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Published: October 23rd 2005
Here are some second years bringing in the Kabe SHS flag. Notice the different colors of the numbers on the shirts
It does not matter what grade or what school you attend, every Japanese school as an Undokai, which means sports day. From kindergarten to high school, every school has one. It would be more accurately called 'relay day' because the students do not really play sports, they play games and have races. The students had been practicing for sports day for at least a month so I was very excited to see what all the practice went to. I was soooo excited for my sportsl day. I even got to participate in one game...jump rope....with the rest of the teachers. We were not very good. The students killed us! Let me give a rundown of the Undokai and maybe it will all make sense:
I. Opening Ceremony
The school is broken down into 2 teams, the red and the white team. You can tell who is on which team by the color of the number on their shirt. The first year students wore red shorts, second years wore blue, and the third years wore green. Each team had male and female cheerleaders. The cheerleaders had the craziest hair designs. Many of them went before school to get their
Jumping around will surely prevent from pulling a muscle!
hair done. The male cheerleaders wore more 'traditional' costumes. I did not recognize any of the boys because they all had their hair slicked back, which I called the "Elvis" hair. Normally they all have their hair covering their eyes and I can't see their faces. It was quite a change from normal school days! They were the favorite part of my day because they did the coolest stuff. For the opening ceremony all the students (about 800 at Kabe SHS) march around the field (really a dirt court) and line up facing the audience (i think all of kabe came to watch the sports day. There were many people there). The two head male cheerleaders go to the principal and the team that one the previous year gives back the flag. After that they do a group "stretch" if you can call it that. Stretching in Japan consists of jumping up and down and shaking your arms and legs. It was actually quite comical. Then the male cheerleaders did a little opening ceremony performance and the games started.
II. The Games
The games they played were some of the funniest/coolest games ever.
1. Centipede games: There would
Returning the Flag
Male cheerleaders being addressed by the principal
be teams of 10-15 people and they all had their legs connected by rubber bands. The first time they stood in lines and the second time they stood shoulder-to-shoulder. They then had to walk a certain distance. Easier said than done. This game was funny to watch because if one person fell, especially the person in front, it was a domino effect and everyone fell after!
2. "Horse" They boys did a land rendition of "chicken fights." Three guys would hold up one guy. The guy on top wore a small hat. The base would run the guy around and try to take hats from others. It was quite a vicious game as boys were flying left and right. It hurt a little more if you fell than in a chicken fight ;-).
3. Running Relays: These are like the races we run in America. All the students ran barefoot.
4. Bargain Shop: This was probably the funniest game of the day. A bunch of equipment was placed in the center of the field. When the whistle was blown all the girls would run to the center, fight over the equipment, and try to bring it back to their side.
Looks good here....
It truly was as if there was a huge sale and women barging through the door to get all the good merchandise! It just made me laugh.
5. Pole Game: The boys would hold up a huge pole with a flag at the end of it. The Objective was to pull get other teams flag down from the pole first.
6. Surfing: The girls would pull another girl on a big piece of wood, as if she was surfing
After lunch there were more performances than there were games. Both the male and female cheerleaders performed. All the school clubs came out and were introduced. Also, each year puts on a "show." The first years did a little stretching routine. The second years (my favorite) made all these cool pyramids and stuff. The third years did a partner dance in a circle.
v. Closing Ceremony
The team that accumulated the most points over the course of the day won. Lat year the red team won and this year they won again! I absolutelly LOVED sports day. I think its a neat way to tie the whole school together and is a lot of
fun. It is something I think American schools should try to do.
One of my favorite aspects of the day was just walking around and watching the students. I do not see them as often as I would like outside of the classroom. In class they are often terrified of me, love me, ignor me, and some actually try to learn believe it or not. Outside of class their guard is down. I loved seeing how all the student interacted with each other. Indeed Japanese culture is very different from America culture. They are so intrigued by me and I am so intrigued by Japanese culture. Yet these students acted just like American high school students. There are the cool kids, the loners, boys and girls courting each other (I was told that days like undokais are when there are lots of couples hooking up), cliques, insecurities, and plenty of happiness and laughter. Despite all the cultural difference, when stripped away we really aren't that similar, and maybe there is some type of universal human nature. They did not act that different than me when I was in high school. That was my philisophical conclusion of the day.
So undokais are pretty freakin cool.
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