Monday, September 17, 2012

Sports Festivals

Put going to a Japanese elementary school Sports Festival on your bucket list. It is an exemplary performance in every respect of what it truly means to be human. 
Japanese are all about community. Each individual works hard to be a functioning cog in the clockwork called society. When hundreds of students all work together, all pushing each other and themselves  to do their best, I really cannot think of anything finer in life to witness. 

I realize that the juxtaposition between America and Japan may be what made watching a Japanese sports day so extraordinary, and frankly it made me embarrassed to be an American. The Japanese know how to make a sports day and the end result is extraordinary, I will not enumerate on why America fails in this respect, instead I assume that by an accurate account of the day the comparison will be self evident.

The sports day is planned and practiced for weeks, even months. Each student has many roles to play during the planning and execution process. Irregardless of age, each student is a crucial part of the day, because on the day of the festival, the adults will only be there to watch and cheer. The students make the decorations, set up the field, clean the school and bleachers, adults during this whole process are only gentle guides, and schedule planners, the kids do all the work. 

On the day of the festival the kids show up by eight, and their parents show up by nine. The morning of, the kids carry down all the chairs for the students and teachers. They bring coolers down, and bring out all of the sports equipment for the day. The teachers are there in the morning to help remind them what to do next, and to cheer them on. 

Opening ceremonies, opening ceremonies are about 15 minutes of pomp and circumstance to remind the students that they are all there to do their best. Only one team will win, but everyone can go home proud as long as they try their hardest. Each school has multiple teams, they divide the school into different color teams. Each color team competes in various events, and depending on their placement (1st, 2nd, 3rd, ...), they are allotted a certain number of points. At the end of the day, one team will be the champion, and will be given an award.

The games:
Japanese students really try their hardest. In a race they run as fast as they can, in tug of war they pull as hard as they can. Each competition through out the day is a game where the strongest team is only as strong as their weakest link. Students are constantly supportive of each other. With each game I would like to point out the finer examples of humanity witnessed.

Rules - There were 6 relays throughout the day at Nishi Elementary School. There was the 1st grader relay, the 2nd grader... every single student in every single grade participates in the relay. 
Each relay race is an entire grade level, and every single student runs a leg for their team. 
Take away -What really amazed me is how hard they all tried. When a student fell, they got back up finished their portion of the race, and then limped off to the nurse. No-one gave up, and even when it was clear they were going to be the last place, they still fought as hard as they could to do their best.

Tug of war race:
Rules - 5 ropes were placed on the field. When the whistle blew 10 students from a team would race out and compete to get as many of the ropes over to their side as possible. If a group realized that the rope they were pulling on was not going to be won, they let go, and helped pull on another rope. The team with the most ropes on their side at the end was the winner. You had to be both fast and strong to win. 
Take away- Students had to figure out when to cut their losses, and when to fight till the bitter end. 

 Jumprope, Under, Rock-Scissors-Paper
Rules- With a partner students would run to the first obstacle. One student would role the dice, and the other would have to us a hula-hoop as a jump rope to jump that many times. Next one student would have to go under a hurdle, then the students would have to win against a teacher sitting at the end at rock-scissors-paper, and run back so that the next pair of students on their team could start. The first team to finish with all the students was the winner.
Take away- Students loved the luck aspect of the game.

Don't Drop the Ball
Rules- Students worked in groups of 5 to carry a ball balanced precariously in a circle. They had to carry it to the cone, and back to their team, and if they dropped the ball they had to stop and get it. Once all members of the team finished with the ball portion they all had to stand in a line holding hands, and get a hula hoop from one end of the line to the other without letting go of eachothers hands.
Take away-Team work

Rules-Regular tug of war with massive teams.
Take away- Never seen so many people play the same game at the same time.

Ball Toss
Rules- Teams competed to get the most balls in their basket before time ran out.
Take away- None of the kids spaced out, or stopped trying

 3 man Skis
Rules - Skis 3 food straps on each were given to each team. In groups of 3 the students had to run to the cone and back, so that the next group could go. The first team to finish won.
Take Away- This game was hilarious, everyone was laughing. Kids kept falling, and there were piles of kids, it was hilarious. One team did so badly that they had about half their team left when the 2nd to last place team finished, but they still kept going, until every member got their turn.

Fat Man Pants
Rules-  A huge pair of pants was given to each pair of students, each student had to get in one leg, and they had to run around the cone and back, and then give the pants to the next pair.
Take away - if one student in the pants ran faster then the other, then they would bot fall. Almost every student fell, and on the speakers going they played Yakety Sax style music.

Huge Ball Race
Rules- The students had to push giant balls around a cone, and then over all their team mates (crowd surfing style).
Take away- Telling kids that everyone is a winner makes everyone feel like a loser, but if a game is ridiculous, and really fun, the kids don't care that much if they win.

There were dances through out the day, which I will describe tomorrow
To Be Continued...

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