On Saturday the 26th of September my family and I attended my six year olds first primary schools sports day.
The event was scheduled to start from 9:30am and finish around 16:00pm, with an hour for lunch in the middle. We arrived just as the opening ceremony was starting and to my surprise it wasn’t as busy with parents as I expected. The school had set out a small track and field type of running strip in the middle of the playground and on the outside they had all the students seats lined up into their class groups and years.
We were very lucky to get a standing spot just behind my son’s class and a great view looking out onto the sports track. The school made it clear that we were not allowed to bring picnic mats as the schools playground wasn’t big enough to set out spaces but this didn’t stop a few people doing so and placing mats in the most inappropriate places.
The children walked into the centre of the field like they were at a military parade marching to the sound of the beat of a drum. Once all classes and years lined up they went on to sing an opening song that I didn’t recognise but all the parents around me where satisfied.
After a few hours into the event my younger children become restless as they were standing along with us so we sent them back home with their grandparents. For me the idea of having everyone stand for a good five hours with an hour in the middle for a break was a shock and pain in the knees but I did see a lot of younger children standing and watching along with their parents enjoying their brothers and sisters day.
We watched all the classes and years take part in group events with some dancing and singing in between. The sports events that they had were relays, 50 meter sprints and chuck the bulls in the basket hoops. The whole school was split down the middle into two groups; red and white. My son’s class was in the red group and by lunch time the red group was in the lead.
One of the shocking points that I become aware of was that each event was over practised for the last month and we even got a letter home saying that the schools curriculum would be taking a sidestep to allow more practising for the events of the sports day. For me I would like a sports day that would have been spontaneous without any practising or event-fixing but this type of planning is expected and loved by the Japanese themselves.
After lunch the events continued and a lot more parents and grandparents turned up to watch the older children, who would be graduating in April, preform a PE event that was like gymnastics. By the end of the event the children split into two groups and built a human pyramid. The first group built their pyramid very fast and up to a height that got my heart racing as if the child at the top fell off the fall would have broken their neck. The second group had a bit of trouble and as expected the whole side of the human pyramid collapsed and the top child fell but was caught by the teacher. After several tries and with a crying teacher who was announcing the event the children managed to build their human pyramid and this got a huge round of applause from the audience and myself.
By the end of the day my knees and legs where hurting and I could see that a lot of the younger brothers and sisters who seemed happy at the beginning were also starting to feel the pain of standing all day. Once all the events had finished the school totalled up all the points of the two groups and announced the winner. With a thundering cry the red team of the school exploded into cheers as the head teacher read out a huge point difference that made them the winners.
My son returned to his class whilst all the year six children helped cleaned up the playground. In small groups of three they dismantled the tents and took all the chairs and props back into the school. My son came back and showed off his prize which was two gold pencils that he was very proud of that he wanted to rush home and put in his school pencil case.
In total the event was long and I found that the standing up to be more difficult for me than most of the Japanese people around. Also the younger children showed that they could handle the standing up better than I could. Well until next week Saturday the 3rd of October for my second eldest son’s nursery school sports day where this time I will be participating in a few of the events and we are allowed to bring picnic mats to sit down on.
So I hope you enjoyed reading this post and keep an eye out for my next.