We believe in the value of physical activity by providing a system and guidance emphasizing cooperation, innovation and problem solving.
Undokai, or Sports Festivals, are one of the biggest events on the calendar of students in which the entire community gets involved like a festival. Students are heavily involved in the planning and management of the day which helps build friendship and team spirit. Events vary somewhat according to each school and community members can join in PTA events. Schools in different parts of Japan have different traditions. In Okinawa, children stomp around and play games in rice fields to aerate the soil. On some small islands, everyone on the island comes together to participate in Undokai. In Hokkaido, some schools hold their Undokai in the snow.
Undokai is a team effort teaching the importance of working together, working hard, competing for the whole team. The day starts with welcome speeches by students, school reps, PTA and the community. Everyone joins in junbi-taiso or warm-up stretches to get ready for the day. There’s typically a pep rally to fire up each team and students display colorful banners and perform dances with music.
Cheering squads or ouendan greet each other on the playing field. The teams shout gambare, or “good luck/do your best”, to their team and to the other teams. They also perform their chosen cheer song. The goals of the day are about working together and doing one’s best. Cheering each other on is a vital part of the experience.
The first event of the day is usually a dance performance which is a part of the Physical Education (PE) curriculum in Japan. Each team usually performs one dance choreographed with music. Tama-ire is a popular game in which colorful bean-bags/balls are thrown into a basket on a high pole. Any number of people can participate. The winner is determined by seeing how many bean-bags/balls can be thrown into each basket within a certain time.
Another common event is the big ball pass or ootama-okuri (ootama means a giant ball and okuri means to send).
Students are divided into teams and are given a giant ball (colored according to their team), which they push with their hands above their heads, starting from the front to the back, then to the front again in the quickest possible time.
The excitement of the day builds for the long jump rope, tug-of-war, and relay races.