Monday, September 29, 2008

Japan and the art of sports festivals

For those living in Japan, you know it's that time of year--sports days abound.

For those not familiar with this Japanese custom, allow me a brief explanation. Sports festivals are held by most schools at all levels in Japan. Some municipalities, Otaki included, also do general sports festivals that everyone can participate in. The festivals consist of a variety of events: races, tug-of-wars, relays, etc. that are all done in good fun--though you do get serious competitors at times. Prizes are also usually awarded. Oh, and there are almost always strings of international flags hanging above the ground (I've always thought it would be interesting to research the origins of and cultural beliefs surrounding this custom).

From what residents have told me, Otaki used to have HUGE sports festivals that everyone participated actively in. The festival would take weeks to prepare and allowed residents the opportunity to get together, have some food, and drink. These days, however, Otaki lacks the financial (and human?) resources to make such a big production out of their sports festivals.

Still, this month I attended and participated in two festivals: the village festival and the pre-school festival. However, my camera has died on me so I have only cell phone photos of the village festival and a link to a friend's blog for the pre-school festival (here).

As the photos attest, costume races and face-diving for candy in pans of flour are legitimate sports in Japan. Or at least in Otaki.

Good times.

Good night Ontake.


Dale Kereczman said...

Nice post. I had a "sports day" once a year in school back home (Oregon, USA). Did you? Thanks for checking out my blog! Keep having fun.


Jackie said...

Yes, yes I remember the photographs of the sports fesitval at the elementary school and kindergarden in my hometown, Iwakuni. I haven't thought about that in forever. Other than the photos, I have no visual memories but I remember the sense of it all. Man, it was a huge event, full of joy, food and family bonding. We really stuck out because of my dad. Not only was he the only white guy there, he was the BIGGEST guy there. I guess everybody was amazed that my dad had the courage to go out in front of everybody and dance with me. Lots of people took photos.