Croft Institute recreates traditional Japanese Sports Day, celebrates Japanese culture

Posted on Oct 15 2017 - 6:56pm by Adam Dunnells

The Japanese Club hosted its annual Sports Day event Friday at the Croft Institute in honor of the Japanese holiday Health and Sports Day.

Health and Sports Day, also known as Health-Sports Day or just Sports Day, falls on the second Monday in October to promote sports and a healthy lifestyle in Japan.

Sports Day began in 1966 to commemorate the opening of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 1964. Though October may seem late for the Summer Olympics, it was chosen to avoid the monsoon season.

Originally held on Oct. 10, the day the Summer Olympics opened in 1964, the holiday was moved in 2000 to the second Monday in October to be in accordance with “Happy Monday Seido,” or Happy Monday System, a set of laws implemented from 1998 to 2001 moving some Japanese holidays to Mondays to give workers and students three-day weekends.

Students and workers in Japan usually have the day off for Sports Day and hold a field day-type festival, or “undokai.” These festivals usually begin around 8:30 a.m. with a parade and, occasionally, a marching band. A kind of mini Olympics, these celebrations consist of a variety of running-based activities, such as a relay race or a 100-meter dash.

They also usually incorporate other activities that are more like games, such as tug-of-war, obstacle courses or three-legged races. In some schools, the students will also perform a traditional Japanese dance.

The Japanese Club at Ole Miss hosts their own smaller festival on campus each year to commemorate Japan’s Sports Day.

“We hold this event because it is a holiday celebrated in Japanese schools, so it seemed appropriate to hold at our school,” Japanese Club member Christian Wisneski said. “It also gives students an introduction to Japanese culture and gives fellow students the opportunity to meet and engage with Japanese exchange students.”

Fellow Japanese Club member Ashton Acree said the attendance for the club’s Sports Day increases every year.

“Two years ago, we had about 30 to 40 people,” Acree said. “Last year, we had between 50 and 60 people. We expect this year to be even bigger. The response has been good enough that we are planning on celebrating this next year, as well.”

Because the event was held in a relatively small room, the Japanese Club was unable to recreate the traditional track and field events.

“Many of the sports in Sports Day are running sports,” Wisneski said. “We are in a small space, so we won’t be able to do a lot of them.”

However, the club did hold a three-legged race on Friday, and some of the members performed a traditional Japanese dance.

One of the more common games in school is called the ball toss, a game in which two opposing teams throw balls into a basket high up on a pole, and the team that gets the most balls into the basket wins that event. Even though they were missing a pole, the Japanese Club members still planned on holding this event, with a student holding a basket on his head while the other students threw balls into it.

“We hold this event not only to get traditional students to engage with Japanese exchange students, but these games also encourage teamwork,” Wisneski said. “We also hope to promote the same active lifestyle as the Japanese Sports Day promotes.”