Sports Day again!

It’s sports day season in Japan!

Every year each high school puts on a day packed with events, songs and ridiculous acrobatics. The students get two weeks of afternoons off classes to practice, and they organize everything themselves. They are split into teams that they stay on throughout their high school years, so a lot of pride and energy is involved.

The day started off with a group warm up. The students followed the radio taiso program, which each Japanese person seems to know by heart. Retirees practice this routine in the courtyard outside my apartment at 7 am, and by now the chants and movements are becoming familiar to me. 

After the warm up, all the of the students marched around the field in formation, saluting at the Judges table, before settling into their bleachers.

One of the most interesting aspects of Sports Day was the group mentality. Even the individual running races are scored as a team. After finishing, the students sat behind a flag indicating their place in the race, and after the last racer, the points were counted up for each place before declaring the winner of that event.

There were some interesting races too, including this obstacle course with potato sacks, a cardboard box which the students had to caterpillar themselves in, spinning around a baseball bat and crawling under a net. The teachers participated in an obstacle course with many of the same elements, but they also had to stick their face in a bucket of cornstarch and find a candy with their mouth.

My favourite race started out as a three legged race and half way around, the students had to pick a scavenger hunt item out of a box and retrieve an item from the audience. Seeing them hobble together with their parents cell phones and purses was amusing to say the least.

There were even events for the parents and friends of students, like this game where you had to get as many balls as you could into the net. The red teams parents trounced the blue teams.

The highlights of the afternoon were elaborate choreographed routines, dancing for the girls, and marching for the boys.

I had a fabulous time at sports day, and took way too many pictures, so there will be another post soon!

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Sports Day at Omuta Kita

Last weekend we had sports day at my school and it was so much fun!

Here is a video of the blue team’s girls dancing to Avril Lavigne.

Excuse the part at the end where I start singing….

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Yungang Grottos – worth the trip to Datong.

The second part of our tour in Datong took us to the Yungang grottoes. Half an hour outside of Datong, this site has more than 200 caves with 51,000 carvings and statues of Buddha.

Our excellent photographer managed to get us in to show the sheer size of this guy, which is the second largest buddha on site. Located in Cave #3, he was one of the first we saw, and definitely on of the most impressive.

The caves themselves were enormous and formed by digging into that window at the top to carve out the inside of the cave before knocking out  the door from the inside. This particular cave had a musical theme and all the little Buddhas carved around the entrance were playing musical instruments.

The detail and colours were amazing, even though some of the Buddhas were completely covered in coal dust blown from passing trucks. A few years ago, government officials ordered the road to be moved, so that the passing traffic would no longer affect the grottoes.

My favourite cave had carvings which told the story of the Buddha’s life, from conception to enlightenment.

While this particular Buddha’s enamel was eroded away, his arm is still held up by the man under his wrist. Some of the other similar sized Buddhas had lost their arms entirely.

The site was immense, much too large to fully explore during the two hours we spent there. However, we still had time to discover that not only is this site full of amazing cultural and historical value, they also sold excellent peanut brittle cookies in the gift shop.

 

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Sports day

Sports day is an annual event at Japanese schools, and students are split into teams and compete against each other in a variety of events.

Today is the first practice I have witnessed, and it consisted of dancing, marching, panel working, singing and formation walking. What a day!

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Here is a short video of the entrance ceremony which gives you a view of the courtyard and some marching. Sorry for the shakiness and the part at the end where I cut off after a bug falls on me.

Japanese children practice this kind of marching every year for sports days and other ceremonies, and apparently the Japanese Olympic team has received criticism for their ‘military’ style marching in the opening ceremonies. So much so that the team is apparently reminded every year to walk ‘more casually’.

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Japan’s weird food: KitKats

Strange flavoured KitKats were one of the strange foods I had heard of before arriving in Japan.  It was still a shock when we saw soy sauce flavoured KitKats in the Tokyo airport. Using our ten dollar voucher from an apology for a flight delay  we picked some up. Not everyone liked them, but I thought they tasted like maple syrup.

Flavours vary by region, so you can’t get them everywhere. OUr regions specialty is yuzu and chili. Some other flavours I have tried: citrus, chili, soy sauce, cherry, white and dark chocolate, wasabi, green tea and sweet potato.

Some flavours I know to exist but have not yet tried include: aloe, blueberry, miso, edamame, plum and custard.

Oh Japan. So full of delicious and amazing surprises.

 

 

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Ring Ring Ring Ring… Banana Phone!

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