Photos of JapanNihongo o Narau

Pictures of Japan

Sports Day


Children Warming up in Sync

Sports days or undoukai are held by schools all over the country. The time of year varies by prefecture. While the kantou area tends to hold them in the early fall, some northern prefectures hold them in early summer.

The first thing after the official opening speeches is a warm up. This is usually rajio-taisou. Everyone in the school will stretch and bounce in time to a count of 1, 2, 3, 4 a bit to work out the kinks.

Onlookers with Tents and Umbrellas

The sports day is generally held on a weekend day so that the children's relatives can come and watch. People will come and stake out their spots with tarps and umbrellas.

Since the teachers have to work nearly a full day on the weekend for the event, most places have the next school day off.

Children Dancing With Colorful Bandanas

There is generally some kind of dance performance by the children. They may perform local dances, folk dances, or ones they've made up especially for the day.

The students will practice for all of their events for weeks beforehand. A good deal of class time is put into putting on a good performance.

Adults Propping up Large Poles

Members of the PTA, the staff, and people from the different residential districts that attend the school often take part in some of the events.

They often have tama-ire (trying to get as many beanbags into a basket as possible within a given time), bou-hiki (stick pull), and different relay events.

Elementary Kids Passing Large Colorful Balls

The events at the undoukai are different for every school. Smaller children may do events like the one on the left. Other popular events are tug-of-war, human pyramids, team jump-rope, and even small scale battles where the children ride on each other and attempt to push their opponents to the ground. The most looked forward to events are the relay races, the biggest one of which is often left as the last event.

The students compete in classes or teams and the winning group is announced at the end of all the events. The principal will then present the winners with a trophy and/or certificate.

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