Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Summer. September. Time for sports day.

this isn't a recent post. It's been sitting in my 'to do' files...

When I first arrived in Japan, sports day was the beginning of the realization that Japanese schools are 'different'. Now, a year on, the similarites to every other high school are apparent. You just have to be prepared to look a little harder. Everyone's still enthusiastic, the smiles, the laughter is just as apparent. On my first sports day, I was horrified that the kids were having to spend so much time marching in the sun (admittedly summer is biding us a hasty farewell at moment, instead of hanging on for grim death like it did last year), but they seem to enjoy it, it's something for them to be proud of and present themselves as a single unit, as a representative of their school. Sure, it's a little different to the freedom that I was allowed as a student, but it doesn't mean that it's any less enjoyable for the kids that I was watching today.

The focus of the day seems to be more about the culmination of an awful lot of hard work and preparation and down to the minute, split second timing and arganisation. I shit you not, the program for today not only had obscure times like 10.47, but had the second times written as well.

There's still events like the running and relay races, and my god, those kids can run fast. There's the tug-of-war that seems a bit unfair to me as the ichi-nenseis (first years) have to compete against the ni-nenseis and san-nenseis, but still, despite the apparent inevitability of it all, they still give it everything they've got. Occasionally, like the first year girls today, they'll surprise themselves and overcome the size and strength disparities and be just as amazed as everyone else. The screaming and jumping around may well have depleted their new found wee muscles, as they were then convincingly thumped by the third years as though it was retribution for even daring to beat a year group older than them. En-masse jump rope - 20 kids in one large rope, all trying to jump as many times as possible, in a limited time.

The obstacle course was one of the funniest things I have seen in school yet. It involved sack racing, commando crawling through a tunnel of netting, two-legged skipping, leap frog and then, in pairs, having to make a giant tube of cardboard (imagine a mouse wheel) move for about 50 metres by doing summersaults. Poor little poppets were so dizzy when they finally got out of it, but most of them couldn't breathe for laughing so hard, so standing up straight wasn't really much of problem. Then we had the class dances, of which I was an esteemed judge, and is one of the most popular events of the day. Each home room class has about 1 minute to do quick dance that has a story and a conclusion and some point of wonder which typically each of the teachers used as their personal opportunity to show off. Topics ranged from The Pirates of the Carribean to Doraemon, a few Chinese interperative dances, a small buddha which sprouted water, and most disturbingly, one of the male teachers dressed as a cheerleader amd with his posse of boys also dressed as cheerleader, they proceeded to bump and grind to rapturous applause and wolf whistles. Creativity at it's finest...

So while I may ponder (ie. bitch and moan) whether or not I made the right decision about staying for another year, it will prove interesting to see what my take is on events and opinions as I'm able to observe them for the second time around.

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