The Sports Festival
In Japan there is an event called an undokai. Roughly translated it means sports festival. When I was on Kitadaito, we had one undokai scheduled every year for the entire village. Students and teachers spent months preparing. An entire day was devoted to the event and there were even whole mornings devoted towards practice and preparation. The event included many running events, such as dashes, relays, and obstacle courses.
Students and teachers also put on performances (think halftime shows Japanese-style) and many villagers participated as well, grouped by the areas (azas) in which they live. Often these competitions were planned out well in advance and extremely competitive. It provided many with the motivation to train and also work with people they might not see every day. Each area’s pride rose and fell with each event, but in the end the real victory came from just participating, since everyone who was a little healthier benefited, and had an interesting weekend.
This year I’m at a new, much larger, place. So far I have seen five different elementary school undokais. Like on Kitadaito, these undokais have cost the students and teachers countless hours of preparation, yet the results were impressive. Every student participated, be it as a judge or runner. Many participated in unique and interesting performances (such as eisa) during the intermissions. Parents and families ran relays together, yet no prizes were awarded. Be it first or last, everyone was cheered on equally. There were also demonstrations from things the students were learning in P.E.
In the weeks to come there will be even more undokais on Kumejima. There will be a sports festival for all the elementary students together, and then another for the entire Island. I look forward to seeing the differences between them!