Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sports Day in Saga

Last weekend I went to visit Yoshie in Saga and had an interesting experience. She's close to her boss, a single mother. Her boss' son, Ibuki, is a 3rd-year elementary school student who had his school's 運動会 (Sports Day) that Sunday. His mom was one of the PTA organizers and asked Yoshie if I wouldn't mind participating in one of the events for parents. So I did.

Japanese school Sports Days have all kinds of interesting games and events, some of which are the kind of stuff you'd probably see at a company picnic in the States. Most of the day Yoshie and I watched from the comfort of a tent, with Ibuki and his mom and grandma coming and going periodically. When it came my time to join in, I didn't really know what I was doing until seconds before I had to do it. Not that it really mattered, I guess. Not a whole lot of pressure at an elementary school parents' relay race. But still.

The relay race consisted of several stretches of a wacky course, and each team (divided into homerooms - I was one of those carrying the banner for Ibuki's) had about 8 or so members. Here I am at my segment's station. Can you find me? It's like Where's Waldo, but instead of a striped shirt and goofy hat, I'm not Japanese!

When my turn came, I first had to stick my face in a basin of water,  and then...

I had to orally retrieve a hard candy from a pan lined with flour, and run to the next checkpoint to pass the baton.

...And then sat in the sun and let my face bake like a pie until the race was over. Mmmm...face pie. Incidentally, our homeroom won.

This here's the guy who (kind of) explained to me what I was supposed to do. Mainly it was "Just watch me first and you'll understand." So thanks, uh...Shintaro's dad!

I think Yoshie was proud of me, but she didn't seem to want to kiss my crusty pie face.

The day had plenty of other interesting stuff going on, too. Here's a picture of a game in which each of the three teams had a minute or two to throw these little bean bag things into their respective basket on a pole.

There was also an event that translates to "Cheer War." There were three teams - Red, Yellow, and Green, and each one had to perform a kind of cheer routine. I think the red one was the cutest. Their team symbol was a flame, and there was this one part where about 8 of them lined up and in turn did a little dance move a shouted "Fire!" But because of their accents they were actually shouting "Fa-yah!" Here's the Yellow team's performance:

Most Japanese high schools also have Sports Days, but it was different to experience it at the elementary school level. I feel like one can really learn a lot about about Japanese culture by observing and participating in these kinds of things. Was an experience I won't soon forget.


  1. I liked this post. I like seeing examples of every day life and thoroughly enjoyed what one might consider the mundane when I was a visitor. I liked the picture of you and Yoshie. I don't understand why you don't look happier, considering you got to have a crusty pie face.

  2. Ah, finally I can see a picture of you. :)
    Thanks for this post and video, it was very interesting. I would have liked to participate as well, such things are great experiences.