Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Undokai- Health and Sports Day

11th October 2010 was a  national holiday in Japan. This holiday is called " Taiiku no Hi" in Japanese and it stands for Health and Sports Day. This holiday falls on the second Monday of October each year.

This holiday is of a recent origin having begun on 10th October 1966 , two years after the Summer Olympics of 1964 which were held in Tokyo. Till the year 2000, this holiday fell on 10th October each year.

The one thing which I found interesting is that this holiday is celebrated as the Annual school sports day by most schools in Japan. This sports event is called " Undokai" in Japanese.My friend told me that nowadays some schools have preponed the Undokai to end April-early May because of the more pleasant weather and more importantly to avoid the rains. Kindergartens usually have their Undokai in October, whilst the Elementary schools and above have theirs in April end-early May. Usually the Undokai is a mix of sports and some cultural events. Usually the entire family attends the event and it is a sports day cum picnic of sorts. People carry Bento boxes and the staple menu is rice, fish, egg, stewed vegetables, salad, onigiri and fruits and usually around lunchtime the sports take a break and everyone has their picnic lunch and the sports resume.

Our daughter's kindergarten also celebrated its Undokai this weekend. Infact they held it on 9th October, Saturday instead of 11th October,Monday. While most schools start the preparation for the Sports Day a week or fortnight before the Sports Day, the kindergarten started out a month before. Justified in a way considering that they need to organise the programs for 3 to 5 year old kids. Twice on my visits to the kindergarten in the last month, I witnessed the teachers painstakingly and energetically teaching the kids to dance, cheerlead, sing and practice the races on the kindergarten ground. Since the kindergarten ground is not big enough to accomodate a large crowd, the Undokai was held in Iwaki's Kami Arakawa park. The kindergarten staff and the PTA members started the arrangements at the ground at around 6 am in the morning. The students and families were asked to reach the venue by 8.30 am and the event began at 9 am. First was an address by the Principal, followed by the leader of the PTA. After this was a colourful song and dance opening ceremony by the children and teachers of each of the 4 age groups.

After the opening ceremony were some games. Keeping the ages of the participants in mind, the games were more of parent-child participation and not sports in the real sense. The children enjoyed participating with the parents in games themed around popular cartoon characters. The themes varied from  Anpanman to Toy Story-3. The show stealer was however a dance by the oldest class students and teachers and was based on Aladin. In the course of the dance they made a big balloon formation quite a few times and the dance was very well synchronised.

Unfortunately it started raining just after a few hours and the event had to be discontinued. But before the showers began, the teachers ensured that all programs for which the children had practiced such as the dances and parades were held. Only all the races and games could not be held. Though the event was cut short by the rain, the program was big success with the enthusiastic performance by all the children. The teachers definitely had done a great job.

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