Taiikusai 体育祭 (Sports Festival) 2012

A couple weeks ago my base Junior high school and 2 Elementary schools had their annual sports festivals. At shougakko 小学校 (elementary school) it is referred to as an Undoukai 運動会 and at chuugakko 中学校 (Junior high school) it’s a Taiikusai 体育祭.

I was lucky enough to attend both….. well in truth at least at the JHS level I had no say in the matter as it is part of my job.

Unlike their western equivalents the sports festivals in Japan are taken nothing short of absolutely seriously.
The event is typically run on a Saturday, with the day off being passed over to the following Monday.
Leading up to the even students have many classes dedicated to training, creating banners and rehearsing intricate marches for the day.
In fact classes are typically set aside the day before the Taiikusai to run a full rehearsal of the schedule.

Like most things in Japan, everyone is equal and participation is mandatory.
Lets just say they really drive home the team spirit at these things.
In JHS students are divided up into teams based upon their grade level and class, each set upon their most artistic classmates the task of creating an elaborate banner.
The following are a couple of my favourites (^∇^)

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In ES the entire student body is broken into 2 large teams each student either being assigned Shirogumi 白組 (White Team) or Akagumi 紅組 (Red Team) accordingly who will face off against each other in comedic sports battles throughout the day.

Being the avid amateur photographer that I am an awful lot I photos were taken throughout the day, unfortunately I can’t freely post students faces to the interwebs without permissions so forgive my crude ‘editing’ to keep them anonymous.

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A couple photos from the opening ceremony

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Raising of the Japanese flag

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Morning warm-ups

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3-legged Race

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Weight lifting endurance

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Me running in the relay race against my students!

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Giant skipping rope

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Half time Ouendan 応援団 (Japanese Cheer Squad)

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Half time suisougakudan 吹奏楽団 (Brass Band)

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Track and Field Club 陸上部

In the afternoon the students paraded around the oval donned in their respective clubs uniforms.

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Kendo Club 剣道部

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Girls Tennis Club 女子テニス部

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Table Tennis Club 卓球部 (poor kids the only member)

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Basketball Club バスケットボール部

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Boys Tennis Club 男子テニス部

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Baseball Club 野球部

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The whole lot marching

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Club Uniform Baton Race (kendo club has a 100m head start to compensate the weight of running in full bogu, track and field starts 100m behind as they their club specializes in sprinting.)

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Students vs PTA (Parent Teachers Association) Tug-of-war

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Kumitaiso 組体操

Here are a couple photos from one of my shougakko’s 小学校 (elementary school) Undoukai 運動会, rather than being centered around individual competition, the focus is more on teamwork with the kids playing dozens of crazy games. Also instead of being segregated by year level and class the entire team is split into 2 huge teams Akagumi 紅組 (Red Team) and Shirogumi 白組 (White Team).

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Giant Ball Race

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In addition to the events the students also put on acrobatic type shows for the spectators that they practice for many weeks preceding the event.

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The 5-6grade students annually do a kumitaiso 組体操 (coordinated group gymnastics) performance in which teams form pyramids or other shapes.

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For the finale the kids form a 4 story pyramid, was freakin crazy and chotto dangerous…..

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WINNING!!

Tokyo Skytree Adventures!

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Today I’m at Tokyo Skytree, freaking epic!!!
Although similarly so were the lines, arriving at 10:30am we were given passes that would allow us to join the queue at 1:00pm, after returning from a brief trip to Asakusa it was another hour before we could buy tickets to go up!

That said the view from 450m was well worth the wait, I’v been up Kobe’s Port Tower, Kyoto Tower and Tokyo Tower but nothing compared to Tokyo Sky Tree!

At 2000¥ for the 350m viewing platform it was a little pricy compared to visiting viewing platforms at many other towers.

We decided to also head up to the 450m viewing platform, although hesitant at first in my opinion the extra 1000¥ was a fair price to scale the worlds second tallest structure!

All in all a fantastic experience!
(^∇^)

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Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) Opens Today!!

Tokyo Skytree today opened to the public for the first time after 4 years in the making after it began construction in July 2008 ! Towering over Tokyo at 634-meters the tower is officially the worlds tallest almost doubling the Eiffel Tower in Paris (standing 324m) and just beating the Canton Tower in China, which is only 600 meters.

Taking almost 43 months to complete at a cost of 40 billion yen (503.7 million dollars) the primary purpose of Skytree is broadcasting radio waves which had previously been via  Tokyo Tower but tall buildings constructed over the past few decades had begun to interrupt the signal as it simply wasnt tall enough for a meccha large city like Tokyo.

Since 1958, Tokyo Tower standing at 333m has been the iconic figure of Tokyo’s skyline and a symbol of Japan’s capital, however today marked the end of its dominance with Tokyo Skytree sanding 90 percent higher than Tokyo Tower.

Tallest broadcast tower in the world

Currently the world’s tallest structure is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which stands 828 meters. However it is in a different class as it not a tower but a skyscraper so Tokyo Skytree currently takes the cake for worlds tallest broadcast tower as you can see above!

Of course the Japanese never let a chance pass them by to create a mascot for well…… pretty much everything! Tokyo Skytree’s anthropomorphic lil character is  Sorakara-chan, which can be literally translated to means “From the sky-chan.”

Ans she even comes with her own little back story:

Sorakara-chan (ソラカラ) is a girl with a star-shaped head hailing from the “Pointy Star” from which she scanned the universe using her favorite telescope. She apparently saw the 634 meter Sky Tree brightly piercing through the clouds, which enable her to find and visit Tokyo. Her clothes are imprinted with a design based on the framework of the Sky Tree itself.

Now the 634 meter height of the building is no coincidence, it actually comes with a great deal of significance. Not only to take the building over the mark to name it worlds tallest tower, but in Japanese these three figures together 6-3-4 can be pronounced Mu-sa-shi which is the name of the former province of what is now Tokyo. It is also an homage to legendary swordsman and ronin Musashi Miyamoto who was the author of The Book of Five Rings (五輪の書).

Admission Fee

Admission to the first observation deck, at 350 meters above ground is 2,000円 for adults. An additional 1,000円 is charged for visitors to head up to the second, observation deck, which is 450 meters above ground level, totalling 3,000円.

Despite the high ticket prices, more than a million people made reservations as of May 7. Along side this the place is fully booked for the next two months so unfortunately I wont be able to visit when I head down to Tokyo next week, on the bright side this can be the motivation for a trip to visit it in a couple months.

^_____^

Tokyo Skytower grows pictured in October 2009, April 2010, August 2010, December 2010 and May 2012