Friday, September 17, 2010

Sports festival

This morning (Saturday) we were awakened by fireworks!

This is pretty normal in Japan, especially at this time of year. Today the local elementary school is having their sports festival and to let the community know that the day will go as planned, at 6:00 in the morning 4 or 5 explosions of fireworks resounded over the fields and hills. They are all noise and no beauty. If it had been a rainy day there would have been no fireworks and everyone would know that box lunch making could be put on hold and that the household could go back to bed.

Sports Festival is a highlight of Japanese schools and kindergartens (and any other organization you can think of). The schools have been practicing relays and folk dances and making preparations for various games for the last two weeks. Older children have been writing and memorizing speeches, all children have been vying for the positions of flag bearer or cheer leading squad. Teachers have been mapping out game lines and getting equipment out of storage. Letters of invitation have been sent to important people in the community (this year I became an important person because of my role as crosswalk guard.)

And because of this morning's fireworks, mothers were set in motion cooking up fantastic box lunches for their families and relatives. Everyone comes for the Sports festival! Grandparents arrive from distant places, older jr high kids show up in cliques and even a few vendors set up shop on the outskirts and sell snow cones or candy apples. It really is a big day!!!

I was at the school this morning at 7:15 as the first groups of upper grade children arrived to get themselves organized. A half an hour later the younger children started arriving. But even earlier parents (mostly fathers) from the communities feeding into the school had come bearing large tents and tables and chairs to be set up around the school grounds. Pretty soon mothers and grandparents started arriving with their arms filled with picnic baskets, folding tables and chairs and sun umbrellas. And finally at 8:30 the festivities began!

The sports festival will last all day and began with speeches from the principal, PTA president, district politicians etc. A telegram of congratulations even from the mayor of Nikko! Last year's trophies and victory flags were passed back to the principal so that they can be awarded to the teams again this year. Our school is a small one so only a red team and a white team. Think mini-Olympics!

There are just too many events to name. Bamboo pole pulling, ball rolling, obstacle courses. Of course the children are the main participants, but the communities battle each other in the tug-a-wars and grandparents take part in a small race to win prizes of Saran Wrap, toilet paper and detergent. (I won a box of tissues.)

I had to come home early but after being plied with cold tea and crackers (some PTA mothers are given the specific job of keeping the "important people" supplied) I was also handed a box of sushi as a thank you gift for attending.

I wonder if the red team or the white team won...

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