The school sports day, or undokai (運動会), is one of the biggest events on the calendar of a Japanese elementary school. More than a month of practice culminates in a full day of activities together as a school, with video camera-clutching parents looking on. From scheduling to lunch and what to do if you have younger children in tow, there are a lot of details for parents to stay on top of. Here’s the lowdown on what the event is all about, and some advice to help you and your family have a successful day.
What’s undokai and why does it matter?
Like most special events in Japanese schools, undokai is a team effort held to teach children of the importance of working together, working hard, and competing for the whole team (and, of course, the school).
A typical elementary school sports day splits students into two teams — a red one and a white one — and has those teams compete in a range of races to see which one wins. Although this sounds competitive, the goals of the day are more about working together and doing one’s best. No individual prizes are given and cheering each other on is even scheduled into the program.
The day will start with the students assembled in the schoolyard to hear speeches. After that, the students will take their seats around the edges of the playing field to watch the first event of the …continue reading