School sports festivals derailed / Meets moved, shortened or canceled because of nuclear crisis (Sep 7, 2011 Yomiuiri)

The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has impacted many plans for annual sports festivals normally held in autumn at primary and middle schools.

Many schools made difficult decisions to minimize students’ exposure to radiation by, for example, shortening event hours, instructing students not to eat lunch outdoors or holding the events inside school gyms.

At some schools, sports festivals were even canceled as parents did not agree on the conditions for holding them.

In the wake of the nuclear crisis, many schools in Fukushima Prefecture postponed sports festivals scheduled for the spring.

Shirakata Primary School, a municipal school in Sukagawa, was scheduled to hold its sports festival on Saturday. But the school will hold the event only in the morning and has decided not to hold a parent-student lunch to avoid possible negative effects from dust.

Since the crisis began, the school also canceled other sports events, such as swimming classes and athletic meets.

The school’s principal, Koichiro Furukawa, said: “It will be a pity for the students if more events are canceled. I think the sports festival should be held, even if only in the morning.”

Takine Primary School, a municipal school in Tamura, will also hold its sports festival only in the morning.

The school customarily moves chairs out into the schoolyard for spectators. This year, blue sheets will be spread on the ground before the chairs are brought out, to keep students and visitors from tracking soil into the building.

Nihonmatsu Kita Primary School, a municipal school in Nihonmatsu, changed the venue from inside the school to the city’s sports gym.

But because the building is not so big, some events, such as relays, cannot be held there. Students and teachers have devised alternate events, such as games using cardboard boxes.

School officials said they will increase events in which junior and senior students can have closer contact to make the sports festival an opportunity for students to feel the importance of warm-heartedness.

But municipal Odaira Primary School, also in Nihonmatsu, canceled its sports festival as parents’ opinions remained divided.

Principal Eiichi Kaneko said, “We judged the sports festival would not be fruitful as students can’t get sufficient practice.”

Schools in the Kanto region also have been affected.

The Tokatsu area in northwestern Chiba Prefecture has seen relatively high radiation readings. During a meeting of principals of the city’s municipal primary and middle schools, the board of education in Kashiwa in the area has given instructions such as shortening practice hours for athletic festivals and using gymnasiums and classrooms for lunch instead of eating outside.

The education board in Nagareyama has decided to make municipal schools in the city cancel the kumitaiso coordinated group gymnastics because students would get covered with sand when doing the event. The board also has limited the time for outdoor school activities, including practice for athletic festivals, to four hours a day.

“We’ve heard some parents voicing concerns. We’ve discussed possible ways [to ease the concerns] with schools,” a board of education official said.

Some middle schools in Ibaraki Prefecture have made students wear gloves when playing tug-of-war. In Tsukubamirai in the prefecture, two primary schools where schoolyards have yet to be decontaminated have postponed their athletic festivals from Sept. 17 to Oct. 8.

Municipal Meitoku Primary School in Kita-Ibaraki, which is close to Fukushima Prefecture, has taken such precautions as using blue sheets to cover the ground for playing tama-ire, a standard sports festival game that involves tossing multiple balls into a basket on top of a pole.

(Sep. 17, 2011)


Other source readings about Japanese sports:

Standards and Practice for K-12 Physical Education in Japan  Takahashi Nakai & Michael W. Metzler

major goals and objectives of PE in US and Japanese edu similar since WWII but the former as the result of grass-roots organizations, the latter mandated by govt. 5 groups of fundamental outcomes sought in school programs remains the same. democratic PE / culture-oriented PE / fitness-oriented PE / PE as prep for lifelong sport participation in PE for mind and body

While the goals and objectives appear to be similar in US and Japan, the goals in Japan do not specify performance-related outcomes, instead it is viewed from a cultural perspective,”In J culture, body and mind are viewed from a holistic perspective and this relationship must be maintained in order to keep physical education in the schools” and “the ultimate objective is to cultivate an attitude that will cause students to live a happy and cheerful life that is well integrated with physical activity…” and “Through experiences in physical education, youths should develop a love of sport and attain a level of personal fitness needed for a healthy life”. What is rarely found in other countries, is the Theory of Education component, a “cognitive content on the social and cultural aspects of sport, motor learning and the affective outcome of learning physical activity for personal meaning.
PE is part of the school edu plan, J. school physical educators implement ECA events, including sport festivals, coach school sport clubs…
Problems with J. PE – teachers while familiar with “teaching skill”are less familiar with “teaching style”, although they may teach in ways that resemble sport edu styles or models. Centralized regulation by MEXT hinders teachers’ acquisition of expertise, impedes the formation of original curricula in schools as well as the types of instructional approaches that might be used by teachers.
Some “progressive schools” offer selective programs and coed classes, and a few elementary schools may offer some limited options (eg. one event from track and field activities), however most lower secondary schools do not offer wide choices – limited by facilities and equipment, and inadequate staff development.”
Between 1998-1999, the number of hours of PE classes was cut, to make way for 5-day school program and the yutori hoiku…the decreased class time obviously impacted upon the fitness of children, with a gradual decline seen over the decade, with a reversal in the downward trend seen on in 2011 statistics.  To improve PE, it was suggested that teacher education system in J. universities needs revamping to improve instruction, and to improve awareness among PE teachers of the possibilities offered by a new curriculum and how to develop expertise in planning and implementing a new curriculum. teachers’ responsibilities need to be reduced to that of teaching only (as opposed to the teacher-coach role)

School gymnastics (gakko taiso) is the older concept equivalent to today’s school physical education (gakko taiiku). School gymnastics was encouraged by the first Order of Educational System (Gakusei) in 1872, and in the next year, “Illustration of Room Gymnastics” (Shachu Taisoho-zu) and “Illustration of Gymnastics” (Taiso-zu) were officially presented by the Department of Education. Yet, it was not until 1879 that the National Institute of Gymnastics (Taiso Denshujo) was established and started for the purpose of training qualified gymnastics teachers and studying the systems of school gymnastics. George A. Leland was invited from America to systematize school gymnastics in 1879. His systems were drawn mainly from Dio Lewis, and were called “light gymnastics” (kei-taiso) and “normal gymnastics” (futsu-taiso). School gymnastics were then diffused by the rapid growth of national education.

In 1885, the Department of Education was reorganized into the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry promulgated a set of new Education Orders. Japanese education was moving toward nationalism, too, as the new orders for elementary, middle, and normal schools, excluding imperial universities, introduced “military gymnastics” (heishiki-taiso) as a compulsory subject.  The light gymnastics was to fade out because of the introduction of military gymnastics. On the other hand, Motokuro Kawase, Akuri Inokuchi, and others actively introduced the Swedish system during the 1890s, and this permeated into many schools because of its rational and scientific system.

After decades of confusion, in 1913 the Ministry of Education proclaimed the Syllabus of School Gymnastics for the first time. In these, school gymnastics was prescribed to consist of gymnastics (mainly Swedish), military drill, and games. . Examples include gymnastics, fencing, rifle shooting, riding, and skiing -Introduced through military reform or modernization.

Sport and Physical Education under Fascistization in Japan  InYo: Journal of Alternative Perspectives June 2000 by Ikuo Abe, Yasuharu Kiyohara, and Ken Nakajima

After the Manchurian Incident, school gymnastics evolved its superficial “rationalism.” In June 1936 the Ministry of Education promulgated a revision of the Syllabus of School Gymnastics that introduced Danish gymnastics, expanded the constituents of athletics and play, and directed the rationalization of teaching methods. However, the aim of the revision was to support a militaristic regime attempting to standardize school gymnastics. The syllabus denoted schools’ obligation to conform to the standard, and emphasized the training of character as well as the healthy development of body. It rejected the use of borrowed terminology and translated sporting terms into Japanese. Furthermore, it gave detailed directions for budo.

In 1935, The doctrine of school gymnastics clearly became chauvinistic; liberalism and individualism were denied but esprit de corps was encouraged.

In 1941 this doctrine was realized in the National School Order, which clearly stressed its aim that every national school should train up a “Nation of Emperors” (Kokokumin). The school gymnastics (Taiso-ka) was renamed “physical discipline” (Tairen-ka). In September 1942 a Syllabus of Physical Discipline was issued in which physical activities dedicated to national defense were stressed. Basically, physical discipline was divided into two categories (budo, including judo and kendo, and gymnastics, including gymnastics, games, athletic exercises, drill, and hygiene), and the practical descriptions given to these materials became much more militaristic than before.

Most Japanese militarists, physical educators, and athletes began seeking Japanized physical education and sports. This included creating such diverse terminology as Taiiku-Do (“The Way of Physical Education”), SupotsuDo (“The Way of Sports”), and Ishiteki-Taiiku (“Physical Education Controlled by Will”). They commonly rejected Western liberalism and attempted to reconstruct the theories of sport and physical education according to traditional and fundamentalist philosophy or codes of behavior. Most theories appearing after the late 1930s were strongly connected with the traditional warrior’s feudalistic morality of Bushido. Furthermore, all foreign sports terminology was forcefully translated into Japanese.

A fascistic regime was almost completed before the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941. School gymnastics became synonymous with military training. All amateur sports organizations were reorganized into the Greater Japan Physical Education Association, which was an organ of the Ministries of Education and Health and Welfare. All youth organizations became subservient to the fascist regime.

Contests and games were ritualized to indoctrinate militarism, patriotism, and above all, the ideology of the Emperor System. All kinds of physical activities were colored by bushido (“the Way of the Warrior”) and Yamato damashii (“Japanese spirit”).

…all fascist laws and orders were abolished under American occupation policies. However, the Emperor System, which was one of the germs of Japanese fascistization, was maintained.

The defeat and occupation of Japan also swept away the fascist system of physical education. Military drill and budo were prohibited in schools and Japanese physical educators actively assimilated American “New Physical Education.” Although a certain reaction arose after the signing of the peace treaty and security pact at San Francisco in 1951, post-war physical education and sport is another story. Nevertheless, it is worth remarking that budo, whose nature reminds us of fascistic physical education, has been revived as a school subject.

— Source: JALT



A Reexamination of Physical Education and Sports in Japan (IV) : Physical Education, Sports, and the Ideology of “Winning Is Everything” by KURISU Mitsuru

“… the current (postwar) situation of physical education and sports in Japan, which have continued, in almost every respect, to follow the ideology that was established in this historical context”

The sports that form part of the physical education curriculum today were largely imported during the Meiji years, mainly from Britain and America. Many nationwide sports competitions were also instituted at that time, and today’ s national high school tournaments have their origins in sports meetings at the old “middle school” level.

However, in the process of importing foreign sports and introducing them nationwide, a number of serious errors were made:

1. The Japanese tradition of physical exercise integrated into daily life (budo) was based on the

spirit of  bushido (“the Way of the warrior”). However, the essence of  bushido in a distorted form was

injected into physical exercise that was not integrated into daily life, i.e., into sports.

2. Physical education (i.e., physical training) was regarded as synonymous with sports (i.e.,

physical recreation).

3. The ideologicai emphasis placed on winning meant that sports could be understood only in competitive terms, rather than in terms of personal recreation.

4. An absolutist ideology of winning became established, linking world-class achievements in

competitive sports to the restoration and display of national prestige.

5. Participation in sports instilled a spirit or ideology of absolute obedience in male middle school

students, who were being prepared for military service.

All of these developments can be traced to an attitude of rivalry with other countries that had begun

to form in the nation as a whole through repeated experiences of war. They can also be attributed to an

effort to boost national morale using nationalistic ideals such as yamato damashii (“the Japanese spirit”)

in order to offset a deficit in physical size and strength relative to other nations.

Source: p 177 onwards


Events of the undokai include:

From Undokai diary :

A similar Japanese game called “kibasen” (literally “cavalry fight”) is commonly played as part of school sports day events. It is a field event rather than a swimming event. In it, a team of four competitors work together, with three carrying the fourth, who wears a hachimaki. The team is defeated if they are knocked over or, more commonly, if their bandanna is removed by an opponent. The rules of the kibasen are similar to the Korean game called “chicken fight(Wikipedia)”, where you grab the ankle of one of your feet so that you are standing on one leg and attempt to knock the other person over.

Tug-of-war contest.

marching in carrying the school flag is a very important position

玉入れ tamaire or “ball throwing.” It is usually done by first graders, and there is almost always a parent team included. Every Sports Day I have attended, the kids do an adorable dance along with playing the game that you can watch here.


騎馬戦 (kibasen) is a traditional schoolyard game of piggyback fighting.Kibasen (Cavalry Battle) however is so popular in Japan that it even forms part of school sports day. Kibasen is for teams of four players. Three people stand in a triangular formation, facing the same way, and hold hands. This enables the fourth member to perch on the back of the front player with his feet supported by the others hands.

Kibasen is the final and the most bizarre of the events.  This one has its root in samurai fights of the good’ol days.  Boys would get together in groups of 4; three boys would act as a horse and carry the 4th boy, the samurai.  They would then run around and fight the samurai of the other team.  The samurai on top would basically have catfights and try to knock each other off of their horses.

This was totally violent, boys got hurt, two boys had their glasses broken, and so on.  This event totally dispelled an idea that I had had of Japan before: I had heard that students getting at hurt was a big deal, and that parents would complain to the schools if their kids even came home with scratches on them.  Maybe that was just for elementary schools…JHS is so different!

I actually got to take part in the practices for kibasen.  They were a bit different, because the boys weren’t trying to kill each other in the practices.  They fought usingjankenpon (rock-paper-scissors).

お玉送り otama okuri or “Giant Ball Delivery”

組休操 Human Pyramid or Group Gymnastics Based on  Swedish Gymnastics

Sometimes called the “Swedish Movement Cure,” founded by Pehr Henrik Ling, was a health-oriented approach and recognized for inherent medical values. The Swedish “light gymnastics” used no apparatus, consisting of calisthenics and exercises. 1776-1839 – Per Henrik Ling- fencing master and gymnast studied massage after he cured himself of rheumatism in his arm.    Developed a system of  Medical Gymnastics.Ling was a Swedish physical therapist, developer and teacher of medical-gymnastics. Ling was suffering from joint (overuse) injuries and rheumatism when he was appointed fencing-master to the Uppsala University (1805) and subsequently found that his daily exercises completely restored his bodily health, so that his thoughts now turned towards applying this experience for the benefit of others. He saw the potential for adapting these techniques to promote better health in many situations and thus attended classes on anatomy and physiology, and went through the entire curriculum for the training of a doctor. He then elaborated a system of gymnastics, exercises and maneuvers, divided into four branches, (1) pedagogical, (2) medical, (3) military, (4) aesthetic, which carried out his theories and would demonstrate the required occidental scientific rigor to be integrated or approved by established medical practitioners. Ling formed the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.  His students carried on his work after his deathThis system of gymnastic exercise was eventually adopted by UK, US and Japan. (Encyclopaedia Brittanica) Ling, who had a strong medical background, recognized that exercise was necessary for all persons. He maintained that exercise programs should be devised based on individual differences. Ling also believed physical educators must possess knowledge of the effects of exercise on the human body. Ling used science and physiology to better understand the importance of fitness (4).


“… one of the most fascinating, impressive, and terrifying things I have witnessed is the kumi-taiso, or group gymnastics.  The 5th and 6th graders strip their shoes and socks off and walk barefoot across the school grounds (gravel/dirt) to do amazing stunts.  Some of the moves are yoga-ey, and some are group and pair efforts, including handstands, human pyramids, etc.  All of the poses are set up and made by the blow of a whistle, including formation changes.  Let me show you some examples I took from a website:

A yoga-ey move:
The Saboten (cactus).  This is a pretty scary move!!! the bottom person is holding the top person by grabbing their knees and pulling back.  I’ve seen kids fall flat on their face a couple times because the bottom person wasn’t pulling hard enough, or the top person lost balance. Yikes!  Not to mention that they get into this position by first sitting on top of the bottom person’s shoulders!
Here you can see students doing the “bridge”  Also scary if they don’t keep their arms straight, or the back person isn’t steady!  I saw someone slide down straight to the floor, bringing the front support down too!”
Here we see some human pyramid practicing…
My base school is doing this pyramid, only 4-3-2-1.  Today they tried for the first time, most of the groups couldn’t support the top person…lots of painful backs I think… On a side note, our kids are required to wear pants while doing this b/c knees can get painful on the dirt!
Here is a another pretty cool pyramid!  Idk if my school will do this one, but I’ve seen a video of this, with more people…really cool!!! (see link below)
Here’s a link to a really long kumi-taiso with many more students involved.  Skip around, but particularly go to minute 15 and see the final pyramid.