Wednesday, September 15, 2010

精華町の第37回町民体育大会 / Seika’s 37th Townspeople athletic festival

ラジオ体操 第37回町民体育大会
This past Sunday, Seika town held one of its biggest events of the year, the 37th Townspeople Athletic festival. Figuring that it would be a good way to meet people and get my face out there, I volunteered on a whim. Of course at the time I didn’t realize that the event grounds were 3 miles away from my house, and I’d end up going there by bike at 7 in the morning, but I’m still really glad I got to participate.

I had heard of school athletic festivals in Japan, but this was my first encounter with a town event. The town was broken up into neighborhoods, and although not every district participated in the events, they all came out to cheer. Some groups were clearly very prepared for the event, with matching t-shirts, jerseys and flags, so I was a little sad that I had no one with which to match fashion wise. The events were basically split into two categories, “free” events where anyone could participate, and “team” events, where the winning group got points for their neighborhood. The team with the most points won a fancy trophy and presumably bragging rights for the rest of the year.
50メートル走 第37回町民体育大会
The turnout was amazing, and over 6000 thousand people came, despite the fact that the sun and the dirt area made it feel like death valley. From babies to octogenarians, you could see all ages and all manners of people coming out to compete.

The events ran the gamut from serious business to ridiculously silly. Lots of the kids who came competed in a 50-meter dash and the little guys ran their hearts out. Of course there was the ol’ “get the ball in the basket game” and tug-o-war (I really wanted in on that) but some surprises (at least to me) made an appearance as well. There was a team jump rope event, where 10 kids had to jump rope in time to get their count up. Although many teams clocked out around 5 or 10 the best score of the day was 52! 52 consecutive times! I can’t even do that jumping rope alone! My favorite event though was definitely the over 50 ball push. Though the explanation doesn’t do it justice, it was great to see some of Seika town’s older residents playing around and just being kids again.
大玉ころがし 第37回町民体育大会
Of course the most serious event was the relay, and the effort of some of the participants was inspiring. Although the fast people were obviously impressive, I was more moved by the people who fell down or bit it hard, and got back up instantly. There was no chance they could win anymore, and no real prize in the end, but they still gave it their all, despite the pain and hurt.

Another little plus was the music they had playing. While one would expect a lot of Japanese songs at a Japanese athletic festival, the presence of “Eye of the Tiger,” from Rocky and Kenny Loggin’s “Highway to the Danger Zone” threw me for a bit of curve. I suppose that pump up songs are effective no matter what the language though.

In the end, it was a great day, and I got to meet and talk to some of the residents of Seika town a little more in depth. Despite the heat and the intense sunburn I got (I look like a hairy tomato) I fully intend to volunteer again next year. I’ll just wear a bigger hat next time.
優勝した精華台三丁目 第37回町民体育大会

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