Undokai - Japan's School Sports Festival

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You know the Japanese school sports festivals called Undokai? These sports meet consists of a huge amount of sports, gymkhana and other activities involving students from all over the school.

The undokai it is an informal event, which takes place on a weekend where parents and children gather at school. During this event, children and young people interact in competitive activities for fun.

From elementary school to university, students and their families come together to participate in this sporting event unlike any other, with unique and fun games.

The competition is usually held outdoors and is an opportunity for students to show their sportsmanship and competitive spirit, as well as celebrate unity and cooperation between teams.

The History of Undokai

The Undokai [運動会] emerged in Japan around 1880, when it was declared in the constitution that family members should gather in schools annually in order to fraternize.

Undokai is a compound word: "undô" means sport and movement, and "kai" is Japanese for gathering. However, the best translation for Undokai is family sports gymkhana.

Undokais are usually held in autumn in the months of September, October or November. The Undokai emerged as a way to celebrate the arrival of autumn and commemorate the good harvest.

In some schools, the Undokai is held in the month of May, taking advantage of the start of classes in April, for greater integration between students and teachers.

The most interesting thing is that the calendars are very well organized, so parents can participate in all Undokais, regardless of the grade their children are studying.

Over the years, the Undokai has evolved to include a wide range of sports games and activities, including relay races, team games, tests of physical ability, water games and much more.

The Undokai lasts a whole day, colorful flags are extended across the entire length of the field and several competitions take place at the same time.

Each family brings their lunch and some schools usually have a place to have a nice picnic. Country people usually make their obento, onigiri, some delicacies and various other snacks.

Japan elementary school sports festival

Undokai Event Games

There are numerous games and scavenger hunts, all diversified. No football/soccer, volleyball, baseball or the usual sports. Some schools usually have another date to hold competitions and championships with sports and school clubs. At the undokai we have very different sports and some simple ones to interact with the whole family.

stunts - School classes often do an acrobatics show. They usually make the human pyramid.

Oodama (Big Ball) - In this particular game the children play in 2 ways, they try to pass the giant ball over between the students. Others usually go out pushing the giant ball like crazy...

samurai fight – A game where 3 students serve as a horse (support) and the student who is on top of the 3 students has to take the opponent's hat or bandana.

Japan elementary school sports festival

bands – A group of students forms their band, and spends the event marching and playing their traditional instruments.

dances – There are also dance displays and other cultural activities for the entertainment of the crowd. One of them is the famous radio taiso, which is a standardized fitness program.

Ball in the basket - There are 2 ways to play this game. One way is that there is a huge basket, and students should try to fill their basket using small beanbags. In the other, the teacher has the basket on his back, and the students have to run after him to fill the basket.

Bo-taoshi - It's a Japanese flag pique where two teams of around 150 people each compete to see who can protect the flag or knock down the enemy flag that's on a pole.

It is worth remembering the already known sports, such as running, relay race, tug of war, three-legged race, and many other games and activities between country and children.

Please note that there is no age limit for these events. Even the adult community can organize similar events for the entire community.

How does the Japanese school work and how to enroll?

Undokai videos

Nothing better than ending our article, with great videos so you can get to know Undokai. Below we have the video of Velberan:

Undokai performed among adult students. My Ordinary Day Channel (JNDCD):

Video showing Thalita Matsura's Undokai:

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