Fun and Games in Junior High

As you may or may not know, I work at a combined junior high/senior high school here in Tokyo. Even though I’ve been in Japan for a few years now, it’s still fascinating for me to learn about school life here! It seems so different to what I was used to in Australia. The subjects offered are more or less the same, though the classes here are more lecture style and the students live a life of ‘study study study’. But it’s what goes on outside of class that is really where you see the kids enjoying themselves!

As soon as the end-of-homeroom bell sounds at 3:30pm, the atmosphere completely changes; the school becomes a hive of activity. Everyone is out the door quicker than you can say “see you tomorrow!”, and headed straight for their school club activities – baseball, volleyball, kendo, table tennis, cheerleading, horse riding, biology, calligraphy, flower arranging… basically anything you can think of, there’s a club for.

Aside from the regular clubs, every year there are several ‘highlight’ events. No doubt for most students, the school festival, where all year levels are involved, is the most memorable event. Some other year book-worthy occasions are the year-level school trips, the choir contest, the ski trip…

and, the sports festival!

I don’t know about other countries, but in Australia, sports day is kind of a big deal. I remember at my high school, we had events like the 100m sprint, relay race, long jump, javelin, discus… basically a mini olympics. Track and field was my forte so I loved getting into it.

School sports day in Japan is more about fun and games than serious competition. It’s a day they can let loose and forget about the books, that homework they haven’t finished, or that test they need to study for! There are some very interesting and humorous events like these below…

Classes compete to capture the other team’s hats. Each team has 4 hats, one of which is the ‘leader’. The first team to grab the opposing team leader’s hat is the winner. It’s all about tactics!

As a class, the students have to keep a giant ball afloat all the way around the circuit. Anytime the ball is dropped, they have to restart from that spot. Each class is timed and the fastest class is the winner.

The school clubs have their own special relay race. It’s judged not only on who’s the quickest, but the performance they give as they run each lap! The brass band played a tune while they walked, the soccer club kicked a ball as they ran, the kendo club stopped to have a demonstration every 10 metres, the computer club carried a laptop as their batton, the biology club took real animals around the track! The crowd of onlookers – students, teachers, parents – were cheering and laughing!

Our school is an agricultural one and the official symbol is a radish. So, we have a radish relay race! There’s only one rule: the entire radish has to cross the finish line, no matter how many parts it ends up in!

We were lucky to have great weather, although it was a little hot. Summer has arrived and soon the rainy season will start, so many schools have their outdoor events around this time. There’s one more month til the end of term 1, then it’s summer break. The next major event on the school calendar will be the school festival in September. Looking forward to it!

9 thoughts on “Fun and Games in Junior High

  1. Yes, sports is such an integral part of our education system that in many countries it is not given the due place, in India it is still to catch up unlike Australia and Japan which already are sports countries where sports plays a significant part in the nation building. Especially in school where children are exposed to sports makes a huge difference to their learning and growth, sports need to mandatory for a holistic development of a child.
    Beautiful post and it reminds me of my school days where I used to actively participate in games and it used to great fun…
    have a sporty day.


    1. I’m surprised to hear that P.E. isn’t an integral part of schooling in India. What other sports are big over there, apart from cricket?
      I agree with you 100% – playing team and individual sports are both so important in our development as kids, and they help us learn skills that can be used throughout life.
      What kind of school events (sporting or otherwise) are there in India? :-)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. P.E. is there a part of schooling system in India but not as extensive and rigorous that is in Japan & Australia. We almost have all sports, in fact badminton to shooting to archery are gaining significantly with Indians doing very good in the world sports…yes, cricket remains very popular.
        In school, we have athletes but not gymnastics as is the case in Japan.
        Have a lovely weekend.


  2. Hi Celia,
    Thanks for yet another interesting insight into life in Japan – this time school-life. Whilst I used to love the competitive nature of sports events, I can see how your school’s approach encourages participation more than winning. Thanks also for the excuse to remember how good my school days were. Take care and enjoy summer :).


    1. You and me, both! I’m also quite competitive… so much so that I’m always taken aback by kids who are not fazed whether they win or lose! But yeah, it’s good to foster the idea of being in it just for fun.
      I feel like everyone thinks of school as the ‘good old days’. Life just seemed so much easier back then!
      Hope you’re enjoying the start of winter! :-)


  3. 日本のスポーツデーのことを 体育祭(たいいくさい)と いうように、
    これは 競技(きょうぎ)よりも お祭りの いろあいが つよいと おもいます。
    クラブ活動が さかんなことも 学校生活の長所(ちょうしょ)と いってよいと 
    おもいます。クラス外で、先生や友人と 楽しい時間をもてることは 
    すばらしいです。写真を見ていると、みなさんの笑い声が きこえてくるようです。
    滑稽(こっけい)な場面(ばめん)が 青春(せいしゅん)の 良い思い出となりますように。


    1. 日本では生徒たちが普通にまじめだから、年に数回、こういう楽しいイベントがあるといいですね。何歳でも「勉強」と「遊び」のバランスが大切ですよね。



  4. Ohhhh I miss 運動会.
    … and the effort of the teachers !!! I don’t recall that in Oz.
    We timed Hanako’s vists to 日本 school for 運動会 as often as possible, she has been to 3 & she still talks about them often.
    The group thing rather than the individual thing is so Japanese. I loved the end event were 200 odd kids do some synchronised thing,..create a tower / Mex wave type thing… so Japanese.

    I note your school has a green field !! auto turf I assume, that was something which struck me at the schools I worked in,.. black dusty sports fields.

    I wonder if I could ask some further advise re schools in 日本. We are getting close to the point where we have to apply for a school for Hanako . She/we are looking at this one…
    .. we are not looking for the best academically nor heavily western but rather a good all round “日本 experience” school ,…do you have any knowledge or experience of this school?


    1. First of all, I’m sorry for replying 2 months late!! I hadn’t heard about the school you mentioned, so was going to ask the teachers at my school, but then forgot to get back to you. >_<

      So from what I know now, considering the JHS is still very new and they accept returnees and foreign students, it most likely won't be your typical 'Japanese school' experience. I think academically the HS is considered an average school – not the best, nor the worst – but perhaps they're trying to make the JHS section more of an elite public school e.g. the entrance exam has questions like solving puzzles(!?), and all applicants have to have an interview as well.
      That's about all I know. Hope it was slightly helpful! Good luck!


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