Photo: Pakutaso

What event did you hate most in elementary school? Survey asks Japanese adults

By Katie Pasik, SoraNews24

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:

  1. School Trip (37 people)
  2. Culture Festival (38 people)
  3. Mountain Climbing (39 people)
  4. Entrance Ceremony (42 people)
  5. Graduation Ceremony (44 people)
  6. Music Festival (62 people)
  7. Emergency Drills (87 people)
  8. 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

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

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My daughter hates sports day. She's not very athletic (I guess because she's the shortest and very thin so she doesn't have much physical power) so she always gets really embarrassed that she's always last in the relay or not strong enough to the carrying tasks and stuff. Sometimes her classmates get frustrated that she can't keep up and she cries every year about it... I feel really bad for her but what can I do other than comfort her?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There's always going to be the "cold" parents and parents to can't attend because of work. The way I see it as a parent of three beautiful daughters in Japanese elementary school, what's important for me is that I make time for my kids. I'm not always able to go to some of my kid's events because of work. However, I go to the events that I can simply because I love my kids. This is what I do. I'm also a teacher, so I see it both ways.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

They hated it when they were in school but love it when their kids do it lol

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The events in and of themselves are fine, but the insane amount of time schools put in to preparing and practicing needs to changed. Kids here could go to school for 3 or 4 fewer weeks a year if they used all the practice time for, oh, I don't know, classes. My kids spend 2~3 class periods a day for two weeks for 運動会 practice, and more a few weeks later for 学習発表会. No wonder the school year here is so freaking long.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Just to follow up on my previous post. Talking with teachers, they practice so much because they fear any mistakes by students will reflect poorly on them - that they are not taking the events or teaching seriously. What they don't realize is that most parents don't care and that bloopers and blunders by kids are part of the charm. My high school graduation was for 600 students. We practiced once for about 30 minutes. Practice less, teach more and give the kids and teachers some time off.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I hated undoukai. I rather the school trips.

1 ( +2 / -1 )


My daughter hates sports day. She's not very athletic (I guess because she's the shortest and very thin so she doesn't have much physical power) so she always gets really embarrassed that she's always last in the relay or not strong enough to the carrying tasks and stuff. Sometimes her classmates get frustrated that she can't keep up and she cries every year about it... I feel really bad for her but what can I do other than comfort her?

From one parent to another, I was that slow kid back in elementary school, and not to mention, really overweight. My parents always told me that they loved me no matter what. However I try, they will love me. My parents always instilled on me that we all have great talents. I was slow in PE class, but I was a wiz in Geography, Math, and History. Fortunately, I had a teacher who was supportive of all of us.

4 ( +4 / -0 )


My parents always told me that they loved me no matter what. However I try, they will love me. My parents always instilled on me that we all have great talents. I was slow in PE class, but I was a wiz in Geography, Math, and History. Fortunately, I had a teacher who was supportive of all of us.

Glad you had support from teachers who saw the best out of each and every one of you. And parents too. That truly makes a great difference in your life, I wish all children were as lucky as you.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


what you can do is do not participate. My kid annual perfomance. I was told that he refused to practice (dance) but yet they wanted him to be on stage. For what Idk but I said no way and I didn't go. If he would practice and not be perfect it's fine but if they weren't able to make him practice then no stage time needed...he had no graduation ceremony as well. It's up to you what you prioritize. Yes, kids need to learn how to cope with activities they don't like but what's the point having graduation like you graduate from university. Yes koko ha nihon. but yes koko ha gaijin. And yes don't participate on PTA cos I'm busy ✌️

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can't say I had ANY of those events when I was at elementary school, except for an optional school trip that lasted a few days and which was enjoyable, and a few other day trips. And I still grew up to be normal! And not one penny spent on expensive uniforms or backpacks. Heck, we hardly got any homework! Still made it to university (which was the only place I had a graduation ceremony).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sports day... what a joke sports days in Japan have nothing to do with it. Synchronized marching whilst carrying flags is not sports its simply a way to reinforce conformity, the only sport that actually gets done is the rely.

The whole thing is just another big excercise on crushing individually in Japan an enforcing coherence to the group.

Everyone in Japan knows that schools are a joke students that go through them hate them teachers that work there get driven onto the ground and all the staff at the boards of education are only interested in carrier progression and sucking up to their bosses. Add to that the useless and incompetent ministry of education its a miracle there are not more students and teachers complaining about it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Sports day for even high schoolers. Kids and youngs are embarrassed to show chubby legs, hairy legs/arms. It should not be compulsory on anything for all.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unmentioned here: the cringeworthy yet common sport where boys poke each other somewhere private.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Missed one out, being sent to the cupboard under the stairs, Harry Potter was crying his eyes out.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

A ridged inflexible conformity. Is it cultural?

And crucially has this uniform adherence to a dogmatic belief in a curriculum of rigidity, actually created a society that truly emphasizes with the realities of life?

Not sure about that, 18 to 25 fail to understand the mean of democracy. Politics is for Granddad.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What a negative attitude. I have attended all of these multiple times with my kids and they never complained and I enjoy seeing their school and other activities. I guess negative parents lead to negative kids.

I guess it's all OK then, if you say so.

One of my kids pulled out of school because of all this forced rigamarole. I am proud that he is making his own path, and didn't meekly submit like so many others do.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In some countries, I don't think you'd get insurance for kids of 12 and under running 4km. I know that in the UK, under 18s can't run half marathons because the UK Athletics won't insure them. I know several JHS kids who've done (i.e,. had to do) 20km plus cross country events. Some of them belong to sports clubs where fast twitch muscles were needed and the ability to run for hours was irrelevant.

Some schools pretend their marathons are "big walks" in kanji but the kids are made to run them. A JHS girl died in a big 13km "walk" a couple of years ago. She'd done the first 10km in about 1:10. Nobody walks at 7 minute a kilometer pace. That is running. If its a running event, you need hydration and first aid and an AED and probably medical staff as well.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There were no events in elementary school that I hated. Felt uncomfortable talking to girls, and hated the awful smog we had back then, but otherwise enjoyed elementary school.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When I went through school in the UK it was a 2 tier system rather than the 3 it is now that Zichi enumerated so my primary school from 5 to 11 there was nothing like the rigidity or group think evinced in Japanese schools, but then I was encouraged to think for my self by my father and family, while we had a school uniform it’s purpose was more to ensure you couldn’t differentiate the poor kids from the better off by their clothes. School trips were fun, as well as educational and I still remember them. Sports days were in a local park and a day out of class and never taken too seriously.

The only thing I hated was at my secondary school where we were sent on cross country runs, always in winter and the pouring rain as the games master couldn’t think of anything else to do with us (not that he got wet he stayed in the dry). Put me off running for life and I had quite enjoyed it before.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

zichi, lets be honest, my mum and dad paid so I could have the best education. It worked.

Could that be said for the hundreds of thousands whose parents had to do with whatever the system throws at them?

In reality a student gets five years, to prove they are capable.

There is nothing remotely fair or level about such a system.

The UK should hang their heads in shame.

J Education is tough for a reason. No matter how much I whinge.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

zichi, yes a bit politicly cryptic, unintentional.

My parents paid for tutors, prep school, and private education.

My father was an apprentice with GPO.

They threw everything at my education, it is not a question of settling up the costs.

I feel their sacrifice, I never though just paying back the costs could ever compensate the years of austerity.

I never understood, even to this day. Dad a committed socialist.

Maybe blood is thicker that political ideology.

Japan educational system is uncompromising, the teachers, staff devoted.

I just don't under stand for a minute why these students lack in many respect any form of understanding of the political world they inhabit.

Maybe Kochi is an political iceberg, if it wasn't for my friend and colleges confirming the same malaise in Nagoya.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Starpunk - Thanks for your support. I think kids may not like their parents at these events now. However, when the get older, hopefully they realize the memories of family support. That’s what I got from my parents, and I’m returning it to my kids. My parents had to put up with my screechy clarinet practices in my room, speech rehearsals, awful baseball practices, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From a certain point of view part of the experience of school life is to also do things that children will not like, obviously as long as it actually helps in their education and formation. The problem is when the experiences are negative without any actual value for the child or even worse when it acts against a proper development.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The only thing I hated was at my secondary school where we were sent on cross country runs, 

Did we go to the same school? But we learned eventually (some of us anyway) how to slink off on the way, have a ciggie, and join back in close to the finish.

One odd memory I have from primary school (in Glasgow) was getting cash prizes for sports day events. I won 1/10 for finishing second. Does that make me a professional athlete?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For children who are less proficient in athletics and suffer loss of self esteem, the parent must provide an alternative, as well as emotional support.

Enrolling the child in a a Tai chi class will help the child develop coordination, balance, and self esteem in a self paced environment unlike the athletic training and pressure of competitive sport.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hated? but I think most adults when they look back at the elementary school days they are most likely to laugh or smile regardless of where they grew up, Japan, UK, Russia, U.S etc.

Some times I think that those days are probably the laughable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

UK. Sports day and some PE, especially in the summer.

I actually enjoyed playing football, squash and tennis, came 3rd in the school long distance run and have exercised at home most of my life, but 'organised' sports, being herded through a boiling/freezing shower with a dozen other kids, and anything on grass in the summer was unpleasant. I had really bad hayfever before there were any decent antihistamines. Summer sports used to make my hayfever so bad I'd often lose school time after it. My eyes would puff up so badly I wouldn't be able to see, and I'd sneeze non-stop. Even now, on robust anti-H, I garden in the summer with a facemask on, and did so for years before Covid. Hayfever was also a problem with summer exams. I had to implement my own personal lockdown to be OK for them.

I think the kids who were regularly bullied lived in terror of PE lessons. The only thing worse for those kids than being bullied was probably being naked at the time.

Having gym equipment as a school option encourages kids to keep fit. Forcing them to be the worst kid on the team in something that they are rubbish at, destroys their self-confidence and puts them off for life.

I've never been a fan of hockey, having been accidentally whacked in the head rather hard during one session.

Squash was unusual as it was undertaken a mini-bus ride away and we were (uniquely in PE) a mixed group.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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