Every year students of each Japanese school gather together with their classmates to have a day filled with races, performances and events. This is my third time through so it felt more like an obligation than and opportunity. Also, the first year I distinctly remember being impressed by the student dances and performances, but am now far less so when I see them doing the exact same routines as the year before. While some of them are traditional and can’t really be altered, others are needlessly unchanged. I assume it takes work to choreograph something new, but to me it just seems lazy that they would want to recycle the exact same thing every year. I know for sure that it is uninteresting as a spectator, and likely so as a student too.
Anyway, I was there, I had to be, so I might as well enjoy the students and community and make the most out of my last time. I spent the majority of the day floating around the student section as the different events took place. In most areas, each school has their own Sports Day, but because my town is so small all kids from kindergarten on up to 9th grade take part together. The volunteer fire fighters get in there too. The younger kids are much more interesting to talk to, so I set up camp at the Yasuhara, Kaminishi, and Shionoe Elementary tents for most of the day.
There were a number of races and competitions in the morning, and then performances were scheduled for the afternoon. At the elementary level, they had some song and dance and Shionoe Elementary did the same as they always do, but because it is a traditional dance derived from my area I can accept that. The first year that I saw it, I thought it was some sort of volcano that they were dancing around. Actually, the dancers around the ‘volcano’ are cooling the workers as they forge a large bell. Ages ago Shionoe used to make the giant hanging bells found in temples and the dance derives from that tradition.
The 6th grade boys are always the ones to work the bellows in the middle
Despite what I said before, it is possible that the Yasuhara Elementary students had revised their routine a bit since the last year. They kept the same props though, so it is hard to remember exactly. This is the largest elementary school so they can have a bit more going on during their performance. There were a number of different groups all do their own things. Incorporating a few aspects of song, dance, and gymnastics, this was alright.
I do daisuki Yasuara!
Finally, we have the Kaminishi Elementary performance. This school always creates an original piece that ALWAYS incorporates unicycles. Most Japanese students can not ride these contraptions, but since all of the schools in my town have them on the playground it is safe to assume a Shionoe kid can. It is a rite of passage at this school in particular, and they train hard to get ready for the event. I don’t need to describe this one to you though, since I recoreded the whole thing. A bit long, but enjoy.
Finally, the middle school boys and girls each did the same thing as always. The girls did a yosakoi dance, where they wear red robes and wield wooden clappers that make sound when flicked. This originates from Kochi, the large prefecture on the southern side of my big island. The guys did the gymnastic stuff they always do as well. This involves things like handstands and human pyramids, but ends with a lotus flower human construction.
There are a lot more students than there were two years ago, so this is better at least.
For me, the highlight of the day was with a tug of war event, new to this year’s festivities. Each school and group present put their 8 best people on the rope and after a few rounds a winner was declared. I pulled for Kaminishi and though we wont the first round, our campaign stopped there. Despite all the training I did durring my Pull days, there was a severe lack of traction and in the end the opposing team dragged us across the line.
Naoki in the red, his team made it to one of the final rounds.
The end of the day came at last and I returend home to salvage what I could of the weekend. Fortunately Monday was returned to us as a day off, but having the sports festival on Sunday rather than the Saturday that all other schools do it on really botched any opportunity to properly make use of it. Ah well, it was still good to see a number of the parents and engage with the community in one of the most beautiful places on earth, though I don’t expect to miss taking part this in this event in the future. There are certain events like this where after three cycles though I can feel that it is time for me to hit the ol’ dusty trail.