This last month in Toyokoro, students had their annual Sports Day Festival, known as Undoukai.
Each school has their own sports day, and own games and sports.
I went to the junior high school’s undoukai and there were many interesting distinctions between theirs and the kind I’m familiar with.
For me growing up in several different places, my sports day included shot put, javelin, long jump, high jump and many more — the classic track and field games.
In Japan however, it’s much different (and honestly, much more fun and funnier.)
One memory I have of sports day back home is getting the individual ribbons for first, second and third place in each sport.
There were very few team-oriented sports, relying heavily on individual effort and skill.
Japan, however, being a highly collectivist society, relies only on team efforts and team scoring.
In the main category, the teams are Grade 1 versus Grade 2 versus Grade 3.
The second is Red versus White, which has a mixture of students from different grades on each team.
Their sports are also very different. At the junior high school they still have the 100-metre dash, tug-of-war, and relay (which is scored by team), but other than that, it’s very different.
One game, they call mukade (centipede.) This is where girls and boys separately from each class, tie their ankles together forming a line and then they race each team.
Another has students forming a makeshift bridge by bending over, and one student (usually the smallest boy/girl from that grade) runs across their backs to the finish line without touching the ground.
There were about 10 sports total finishing with a fork dance performed to the tune of Turkey in the Straw, Oklahoma Mixer, and Korobushka.
In the end, the Grade 3 and Grade 2 classes tied the first category, and the white team won the other.
Afterwards, students stayed and cleaned, and dismantled the tents before catching their bus home.
I went home sunburnt and heat stricken, but had an amazing time.
Thanks for reading! Baka ga atte riko ga hikitatsu — due to the presence of fools, wise people stand out.
Anna Marshall is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.