On Saturday I attended the Sports Festival at Kishi. The festival is a huge event at Japanese schools, not only for the kids but for the community. Maybe it’s because it was so long ago but I can barely remember having such an event that was as big when I was in elementary school. We did have a Field Day of sorts, but there wasn’t nearly as much preparation involved.
At the sports festivals here in Japan, the staff and the kids work really hard to practice and set everything up. The days spent outside can be so hot and long that there have been cases of children becoming dehydrated and getting heat stroke. This summer was especially hot so we had to be very careful.
So what did the kids do at the Sports Festival? Not “sports,” actually, though there was a parade featuring the soccer, baseball, and volleyball clubs. In Japanese it’s called an “undoukai,” and “undou” actually means “exercise” or “athletics.” The kids were divided into two teams–red and white–and participated in a series of games and races. Sometimes even the parents and grandparents would participate as well.
The morning of the festival, I found out I was going to be in a relay race. I was on the team with some of the other staff. We had to do various things during the race, like carrying a ball in a ladle while running, spinning around on a bat 10 times, or running halfway and then skipping rope to get to the checkpoint. I was the one who had to jump rope, which was easy enough for me since I’ve done it a million times when I was in school. Our team actually ended up winning too, which was great. The kids and other teachers complimented me on how fast I can run, which is probably the extent of my athletic ability since I didn’t play sports when I was younger.
The score ended up being tied between the red and white teams. I’m not sure if they did that on purpose or if it actually did happen that way. It was a good way to end my first sports festival, though. Afterward I went out with the staff and some of the PTA to dinner. I enjoyed it but I felt a little uncomfortable being the only gaijin surrounded by a whole bunch of Japanese people. Nonetheless, I still decided to join some of the others who wanted to go to the snack bar after dinner was over. Most of the younger and more outgoing teachers went, which made it really fun, even more enjoyable than the first time I went. I think the mama-san there has taken a liking to me, she’s really nice and she always cheers me on when it’s my turn to sing karaoke. I don’t know when the next big event is, but I hope it’s soon. I really love hanging out with the teachers outside of work because they’re really different from how they are at school.
So now I’m enjoying the rest of my weekend, cleaning the apartment and thinking about where I want to go today and/or tomorrow. I get my next paycheck tomorrow, so I’ll be buying a thing or two from my wish list 🙂