It’s Saturday. Go to school.

For what? A basketball game? A band performance? How long do I have to be there? Wait, the whole school has to go? You must be crazy.

In the States, if we had to tell the entire school they were REQUIRED to be at school on a Saturday, we would have a few hundred kids and parents laughing in our faces. It’s just not possible. People have things to do. It’s the weekend!

However, in Japan, it’s not uncommon at all to expect the students to be at school on a Saturday.

So far, the students (and myself) have been required to come to school on Saturday for two events, the sports festival and the choir festival.

If it’s been a long time since you’ve been in school (or you didn’t go to a school in the States), you might not remember how these events typically run. At all the schools I have ever been to, including the one I taught at, occasionally there will be special events that the students are required to attend. The difference is that in the US, these events are held during the regular school day.

For example, back home when I was teaching we had a special music festival day. I enjoyed it a lot, we had the entire school dress up fancy on that day as we all pretended to attend the symphony. Then during a specially designated time during the day, the entire school went to the cafeteria to listen to various groups perform (choir, band, orchestra). The entire performance lasted about an hour, maybe a little more. That’s an important point so keep it in mind. The other key element I’d like you to consider is that during this event, only those who take choir/band/orchestra perform.

Well, as I’ve mentioned before, things are the opposite in Japan. On the choir day EVERY SINGLE student was required to perform. It went a little something like this:

–Grade one in its entirety sang a song together (grade one is equivalent to 7th grade in the US)

–EACH class from grade one sang a song (there are seven classes total for each grade)

–Grade two in its entirety sang (grade two=8th grade)

–EACH class from grade two sang

–Grade three in its entirety sang (grade three=9th grade)

–EACH class from grade three sang

That’s 24 songs for those of you like myself who can’t do math. (Hang on, let me double check that with my calculator…) And that, my friends, takes about three hours to get through. I sat in a chair for three hours. I don’t like to sit. But it wasn’t over yet.

Thankfully we had a nice long lunch break, but after lunch is was back to the gym for more music.

The second half of the day took a more lively turn, which I was quite grateful for. (Please note that I am not trying to demean the hard work of the students. They were practicing these songs for weeks beforehand, and they really did a wonderful job—it’s just very, very difficult for me to sit through ANYTHING for that long. Even watching kittens recite poetry while dressed as sailors would be a struggle.) In the afternoon, the various bands played, there were a few skits, and the teachers sang a song. (Including me! I sang in Japanese!) The entire day went from 9:00 to about 4:30. Even though I didn’t teach that day, I felt more exhausted than ever.

This was just a few Saturdays ago, but it wasn’t the first time I was at school on a Saturday.

Just a few weeks after I started here, we had the Sports Festival day. Sports Festivals aren’t really consistent within US schools, at least not as far as I’m concerned. I remember having them in elementary school, but again they were during the school day. Also, there might have been a few events that everyone competed it in, but for the most part it was all voluntary.

Every school in Japan has a Sports Festival day. It’s a national thing. (In fact, I’ve learned that many things the schools do are national, in the States things are usually only distract wide.) Unlike the sports days I remember from my youth, the students in Japan actually practice for the events weeks in advance. I couldn’t believe it. In the weeks leading up t the actual event, the last class of the day would often be cancelled so the students could practice the various events. They were so serious and dedicated to success. It really was amazing to see a student body of almost 800 kids work so hard toward something.

The day of the festival solidified just how hard they had worked. I have never seen children behave in such an organized, structured manner. Everyone knew exactly where they were supposed to be at any given moment. There wasn’t any time wasted between events.

I planned on bringing my camera that day, and I did, but alas, I had taken out the SD card to transfer photos to my computer and forgotten to put it back in. So instead, I had to take pictures with my phone, which I feel really didn’t capture as much as my camera would have.  Actually, all the pictures turned out pretty terrible, but I do have a few videos to share with you. And if you’re expecting me to apologize for the poor video quality, you can forget it! I won’t do it!

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2 responses to “It’s Saturday. Go to school.

  1. Wow- interesting games! I didn’t realize that the students were walking on each other’s backs. I thought they were walking on stilts!

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