Japanese School Sports Day "Undoukai"

In Japan, summer’s end ushers in a nationwide school tradition. Students, teachers and family, gather for a day of outdoor events known as "undoukai"( 運動会) or sports day. Undoukai offers something for everyone – this is one of the popular events for most students and not only the students but everyone who joined "Undoukai" having fun. Students learn cooperation and have memorable time with their friends, family through the event.

As with most events in Japan, undoukai kicks off with an opening ceremony. Expect a few speeches – by the principal, the student council president, maybe a PTA member and even a city or town official. And be sure to remove your hat for the national anthem and raising of the Japanese flag. When the ceremony ends, teams split up and the events begin!

Popular undoukai events include:

Beanbag toss (Tama-ire) – Students throw bean bags into an overhead basket.

Tug of War (Tsunahiki) – A good old-fashioned tug-of-war. There’s often one held for parents/guests as well.

Relay Race – Japan loves a relay and undoukai is no exception. The event is often the most competitive and usually closes out the day.

If school doesn't provide lunch, bring your own. If possible, they bring enough to share. Undoukai’s lunch often becomes a hodgepodge picnic. Make some friends and sample their home-cooking as they (hopefully) enjoy yours. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Lunch time is one of the best parts of "Undoukai".

To most students, undoukai is simply a fun escape from studying. But the event teaches them to cooperate while representing their homerooms, school, and community – whether they realize it or not. And although points are tallied and a winner is declared, at day’s end everyone is brought a little closer together as teams celebrate their hard fought efforts, win or lose.

Undoukai in Japan is not only for promoting physical activities and healthy development of children but also gives them a great opportunity to learn the importance of teamwork, working with others, and achieving challenging goals together.

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