Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 School Sports Festival. OR Getting shanghaied into extra work sometimes isn’t so bad.

PDVD_007Over the years I think my opinion of Japanese school festivals has gone negative because of reading other expat discussion board and blog opinions way too much. I learned I need to experience Japan for myself and not take other people’s word for granted. Basically stop being so jaded. This year I finally set all those negative feelings aside and let myself enjoy the whole experience for once.
Past years I would bicker and complain about how much of a waste of valuable study time these festivals are for the students and faculty but I’ve learned its more than just learning how to sing a dumb song or how to make human pyramids. But what I’ve learned from practicing with the kids and helping set up this year is that it’s really about school spirit and learning how to work WITH and as a team. Team work may sound goofy but its very useful skill for trying to find your way through society and into the adult world one day. Getting along with others, even people you’d prefer not to, is a good skill to work on for everyone.
Of course, I didn’t volunteer to help with the festival arrangements or practice. This year I was kind of shanghaied into it but it was all for the best. I’ve been with both of my schools for 3 years straight now which seems to be a record of some sort in my town. Anyhow, this year I was asked to participate in with practices, recess, and cleanup time. At first I was a little annoyed that my free time was taken away. Usually I would be a bum and sit at my desk and twiddle my thumbs like many lazy English teachers do but I’ve learned that my “free time” was in reality wasted time and potential. I’ve learned more about the school and the kids than I ever knew in the past month than I did in the past 3 years I’ve been around. The kids are even more excited to see me around than ever before and the teachers seem even more appreciative of my presence on campus (I’ve always been appreciated there but now I really notice it on a daily basis.) So yeah, I'm planning to stay active in non teaching activities at my schools from now on.
About 4 years back I attended my first school festival at a junior high. While the activities are different between grades the general idea behind the festival is the same. The biggest difference is that elementary schools focus on singing and choreographed gymnastic dance routines for the bulk of their time. The rest is spent with various games of tug o’ war, track relays, and games.
The kids were very happy to have me around to see their festivals. Usually I show up to say “hi” but run off within 30 minutes or so. This year I stuck around for most of the day and even got dragged into a parent relay. All in all, it was a great time and I am very glad to have been shanghaied into getting active at my schools. Yay!

Here’s one neat thing about the school festivals that I managed to video on my cell phone. Sorry for the image quality, my phone is kind of an antique now. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the videos I remembered to record this time!
The video above is of the kids doing their chanting in unison for their teams, red and white. Basically, the school has 2 classes for each grade. Each grade is split into two teams, either red or white. I was on the red team this year at one of my schools… We lost. But at my other school we won. I’d prefer to just cheer both on but if you help you must be on a side. In love
Here is another video from my other school of one of the many relay games they have. Hopefully it helps you understand a little bit more what things are like at a typical school sports festival. Smile
**Bonus points to the one who tells me where the screen capture from the top of this post comes from. I think a couple of you out there know. Winking smile


  1. Glad to see you enjoyed some time with the kids and faculty that you work with.

    Before, you kept telling us how much it sucked to get stuck at a school when you have no obligations to fulfill, but I was thinking to myself that I'd spend that time to wander around campus and see what was going on. However, I thought that it might be out of the ordinary or something at a Japanese school and just assumed you were in the office all day because that's the norm.

    I won't take the bonus points because it's too easy. ;)

  2. Thanks Matt. I knew you'd know right off the bat.

    Now you know why I had so much office time over the past few weeks. The time I had to help the kids get ready for the festival was less than half the free time I had.

    Maybe next year, if I am still there, I'll ask to have even more involvement so I am not so idle at my desk.