Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sports Day, Last Weekend, With Injuries

I'm still and perpetually a week behind, but I have to post these since I'm traveling again (Izumo/Matsue/Yonago/Sakaiminato, if you wonder, and so far, so awesome and beautiful and with bonus internet in my hotel room that I didn't expect to be lucky enough to have!) and taking lots more pictures that I'll want to post. I've been posting some from my cell phone on Twitter (via Twitpic - look there to see some pics I've taken) as I go if you want a sneak peek.

Last weekend was Sports Day at our school. This meant a few weeks of nutty, erratic class schedules (some days with no classes at all) to fit in time to practice for the big event. Sports Day really is kind of a big deal in most Japanese schools.

Class Signs
Each homeroom decorated a sign to be used for Sports Day, and they were parked in the teachers' room a few days before the big event (scheduled for Saturday, September 12, 2009), so I grabbed this shot.

'Twas the Night Before (Instead of the Night of)
Saturday, September 12, 2009
We were supposed to have an enkai (party, with drinks) after a successful Sports Day. Except that it rained the day it was supposed to happen. So we had a party with mostly only light drinking or no drinking so that we could all get up early on Sunday for the re-scheduled Sports Day. I was kind of bummed because people are more likely to talk to the scary foreigner (me) when they are a little tipsy. Still, it was a fun night, and just the environment seemed enough for more folks to chat with me. Of course, there was an abundance of sushi and other yummables.

Pretty Little Backdrop
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The day the Sports Day actually took place. I never tire of the views around town or behind my school. Simply amazing.

Remember those signs above? Here they are representing each class.
At this point the kids are marching in place. Everything is perfectly choreographed. When they are standing in lines, they are perfectly straight and even perfectly spaced so that even looking from a diagonal view, you see straight lines.
(And, yes, I've blurred out faces. On the very rare occasions that I have reasons to post pictures that include my students, I will not show their faces. It's a privacy thing.)

Japan really doesn't do a whole lot of flag waving (click hinomaru link above), especially compared to my home country where we are all flag, all the time. Sports Day is always a good enough reason for Japan to do her flag thing. It comes right back down after the event, though, and then makes another brief appearance for graduation day in March.

Whistle While You Work

Gearing Up for My Favorite Event
I have no idea what this event is called, but it struck me as funny, and it had to be my favorite event to watch. Basically, three students hoist a fourth student up (one person stands in the middle, then the two on toward the back of each side put one hand on that middle person's shoulder to create a something like a saddle and the other hand down to create someting like stirrups, all to support that fourth person who sits up top, wearing a cap), and they go around trying to knock the cap off of the other teams' person in the saddle. If that makes any sense. Anyway, it was cool and fun to watch.

More of My Favorite Event, Action Stage

I so wish I didn't have to blur the faces. Just know that the students closer to the top are smiling maniacally, while those closer to the bottom have expressions mixed with joy and strain. In any case, it was incredible.

Ooh, Pretty Colors

And so, an awesome Sports Day came to an end with the following Monday and Tuesday off in exchange for teaching on Saturday because of cancelation due to rain and then the real event on Sunday. Well, that was almost the end of Sports Day, but not before I physically injured someone. Which was horrible, all around.

See, we were taking down the big tents, and I grabbed hold of a bar the wrong way so that the bar popped out of it's pole base thingy and landed pretty much in a teacher's eyeball. Or would have if he hadn't have been wearing glasses. Glasses that were now damaged. He spent the next half hour with an ice pack over his eye instead of doing whatever all the other teachers were busy doing. I felt beyond terrible.

I said more than once that I was sorry, but it's difficult with language and cultural barriers to feel like you are responding appropriately sometimes. When it was time for me to leave, I wanted to do some kind of something, so for lack of any other great ideas, I grabbed a bottle of Coke from under my desk (we'd all received drinks from a former teacher or something in honor of Sports Day?), and I tried to hand it to the poor bastard that had let me "help" with anything involving metal poles.

He refused to take it and said something in Japanese about not making such a big deal out of it, or something maybe along those lines, possibly, and I couldn't tell if he was annoyed (probably) or just trying to say not to worry about it (sounded more like the former, actually). I really had no clue. I just knew that I was on the verge of tears both worried and embarrassed and wanted to do something and that since he wouldn't let me, the whole thing seemed even more awkward than I thought possible. I wound up setting the bottle of Coke on his desk, apologizing again and being grateful that it was time for me to disappear into the floor go home.

As recently as this past Friday, almost a week later, he still has a tiny bandage covering a small cut by his eyebrow, but he appears to still have both eyeballs, and we both act like nothing happened (which sounds more to me like how you'd handle a one night stand than a bodily injury, but after the Coke thing, I'm rolling with however he wants to play it, and he clearly doesn't want me to mention it. His eye, his call.).


  1. The human pyramid is amazing! I feel sorry for the bottom tier people.

    The team sport looks like a big game of 'Chicken.' I would have been in stitches. Not sure how laughing so hard would have been interpreted.

    Once again, gorgeous scenery shots.

  2. I'd be scared to death to be anywhere in that pyramid!
    I agree about the cap game - I was thinking of chicken fights in the pool. Funny!

  3. Wow! That sports day looks so crazy!

  4. That pyramid is awesome! And that sushi looks oh my gosh yum.

    I am absolutely loving your pictures. I'm so glad you got the chance to do this again!

  5. awesome awesome pictures, especially the pyramid! That stirrup saddle game looks really fun! poor teacher and his eye! but i'm sure that no matter which languages you both speak, i am sure that you conveyed how sorry you were and it's ok! (i would be the same way, in complete agony over it.) at least he still has his eye! so you're good.

  6. Being involved in the school system, you are getting to see a part of Japan that no visitors would really see. Not even someone living there for a couple of years who is not a teacher. It is a wonderful way to really learn about their current culture - because after all, a society's people are made up of children having gone through their school system. I'm loving all your posts Maggie, all your links, all you explanations, all your photos!


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