Japanese Sports Day

This last-last Thursday (13th) was Sports Day, where the entire school comes together to kick each other’s asses at various activities and… sports. It’s a national tradition practiced from elementary to high school, basically a random (but meticulously well-planned) opportunity for kids to relax and have fun. At my school, this repertoire of revelry ranged from relay races, to dance competitions, to my first time witnessing the Japanese game called kibasen (cavalry fight).

The entire school was divided into four different teams, in this case into colors. Sports Day begins with these teams marching onto the high school track, wearing matching headbands and waving flags made by the students themselves. When I say marching, they really are marching– high knees to a military-esque anthem played by the band. The Japanese, prefecture’s, and school’s flag were raised on the flagpole, and then each sports team marched onto the track, dressed in their appropriate equipment and uniform. It was INCREDIBLY aesthetic, like something out of The Great Escape but without the Nazis.


I can’t tell you why it took me two weeks to get around to posting, so since I already forgot half of what happened, here’s the highlights:

Kibasen (“cavalry fight”)

Blue manages a last minute hat-snatch, clinching the victory!

Three people under you serve as the horse, carrying you on their shoulders as the cavalryman. It’s basically chicken fight, but with a cooler name and even higher stakes. The match takes place inside a small circular ring, and the goal is to either push your opponent out or to snatch the bandanna off their head. For safety, both fighters are surrounded by teachers to spot and catch anyone that may fall off their “horse.”


Left: poles won. Center and right, teams fighting over poles.

Two teams stand across the field from each other. In the middle, several long metal poles. The starting pistol fires, and the teams do battle to try to pick up and retrieve as many poles as possible. Once they cross their own line with a pole, it’s theirs. They are rather large, so you need several people to pick one up and maneuver it.

Mass Calisthenics


Another moment that makes you go, “damn, Japan is aesthetic,” the entire school did exercise in unison to music. It was mesmerizing to watch.

Relay Races


No sports day would be complete without a relay race. There were several events, from good old-fashioned relay sprints, to jump-rope running, tire dragging, three-legged races, to the much anticipated teachers vs. students. I ran 100 meters in the relay myself, but sorry to say the teachers were no match for the best of the track-and-field kids.

Tug of War


Another classic, it’s no-frills, honest-to-God tug of war.

Besides these, there was also a dance competition, where each team performed their own choreography, mass jump-rope to see how many the whole team could skip without messing up, and even an awards ceremony at the very end. It was a great day, a great spectacle to watch, and we got to enjoy a day of no class to boot.

I regret to report that I have no idea which team won.


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