So Undokai finally took place at Osato Junior High School. Honestly words cannot describe the awesomeness of the entire day. Let’s begin on Saturday night: Somewhat randomly last week I decided to have a house party and invited fellow Miyagi Jets over for debauchery. Needless to say we had a raucous night and I didn’t get to bed until 4 a.m. Sunday morning. Four hours later I was up and off to school for a full day of activities.
The big, open dirt field in front of the school had been transformed into a track and field and numerous tents lined the perimeter. All the athletic events took place on the track while the families and members of the community looked on from the tents. After the opening ceremony at 9 a.m. the madness began.
There were no individual events because after all this is Japan. Instead, each class worked together and battled the other classes. The events were not just for fun but were rather competitive. Even though all the students had fun even if they lost, there was definitely still a fighting spirit. For example, one of the classes had made a banner that on one side said “Now’s the time to fight” and on the other “We will take the head of their leader!” This was in Japanese of course and goes back to the days of the samurai when decapitation of the enemy leader was done after a victory. Winning therefore was definitely on the mind of the students.
The activities ranged from your typical 100 meter dash to relay races. During the san-nen-sei (3rd year/9th grader) boy’s race, my JTE found me and asked if I wanted to race. The real conversation was “Wesley, now you run with the students.” Running on four hours of sleep and some coffee I was hardly up for the challenge, but how could I say no? I laced my shoes (which normally are loose for easy slipping on/off) and tied them tightly. With most of the town and the whole school watching I had to have a decent performance. I made it to the starting line and noticed I was the last race. This means that I was racing against the fastest (and coolest) boys in the school. I did a few stretches and was pumped up by the cheering of the student body. A cap gun popped and I started running as fast as I could; my thighs were sore already! I ran and ran but the end didn’t get any closer. For a while I thought I was going to get first, but then I saw two of the school leaders beat me out of the turn. I finished third and completely out of breath. The bad part was the following thirty minutes where I felt nauseous. After I got something to eat I felt ten times better but was hardly ready to compete in another event. Although, there was definitely one I would have liked to do: the caterpillar.
The ichi-nen-sei (1st year/7th grade) students had their own special relay race that was more “childish” then the other classes. In my opinion I thought it was WAY cooler. It started with two students from each class wearing helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads and one ring of cardboard for each team of students. On the whistle, the two man teams got into the ring and started crawling towards the goal line. The relay then continued and involved the following: three person running jump rope, eight person walking, three legged run, carrying a kid who’s hanging on bamboo, and human chariot. The race ended like it began with the caterpillar.
All in all the Undokai was a lot of fun to participate in and watch! You really have to be there to understand it and my post hasn’t done it justice. It’s pretty impressive to actually see an entire class jump rope together FIFTY times in a row. I had no idea what to expect when I showed up tired and a little hung over. However, when I left at 6 p.m. that night I felt awesome and had the biggest smile on my face. Japan seems to do that to me.