Bunkasai

Does your school have (or did it have) school festivals? I don’t really remember having them except for in elementary school. All the parents would volunteer and each classroom would have a different type of activity. I remember the “fishing” game was always really popular. Usually there would be a big “screen” (paper) decorated to look like an ocean, and behind it parents would hide. The kids would throw their “fishing pole wire” over the top of the screen and then some prize would get attached to it by the parent.

I loved those festivals, but I don’t really recall them continuing on past elementary school. We had different events throughout my education, like a Medieval Fair that all 7th graders participated in, and then when I was teaching the school I worked at had a Renaissance Fair for the 7th graders.

Japan loves festivals, and people get really into them. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but school policies are pretty much nation wide here. In the States, most decisions (like whether or not to have a school festival) would pretty much be a school choice. Maaaaybe a district choice. But certainly not on a national level.

It’s not so in Japan. Every school will have a Sports Festivals sometime in September/October. Every school will have a chorus festival around November.

One thing most junior high schools don’t have is just a standard school festival, known as “bunkasai,” or a cultural festival. High schools have this, but since I don’t teach in a high school, I don’t get to experience them. I have a friend, Faye, who does, however, so she invited me to attend her school’s festival. This happened MONTHS ago and I completely forgot to post about it.

When it comes to school events in Japan, they are usually held on Saturday. That doesn’t mean it’s optional though–EVERYONE is required to be there. The trade off is you usually get the following Monday off from school to make up for coming in on a Saturday. The preparation for these events is insane–they spend weeks training and practicing and rehearsing and getting materials together.

Faye’s students were preparing for the school festival for weeks before it happened. Each homeroom class had to come up with a theme and then decorate the classroom using that theme, and they also had to plan an event to host in their classroom. “Haunted” rooms were really popular, as were mini cafes. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. But I have to say it completely exceeded my expectations.

First of all, the walls outside of each classroom were elaborately decorated. The doors that lead into all classrooms are sliding doors, and they can actually be sort of taken apart when needed, so the students could take parts of the doors/walls down to create a sort of “food stand” feel to their classroom if they wanted.

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Each student from the class had a job, some were greeters and some were facilitating the activity inside the classroom. All the students had sweatshirts that they had made for the event. Usually they had the name of their event on the sweatshirt somewhere. I’m pretty sure these students in the picture had the name on the back of their sweatshirts.

(Faye’s school allows pictures to be posted!)

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The best event was the above classroom’s “Jurassic Park” experience. Only one person could go into the classroom at a time, and it was completely dark inside. They had blacked out the windows and kept all the lights off. Of course I could see a little bit though, and the room was decorated to look jungle-y. A student inside lead me up some makeshift stairs. (I don’t know how they did it. I think they stacked chairs and/or desks and then covered them in cardboard or something) the stairs lead up to the top of the bookcase in the classroom. I know this sounds really unsafe and it probably was, haha, Japan doesn’t worry about being sued so much. Then, attached the bookcase was a ramp. I had to sit on a little sled type thing that slid down the ramp. But, there was a rope attached to the ramp and a student from somewhere (I couldn’t see them) was sort of guiding me down the ramp with the rope (so it was kind of safe). After we went down the ramp I was pulled around the room, which was set up sort of like a maze, so I couldn’t see around the classroom. I was actually really scared because Faye went before me, and I could hear her absolutely screaming her head of toward the end. As I rounded the last corner there was a giant “T-Rex” looming in the corner. Here I got off the sled and I was supposed to put a tooth into the T-Rex’s mouth. (The students gave me a “tooth” when I first entered.) As I walked toward the T-Rex, I knew this must be the part that Faye had been screaming about, so I went pretty cautiously. As I got closer to the T-Rex,  it suddenly began to move and charge toward me. I screamed, threw the tooth at him, and ran out of the room! The T-Rex was really just a costume made out cardboard and paper and what not, and one of the students was inside it. The whole thing was pretty amazing and I couldn’t believe these high school kids came up with something so creative and detailed.

The “Haunted Classroom” was also really good, and I was thankful Faye and I could go in at the same time.

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There were parts where we were walking through a maze, but at some points we had to crawl, too. Of course all the while there were students popping out of nowhere to scare us, or grabbing at our ankles. Faye and I were screaming like maniacs.

The outside of the classrooms were so cute, here’s Faye standing outside of one of them. of course I wish I had of taken more pictures!

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5 responses to “Bunkasai

  1. Heads up, typo! “Faye’s students we’re preparing…” I would have emailed you but I don’t have your address and I couldn’t find it on your blog. I don’t really want to leave this as a comment.

    • Christ I didn’t know this would publish directly – I assumed you would have comment review turned on. How the flip do I delete my comment?!

      • Haha, don’t worry about it Mike! I typed that entry so fast and in between classes that there were bound to be some typos. Thanks for the heads up. I do have comment review on–I think, but I think once I’ve approved a comment from someone it will from then on accept their comments. I’m just glad to know someone is actually reading this!!! 🙂 I should purposely make more typos to see if I get lots of comments, haha!

  2. I am laughing so hard that I’m shaking!! The description of the Jurassic Park is just so bizarre…I’m just imagining yuk being pulled around in this dark classroom, and I don’t know, I feel like this should be in a sitcom or something. Soooo funny!! 🙂 I hope I can see you in April and you can tell me more of these hilarious stories IN PERSON! 🙂

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