much better than anything their students did. I really want to learn the dance, but I was never at that school on the right days to learn it.
Fisherman's dance 
In the weeks leading up to Sports Day, it seems as if the students never stop practicing. I could hear them from my house in the morning, they practiced at least 2 hours during school and then after school as well. The kids are so tired during this time, and then they get in trouble for not doing their homework because they're too tired. Rough. But the students love it, and I love it. I ran in two relays (despite my food poisoning induced fever and having not eaten at all the day before). But how can I say no to Sports Day? I can't. I didn't do much though. For the first relay, with the PTA, we carried a basket of balloons on our backs and balanced a ball on a ladle while "running" about 20 meters. My team lost :( The second relay was with the second grade teachers against the second grade girl relays. They only had me run about 15 meters. Again, we lost. Sports Day is one of my favorite events all year. My elementary school also has Sports Day, but it's in June. Last year I missed it due to my foot disaster. You better believe I'm looking forward to it this year.

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