Oct 13, 2013

Elementary School Sports Festival

In commemoration of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, the Japanese government made October 10th, “Health and Sports day”, to stimulate a “healthy mind and body through the spirit of sportsmanship”. Presently, this national holiday falls on the second Monday in October.
Every year in spring or autumn, Japanese schools hold their annual sports day. Unlike sports day in most countries where children strive to test their athletic skills, in Japan, school children, along with their families and neighboring communities play a significant role in honoring the “spirit of sportsmanship”. It is all about performance not face off!
Weeks prior to sports day, children practice tirelessly, and teachers work endlessly to prepare for the biggest annual school event. Many parents and local community members help teachers with preparations on the school grounds, while mothers put together delicious lunchboxes. The whole community gets ready to bring in the big day! 
My son & his dad on Sports
Day, 2013
Race, relay, tug of war, etc., are some commonly enjoyed games, but the Giant Ball Rolling game (Oodama korogashiand the Bag Ball game (Tama Ire),  are perhaps unique to Japan.

Giant Ball Rolling game
**Taken from the internet

The Bag Ball game
**Taken from the internet
Sports day begins with the opening ceremony and is divided into before and after lunch events. The school song, flag raising ceremony, speeches by the school principal, respected dignitaries and representatives of each team, are followed by synchronized gymnastics.

Children in every grade are divided into two groups, sporting either red or white reversible caps, depicting the colors of the Japanese flag. Irrespective of individual or group competition, the children win or lose as a “team”, as the Japanese encourage team spirit and togetherness and discourage personal competition, which may lead to disappointment or pride.

Red and white teams

Whether a participant is fast or slow, the cheering crowd is enthusiastic about each and every child and shouts “GAN-BATTE”, which combines several meanings into one.
“Go for it /do your best/ hang in there”!
Amazing, isn’t it?
In this way, Japanese children learn team work from a very tender age, which inspires them to compete for their country on an international platform.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

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