The countdown to summer vacation has begun, with only about a month left to go until school lets out for several weeks. Even though I’ll still be coming to work during that break, I’m looking forward to the downtime. (I say that now, but I’ll inevitably start missing the kids terribly after only about a week.)
I really love this time of year at school, because the kids’ energy levels rise right along with the temperatures. The new tenth graders have become properly comfortable with me in the classroom and usually greet me with excited hellos or whoops when I walk into class. (Though this might have more to do with the fact that my lessons mean that they get to skip their daily English quizzes.)
The other reason I love this time of year is due to festivals. We have two: a two-day sports festival in June and a four-day school festival in July. Sports festival took place last Thursday and Friday, which meant I basically got paid to come to work and watch my kids play basketball, dodgeball, table tennis, badminton, and soccer against each other. And I didn’t have to wear business clothes, which automatically makes me love sports festival. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting to see my kids be stereotypical weirdo teenagers, a side that I rarely encounter in the classroom.
Privacy laws in Japan mean that I can’t upload any pictures that show the faces of my students, so you’ll have to deal with shots with lots of faces blurred out and random angles.
The first day and a half are just straight games of basketball, ping pong, soccer, badminton, and dodgeball between 組 (kumi, homerooms), each of which gets their own jersey.
That’s all well and fun, but Friday afternoon is the best part. There’s tug-of-war played, which is always fun to watch, but then there’s always another random competition that gets changed every year. Last year, they played a game called 騎馬戦 (kibasen, “cavalry battle”), which I liken to chicken fights in the pool, except with a much higher chance of broken bones. Seriously, I have no idea how this game is sanctioned; it’s actually been outlawed in UK schools because of the number of concussions, fractures, and other various injuries that occurred. It’s hard to explain, so I suggest you watch a few YouTube clips of it. Trust me, it’s pretty awesome and takes an insane amount of teamwork. It’s a good thing my cousins and I didn’t know about this game growing up, because I’m pretty sure it would have landed at least one of us in the hospital.
At first, I was disappointed when I learned that 騎馬戦 wouldn’t be played this year…until I saw the replacement. This year, they’d cooked up an insane relay that involved the classic “dizzy bat,” searching for snacks in a pan of flour (no hands, naturally), downing mystery concoctions (like lukewarm pureed corn soup…yummy), and a three-legged race. Needless to say, it was pretty hilarious and entertaining to watch high schoolers stumble around like top-heavy toddlers or fraternity brothers who’d had a few too many beers.
To cap of all the festivities, the teachers of the three grades ran a relay race…that involved kicking a rugby ball around the track. Have you ever tried to kick a rugby ball in a straight line? I’ll save you the frustration: don’t. It’s impossible and only results in you chasing said ball in a drunken serpentine line. Thankfully there’s no photographic proof at how terrible I was at it…that I know of.