Sunday, September 24, 2006

No 糞, "FUN" in Japanese Parks Please

The other day I had to go to the 市役所 shiyakusho, or the town office, for a meeting to discuss the upcoming November(トライやるウィーク) Try-Yaru Week activities. The six foreign teachers, AETs, met with the director of foreign teachers on the 8th floor of the town office building. We were discussing our plans for the upcoming activity in November for Try-Yaru Week, the period when junior high school students of the second grade (8th graders in America) go to work for a week to learn how the real world operates.

Well I found out that we had a new foreign teacher join our ranks. One of the Interac teachers had to quit in the middle of his contract due to his grandmother passing away. So that left the school without an AET. They found another teacher from Canada to take his place. So we did our introductions and all of that.

Then we had our meeting which took about 50 minutes. One of the teachers was 10 minutes late to the meeting while the rest of us sat and jibber jabbered while waiting for her. When the meeting got going, I had already decided beforehand to agree to everything. I wanted it to hurry up and finish so I could go home and rest before my night class.

After I left the meeting I was walking back to where I parked my car when I noticed a sign at the edge of the park. Most parks in Japan have signs like these, but this one really grabbed my attention. It was a sign warning pet owners about leaving their pet poo on the park grounds. Normally you'd see some steamy hot poo coming out of a dog's butt with a big あかん、"AKAN" or red X through it. But this one took a more environmental approach.

It displayed a dog laying down a fresh pile of ウンチ, "unchi", or ,"FUN" -- pronounced like (Who - n) which means poop in English. The dog was hunched over giving it a good go and a nice steamy hot pile of poo was nearby. But right next to the poo was a flower with a bucket and a shovel. The flower was holding the bucket and shovel with one hand and holding its' nose with the other. Right next to the big flower was a smaller one with an X across the face and it was slumped over like the flower was dead. It made for a very comical sign.

And in the warning bubble, it says "keep the manners" or "preserve the manners". It was so funny I had to take a picture of it and wanted to post it on this site. So check out the No "FUN" in Japanese Parks sign below:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

End of Undokai (Sports Day)

Well Saturday was the day we did undokai. The weather report had been calling for a 70% chance of rain and I was totally expecting to come to work in a torrential downpour due to the oncoming hurricane #13, dubbed Shanshan in Korea. Japan uses a numerical system to denote typhoon nomenclature.
Tropical Storm Shanshan headed for Japan's northern island of Hokkaido after weakening from a typhoon overnight. The storm killed nine people and injured more than 300 when it hit southern Japan, Kyodo News reported.

Shanshan, with maximum sustained winds of 92 kilometers an hour (58 miles an hour), was located 260 kilometers west of the island of Okushiri off south Hokkaido at 11 a.m. today Japan time, the Japan Meteorological Agency said on its Web site.

Shanshan, the 14th-named storm of the Pacific cyclone season, is moving northeast at 11 kilometers an hour across the Sea of Japan and is forecast to be close to south Hokkaido at about 6 p.m. today. Shanshan is expected to cross Hokkaido's northern coast by tonight or tomorrow morning.

We had no rain all day long on Saturday. It was sunny, hot and windy. It couldn't have been a more perfect day for an outdoor sports event like sports day. We began promptly at 8:40am and did finish until nearly 4pm. The events went smoothly without any major incident. No children were seriously injured and overall it was a pretty good sports day.

The teachers all got obentos from the local yakiniku restaurant. It was awesome and I was starved because we didn't get to eat until nearly 1:00pm. Many parents ate lunch with their children as most of them had camped out on the school grounds.

And Habatan made a special appearance during some of the activities. Habatan is basically a chicken-like creature in Japan. It's really a phoenix, but it looks more like a giant yellow chicken to me. One of the teachers had rented a habatan costume and went around cheering children and acting silly. It was very exciting and funny.  Habatan was selected as the Hyogo Sports character for 2006.

There were several activities planned, like the mukade (kids tie a rope around their ankles and run in sync with 5 other members) race, F1 (tire rolling race) race, Tug-of-war, Kibasen (calvary game like "chicken fighting" , and so on along with traditional events like the 400 meter relay, 800 meter relay, and an obstacle course activity.

When we finished with the undokai, the winner was announced. Each grade level competes against the other and they win points during the entire event. So ichinensei had 3 classes 1-1, 1-2, and 1-3. The winner was 1-2 for the first graders. (In America ichinensei would be 7th grade students). The big winner was 3-3. When they won and were presented the trophy, they went crazy. It was as if they'd won the Olympics.

Other than that the only other thing worth noting was the parents. Some of them looked rather sleezy. One mother was wearing high heels, a short mini-skirt, a puffy fur jacket (it as about 30 degrees celsius) and a big cowboy hat. My jaws dropped when I saw this woman. I couldn't believe she'd show up to a Sports festival wearing what looked to me to be "hooker clothing".

Some other parents were smoking on the school grounds despite the fact that smoking was banned from all schools in Japan back in April. They have no manners and set poor examples for their children to follow.

After work, all the teachers went to Himeji for a party. I was unable to attend due to a previous engagement. But I am sure they got drunk and had a great time. Perhaps next year I will be able to go.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

(UndouKai) Sports DayTraining

Well, I am back to school now. We started on September 1st, so it's been a while since I last wrote in this blog.

For two weeks from the first of September we're going to be doing training for Undokai 運動会), or Sports Day. We started training actually from the 5th, because we had tests to cover on the 1st and 4th. Japanese schools are mainly organized in three semesters, called gakki(学期). So 1st semester is ichigaki, and second semester is nigaki, and third is sangakki. Well during second semester students have undokai.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week it rained all day long so the training and preparation for undokai was held in the (体育館) taiikukan, or the gymnasium, and in the (武道場)budoujou, the room for Japanese traditional martial arts. Boys trained in the budoujou and girls were in the taiikukan.

Boys are training for a pyramid building and gymnastics routine while the girls are rehearsing a choreographed dance. Of the two, the boys definitely have it worse off. They have to jump, flip, balance, and all kinds of other students. It's definitely more dangerous. And the grand finale ends up with three huge pyramids stacked with about 30 students each. The boys' activites are called マスゲーム, (mass games) and are modeled after the North Korean events to symbolize group dynamics rather than individual thinking:

Mass games or mass gymnastics are a form of gymnastics in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess. Because of the vast scale of the performance, with often tens of thousands of performers, mass games are performed in stadiums, often accompanied by a background of card-turners occupying the seats on the opposite side from the viewers. Mass games are typically used to emphasize themes of political propaganda. They developed alongside 19th century nationalist movements, particularly the Czech Sokol movement, as they embodied youth, strength, militarism, and unity.
On Friday, Sept. 8th we did marching drills for about 2 hours out on the (運動場)undoujou, or sports ground. Ours is made of sand like the image above. Students and teachers went outside and practiced repeatedly how to stand up in unison, how to march in step, how to yell when the whistle blows, and so on. Every step of the process was rehearsed over and over and over. It got to be a little too much. I, not knowing that we were going to the ground forgot to bring a hat, so I went out and got a bad sunburn. Though I did bring my sunglasses, so now I look like a red raccoon kind of like the guy in the picture below:

I should have some images from the undokai soon. It should prove to be a rather comical and fun experience.