Children at Seika Junior High are pretty lucky kids! The school semester started about a month ago and already the school has a week long Fall break. Wow, we never had a Fall break where I went to school in the US. Even better than that, they had Sports Day at the school, where the kids can play all sorts of different sports. Unfortunately it was pouring rain today so all the outdoor sports activities including kickball and tennis had to be canceled. But there was no lack of fun to be had inside. When I first showed up the kids were playing Ping-Pong and badminton. I myself play a little Ping-Pong, but these kids were way better than me. Maybe that’s because they are shorter and therefore closer to the table with a better eye on the ball?! No, these kids are just well practiced and intense.
Then they took down all the Ping-Pong tables and badminton nets and set up a soft volleyball tournament. You may be wondering what “soft” volleyball is right? I was wondering too, basically it is exactly the same as regular volleyball except the ball is bigger and softer. Its almost like a beach ball made of soft rubber. It is easier to hit and seems to float more than a regular ball. Along with the kids a lot of the teachers and some parents had come to play and they set up teams to play against the kids.
On a dark rainy day like today having a sports day at the school seemed like the perfect thing to do. It seemed like a lot of fun for the kids and the grown-ups as well. No doubt this was not just set up for the kids to play and have fun. Sports of all types are very popular in Japan and seem to play an important function in society teaching kids teamwork, the value of practice, and the ever present importance of hard work and perseverance. There is a very pervasive phrase in Japanese, “Ganbatte!” It roughly translates as “Do your best!” or “Give it your all!” If you ever go to any sporting event you will hear “Ganbatte” or some of its other forms as reminders for everyone to do their best, and to encourage everyone. But this doesn’t apply to just sports, at work or even when out with friends Japanese people are constantly encouraging others to do their best and persevere. Sports Day at Seika Junior High was great fun for everyone but also a good lesson in the value of perseverance for the kids.