A Japanese School sports day, undōkai (運動会) in Japanese, is a sight to behold. In England you get a host of traditional events – running, jumping and throwing. Stuff you get in the Olympics. You might get a few events thrown in for fun, maybe a three legged race or the chance for the students Dad’s to fight it out in a 100 meter dash. In Japan, it is a very different kettle of fish.
Firstly, they students train for it all summer – when class is out, sports day is in. The students come to School every day to practise and it’s taken very seriously. Whilst there is a fair share of running and jumping, there is also synchronised dancing, human pyramid building and some Bo-taoshi.
Bo-taoshi is a 75-a-side game – one offensive and one defensive. A bit like the capture the flag, the defensive teams job is to form a formation around a pole and wait for the offensive team to attack. The winner is the team who manage to pull the opposing teams pole down to a 30-degree-angle. Defenders shove away attackers advances, who use each others as human trampolines to leap for the pole. The man at the top of the crazy human pyramid is called the ninja and will use any means necessary to repel the jumping attackers. It’s a little hard to explain so here’s a Youtube video to help out –
Below are a few pictures I took during a sports day at one of the Schools I taught English. Other highlights of the day included –
- The male teachers appearing after lunch dressed as women, ready for the staff relay
- My participation in the staff relay race, putting in a respectable performance