Saturday, September 19, 2009

Feats of Strength and Skill

Hi everyone!

Part 1. Sports Day
Do you know what time of year it is in Japan? It's SPORTS DAY time! Now, I know many American schools have sports days/field days and that it's lots of fun for everyone...
But sports day in Japanese schools is a big, big deal.

For the past week, both my schools have been holding sports day rehearsals. Classes have been reduced or canceled altogether to ensure enough practice time. And sports day isn't 'til the 27th of September.

I have enjoyed watching the rehearsals greatly. But I am also a little disturbed. Japanese sports days make me think of military academies, or as another ALT put it: 1940s Germany.

Students, in their matching sports uniform, march around the field carrying various flags and symbols and present it to the principal. There are many marches and honor guards and things like that. It's impressive to see so many 13-year-olds marching and bowing in unison.

Following these processions are feats-of-strength type drills for the boys and folk dancing by the girls. The boys are actually pretty impressive in the things they can do. I think it has to do with the school lunches. After only 3 weeks of eating squid patties, entire dehydrated fish, and 100% whole milk everyday for lunch, I'm already noticed that my human-pyramid climbing abilities have increased greatly.

In between there are races and jump rope competitions.

All in all, a cool experience...but as yet ANOTHER ALT put it: living in Japan is like living in the 1950s (but with better technology).

Part 2. Japanese Ladies No Likey the Sun
I have so far LOVED Japan. Even the slightly creepy military/nationalist Sports Day shenanigans and eating whole dehydrated fish for lunch. But one thing I do NOT like is that Japanese ladies are absolutely determined to avoid sunlight and its tanning effects.

I live in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's main islands. It's pretty sunny here. It didn't take me long to realize that women here HATE getting tanned! Walking around any part of the city day to day- shopping districts, parks, the bus station, THE BEACH, etc.- you will without fail spot many of the women wearing big hats and long dark gloves to avoid getting sun while they walk about.

Even during sports day rehearsal- when we're outside, running around, and it is intensely hot- ALL the women teachers are wearing huge windbreakers, gloves, hats, towels around their necks, and long jogging pants. They have to be dying of heat, but it's all worth it to avoid getting tan. Sigh. This is a picture of one of the teachers at my school. I had to be sneaky so she wouldn't know I was trying to get her in the photo. She's the dark figure on the left- she's just wearing so much clothes you don't really see her right away.

I've pretty much scandalized all the women teachers at my school by wearing short sleeves and no hat. It pains them to see me getting visibly more tan each day. Sigh...

Oh, well. I guess no country's perfect.

Part 3. Bigfoot
My friend Dan has lent me an amazing book called, "Bigfoot- I Not Dead." It's apparently the sequel to Bigfoot's first book, "Me Write Book." It's by a dude called Graham Roumieu. Go buy it or check it out at the library or just sit in Barnes and Nobles for like 30 minutes and read the whole thing.

Life changing.

Here's a little preview to get you interested.

Part 4. Inappropriate
Just want to include another delightful translation error. At least, I HOPE it's a translation error.

Love from JapANNE!

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