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.

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