Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bus Schedules

I hate bus schedules.... As I headed out to meet friends about a week ago, I managed to read my bus schedule wrong in three different ways. Needless to say, I missed my bus. My host parents always tell me that if I miss my bus there is another bus just a block away headed to a different subway station so I started walking in that direction. I saw bus stopped at a bus stopped at what I thought was the right bus stop so I jumped on it thinking it must be headed in the right direction. Forty minutes later, I`m at random bus stop, somewhere in the 4th largest city in Japan, completely lost. Suddenly, I saw a bus headed to a familiar station so I decided to take that. After that bus and a subway ride, I finally met my friends at our meeting spot, miraculously only ten minutes late. I was sweaty, tired, and slightly wind blown after running all over place, but I got to see a good portion of Nagoya, exercise, and renew my hatred of bus time tables.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Taikusai (Sports Festival)!!!!

The morning of the sports festival was two days after the school festival. The sky was a deep blue and the sun was baking everything in its intense heat.

Everyone was so excited for the Taikusai (sports festival). Two classes made up each team. My class was proud to be a part of the dark blue team. That morning, every high school student filed on to the large outdoor sports field. We began with an assembly. Each team stood in straight military style rows in front of our team flags and the podium. Standing side by side, we formed a giant rectangle. We listened to several speeches, including one from our principal. Before and after each speaker, the students had to bow to show respect. We sang the school anthem as the flag was raised and then we all began stretching. Schools in Japan have a certain routine for stretching. Typically, this routine is set to a rhythm kept by leaders counting. This time, the rhythm was kept by the school orchestra playing upbeat music. I couldn’t believe how perfect the song was for the rhythm.  After stretching, the games began!

There were foot races, relay races, and all types of amusing competitions. I complete in the 1,000 meter relay, Kani Kani replay, Taifu no Me, and several other events.  In the 1,000 meter relay, we had to run half of the large arena and then pass the baton to one of our team mates.

I was surprised to complete the Kani Kani relay without a broken bone or at least a sprained ankle. In this event, teams were divided into pairs. These pairs stood back to back with their elbows intertwined and their ankles tied together. The object was to be able to move sideways in a systematic and synchronized hopping movement. We had to perform this odd movement while racing around a cone and then towards our team mates on the other side of the arena. Once one pair crossed the line, the next pair could go. The team who got all of their pairs across first, won. I can’t express how difficult this can be, especially when you are as uncoordinated as I am. (In gym class, as we were practicing for the festival, I managed to fall on the same poor girl twice and roll my ankle several times.)

In the Taifu no Me, a team is divided into 2 groups of 16 people and then these two groups stand on opposite sides of the arena facing each other. Each group of 16 people then stands in a formation of 4 rows of 4 people. A long pole is grasped in each hand by the first row of one of the groups.  They hold this pole out in front of them while running around a cone and then towards the other group. When the group gets close to the other group, the middle two runners  fall out of formation and the two runners at the end of the pole lower the pole close to the ground while still running. The other group must all jump over the moving pole while still standing in neat rows. The pole is then brought back over the entire group’s heads and then sat down in front of the first row in the new group of 16 people. This first row takes the pole and repeats the process. The 4 people who just ran then falls back into formation in the new group, replacing the people currently running .The game continues in this manner until each row has run with the pole.  The first team to complete the relay wins.  (“Taifu” is Japanese for “typhoon”. “No”  is a particle that acts like an “ ‘s ”. “Me” means “Eye”. Therefore, the “Taifu no Me” means  “Typhoon’s Eye”.)  

At one point, I noticed how well my team (Blue) seemed to be doing in all of the competitions. By lunchtime, we were in first place! The afternoon was filled with amusing relays and races. There was an obstacle course relay; a relay in students had to dress teachers up in costumes, and a student vs. teacher relay race.

The entire day was great fun. We were all covered in sweat, but happily raced and cheered for friends and team mates all day long. We had another assembly as the day came to a close.  It was time for the winners to be revealed. My team (blue) won!!! Everybody went wild. People were jumping, cheering, and crying.  The class leaders went up to the podium to accept our certificates.  Hugs and taking lots of pictures was definitely in order.  After the award ceremony, as the flag was lowered, everybody in the school linked arms and swayed to the music, while singing the school anthem.

I’m afraid I had to leave early due to a Rotary event (my Welcome Party).  I changed from my gym uniform back into my school uniform in a frantic hurry.  I met my homeroom teach just as I was racing out the door. He shoved a celebratory Popsicle in my hands as I ran by. I dashed down the hallway and skidded to a stop, managing to just barely avoid crashing into a teacher coming around a corner. I stumbled by with several bows and many “Gomenasai’s” and ran down the stairs as fast as I could and out to the school gate where my Host Mother was waiting to pick me up in her car.

I reflected over the entire day throughout much for the night. It had been such an amazing day. I am so proud to have been a part of something my classmates wanted so badly. I was sad to have to miss the after party, but one of my friends took pictures for me. Apparently, there was a baton twirling club swirled long string like devices with the ends lit on fire and the teacher band also preformed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

School Festival (Bunkasai)

I'm afraid I have been too busy to write lately. Two weeks ago my school held our sports festival (Taiksai) and our school festival (Bunkasai). You may have heard of these before as they are events often featured in Japanese dramas, TV, and anime. They are an integral part of school life in Japan.

My school takes both of these events very seriously. The Bunkasai was an extravagana held over Sunday and Monday. For these two days, Parents, Grandparents, students from all of Nagoya, and other visitors swarmed the halls of our highschool.There were so many people that navigating the wide hallways became rather challenging. Everyone packed themselves into the brightly decorated classrooms to observe the handywork that we had slaved over for so long.

Our classrooms had been transformed from the ordinary to a cardboard walled maze with posters plastered everywhere, bearing information on themed topics. My class had choosen the theme "Gamble". Our room became a maze of gambling parafanilia and addiction information.

The first day dawned rather rainy. Many of the elaborate outdoor decorations had to be taken down in an attempt to save them. Rainbow colored banners had been hung hign above the courtyard and even the staircases had been decorated. The main staircase outside had colorpaper stuck to the inside edge of each stair so that when looked upon from a distance it showed our school's insignia in a colored rainbow.

On the big stage in the courtyard, students preformed various routines much to the audiances great delight. Bands played traditional Japanese music as me as today's trendiest hits. Dance groups captivated the public with amuzing or complicated routines. Whole school clubs preformed their craft in complicated showcases. There were even displays of Ikebana (traditional flower arrangements) and Shoudo (calligraphy).

Many class rooms sold food to the visitors. Theses food stalls were a big hit. Long lines of people stated assembling even before they opened for bussiness. Delicasies like "Kuraage" (fried chicken), "Curry rice", Takiyaki", and "Ramen" were sold at extremely cheap prices. Girls stood at the back of each line with advertising signs. They would often jump up and down, shouting, and wildly waiving their signs to coax hungry people in their lines.

I can't possibly discribe the atmosphere. There was excitement and and competition all bound together with delicious food. Smiles were plastered on the students faces as they wove through the crowd.

After the two days ended, we all filled into the big gymnasium to hear the results of the competition. The teachers had gone through all of the classrooms and voted for the best ones. Each winner was revieled by a scroll casted out of a window on the far wall. As each scroll unraveled, a great roar would come over the student body. The sound of cheers, screaming, and clapping filled the air. Something else was reavieled at this moment, but only to me. I came to realize how important this day was to them. A good portion of the gym was in tears. Whether in sadness or triumph, the tears streamed downwards. To me, this was a fun, cultural event with delecable food. But to them, it was so much more. It's one last day to have fun before exams. It's also a day to bond with classmates, show off your school, and have a study break. So much time and energy went into organizing, and creating every aspect of the school festival. Every heart desired to win.

My class did not win any rewards or certificates, but we had fun anyways. My homeroom/English teacher treated us all to popsicles and sugary drinks. It was surely a day we will always remember.