Health and Sports Day

If you are a health buff who likes playing sports, spending the whole day sweating your fat off and enjoys living an active lifestyle, this holiday is for you!

The first ever Health and Sports day in Japan was held on October 10, 1966, to commemorate the opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. In the year 2000, it was moved to the second Monday of October under Japan’s Happy Monday System. They have chosen to celebrate it during the month of October to avoid the Japanese rainy season so that everybody can come out and enjoy the sun. In Japanese, this holiday is called Taiiku no Hi.

Japan is one of the few countries to have a public holiday celebrating Sports. Japan doesn’t only celebrate the aesthetic beauty of their country through colorful and traditional festivals; they also have holidays that give importance to physical activities, fitness, and health in order to develop a sound mind and a sound body. On this day, everyone in Japan including business establishments, schools, and other offices encourage their members to participate. Most of the elementary and middle schools also schedule their Field or Sports Day activities on the same day.

The sporting culture is strong in Japanese society. Most schools schedule a Sports Day, also called Field Day, several times a year. These Sports Days are called undokai in Japanese. As mentioned above, many schools set their Sports Day to be on the same day as the official Taiiku no Hi. Others, due to local weather conditions, schedule their Sports Day on a different day.  Then this event happens during the Saturday or Sunday in Japanese schools. Like any other important event; Japanese students spend a lot of time preparing long before the event. They spend many days practicing for their presentations and events because their parents and friends are surely going to watch.

One of the most popular segments is a game called Tamaire. Tamaire is a game traditionally played by elementary school children at sports festivals. It takes about 200 stuffed balls, two baskets, and two poles to hold the baskets. The balls are more like beanbags.  A number of children can participate although the official rules limit the number to 6 players. The winner is determined by seeing how many balls can be thrown into each basket within a time limit.

Aside from the school happenings, it is also expected that people will also watch sporting events such as the traditional track and field, which include the 100-meter event and the exciting tug of war. Much of the population of Japan is very interested in sports, so much so that they look forward to Sports Day as a mini Olympics.

Another unique competition that people in Japan are excited to play is called Mock Cavalry Battle. In this game, four people will be on each team. One rider will ride the other three. The designated rider wears a hat or a headband. The battle is to be the first to remove your opponent’s headband, as losing the headband means defeat.

Thus, the purpose of this health and sports day aside from promoting a healthy lifestyle is to uphold unity and camaraderie among the people in Japan. The purpose behind this activity is that the government wants to build cooperation, harmony, and a sense of solidarity among their people and to make their nation as one.

 

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Culture Day

Another annual event celebrated in Japan is the Japanese Cultural Festival, also known as Bunka no Hi. This event always occurs on the 3rd day of November. This holiday is to commemorate that on this day in 1946, the constitution of Japan was officially announced. To commemorate this event, the date was declared as a national holiday two years later, in 1948. The purpose of the holiday is to promote the growth of the ideals of the Constitution, and the love of peace and freedom through cultural activities. This date, November 3rd, has also been used as a holiday since the Meiji Period, where it was called Meijisetsu. During that time, the holiday was to celebrate the birth of the Meiji emperor. Some see Culture Day as a continuation of the tradition of the Meijisetsu holiday.

Across the country, events with a deep connection to culture take place, such as cultural art exhibits and costume parades.

The Bunka no Hi is widely participated in by schools in Japan, from Nursery schools to Universities. In this festival, the artistic side and various academic ventures of the students are displayed. Primary and Secondary schools hold cultural festivals which students are required to attend. This activity is one of their requirements for graduation. In universities, attendance is not compulsory, which makes this an extracurricular activity for them. Usually, these festivals showcase what the students have learned. Visitors to these festivals are there not only to inspect the students’ achievements, but as recreation. Alumni of different schools also mark this holiday as a time to visit their schools. Classrooms and gymnasiums are decorated like restaurants and bistros, and the guests are entertained by presentations prepared by the students. This holiday promotes social interaction among the groups and fosters community ties.

On this day the presentation ceremony of the Order of Culture Awards is held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The award is given by the imperial family and the emperor himself to recognize the outstanding contributions of people in the field of arts, culture, and science. The bestowal of this award is not restricted to only Japanese citizens; there have also been foreign recipients. For example, the award was given to the Apollo 11 astronauts upon their return from the moon. Last year, some of the awardees were Taeko Kono, considered one of the most important writers of Japanese contemporary literature; Takashi Negishi, economist; and Hiroshi Amano, Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for the year 2014.

The rest of the country celebrates with parades celebrating traditional Japanese customs, with the participants dressed in costumes from each era to demonstrate the flow of history. Events like these provide opportunities for the people of today’s generation to examine the culture that has been passed down through the ages. During this time, those with a proven track record of excellence in the performing arts give performances.

The importance of Culture Day has expanded, so that now the period from November 1 to November 7 has been designated as Culture Week, focusing on Culture Day. In schools some of the outdoor activities include the Sumoo (Sumo); Bon Odori (Bon dance), a traditional form of Buddhist ancestor worship; Rajio Taisoo (Radio exercise), marking the coronation of the emperor of Japan; Janken Championship (Rock-Paper-Scissors); and the Chorus, wherein large groups sing together in an outdoor setting.

 

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