Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
My three-year-old Fireball attends Tokiwadaira Kindergarten (TK), a school that has a strong love for picture books. Every year, they will adopt a favorite and make it the theme for their Sports Day Event. This year, “Swimmy,” written and illustrated by Leo Lionni, was the chosen theme of TK’s 53rd Undokai (運動会/Sports Day).
Here’s a lineup of the fun-packed “fishy” event, which started from 10am and ended before 2pm.
Interestingly, TK’s Sports Day had more vocal exercises than competitive activities. There were opening songs, theme song, Autumn-related songs and of course, the finale songs. 10 songs in total!
We had only two workouts, which everyone (not just the kids) could participate. They were the morning exercise at the beginning and the Rajio Taiso (ラジオ体操/Radio Calisthenics) that was after the lunch break. Wasn’t at all strenuous, but I was perspiring non-stop because of the extreme hot weather.
The Pageant (ページェント) was an eye-opener for me, I’ll explain more in my next post. The outdoor performance was based on Leo Lionni’s “Swimmy.” It is a story about courage and teamwork. The children performed the school play so beautifully that my eyes welled up with tears. Best of all, seeing my son taking his minor role seriously, by running frantically around as a little red fish, was enough to make me beamed with pride.
After the Pageant, we had lunch break. Instead of making Sports Day Bento (lunch boxes) like everyone else, we opted for Ekiben (Train station lunch boxes) since our nearby supermarket was having a Special Ekiben Fair on the same day. YUMMY!
The mothers in our class prepared a dance sequence with very simple formations so that our little ones and some of the dance-challenged mothers (like yours truly) could follow easily. It was not perfect but we did have a blast.
They had a few friendly Tug-of wars: Graduates VS Graduates, and Students VS Fathers. The later was hilarious because there were clearly many fathers who hate to lose!
Maypole dance is a folk dance from Western Europe. I am not sure why a Japanese school would adopt it as part of their Sports Day tradition. I never seen it before (until the rehearsal) so it was such a delight to watch.
The final event was the Masugemu (マスゲーム/massed game). When I first read it on the program sheet, I had no idea what it meant. After I watched it, I still don’t. (LOL) The reason was that part of its name “gemu” kinda of misled me because it did not look like any “game” at all. Basically, the children were doing formations while ringing handle bells or tambourines, and a few of them were riding paper-mache hobby horses.
The Undokai was extremely well done and a lot of fun. I learned a great deal and was truly touched by it in many ways. In fact, I felt strongly that the effort and selfless time given by the mothers to make the Sports Day a great success truly deserves a mention, or better still, a blog post on its own. So please stay tune for my next post – Undokai: A Mother’s Love in Action