Annual school events are taken very seriously in Japan. For many, a lot of time is spent rehearsing for them, making sure they are absolutely perfect. As someone who went to a state school in the UK, the idea of spending any time at all practicing for things like sports day is enough to make me laugh — we were ten year olds, not Olympic champions, after all.
Still, I can’t deny how impressive the finished result usually is, and when I see kids marching out onto the athletic field in perfect unison, waving their team flags and yelling battle cries at the opposing team, I can’t help but think, “…damn, that’s pretty cool.”
Of course, I’m only looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. I never had to spend the grueling hours put into the perfection, and not everyone who participated looks back on them with fond memories.
500 Japanese adults were recently surveyed and asked “What school event in elementary school did you hate the most?” Here’s their ranking:
- School Trip (37 people)
- Culture Festival (38 people)
- Mountain Climbing (39 people)
- Entrance Ceremony (42 people)
- Graduation Ceremony (44 people)
- Music Festival (62 people)
- Emergency Drills (87 people)
- Parent Observation Classes (117 people)
The third most disliked event was the Parent Observation Classes, where parents and guardians come and watch lessons at school. While most other events on this list happen only once a year, Parent Observation can happen multiple times throughout the year, depending on the school.
”I always felt uncomfortable when my parents came to school. It was like my home life mixing with my school life.”
“I’m pretty sure my teacher hated Parent Days, too.”
“I remember one day, my mom had to work on a Parent Day and couldn’t come. I was so relieved!”
9 Sports Day (180 people)
▼ Hours and hours go into practicing for perfect formations like this.
Despite my earlier remarks that sports day in Japan is an event you don’t want to miss, it takes the second spot in the most disliked school event, with many respondents having negative memories of the day.
“I was never good at sports, so I hated everything related to sports day.”
“The team captains would yell at us if we made even a small mistake. I hated it.”
“I always got blamed when we lost the relay race.”
“Sports day was the chance for the kids who weren’t so academically gifted to show off.”
10 Marathon (210 people)
Overwhelmingly taking the top spot in the rankings was the school marathon. While each school’s take on the misleadingly named marathon event may vary, students can be expected to run for as far as 4 kilometers (2.5 miles).
Some elementary schools use morning break times as a training session, seeing students run laps around the race track in the playground. At some schools, the main event has students running around the local neighborhood. Each student gets told their rank, but emphasis is usually on improving your rank from a previous year as opposed to being the best. Still, for students who are slow, it can potentially be a humiliating experience.
“It was really embarrassing when we ran outside of the school, when people in my neighborhood were cheering us on.”
“Even people who were good at sports hated practicing for the marathon, especially long distance runs and when there was a strong wind.”
“I can’t believe our school had the marathon in winter. So stupid.”
Did you have any of these events at your elementary school? As someone who struggles to run for the bus without getting out of breath, I’m glad our school forwent any kind of marathon event. And while Japanese sports days are much cooler than the three legged races we had at my school, I’m kind of thankful I missed out on some of the crazier events.
Source: Yahoo News via Otakomu
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