September is apparently the month for holidays and special events of all kinds. All last week, the junior high school I work at readied itself for the annual school sports day. It seemed a little strange to me, because we don`t have anything close to equivalent to sports day in the United States. Students are seperated into colored teams by their homeroom classes, and those colors compete in some pretty strange events over a ten-hour span on a weekend day.
Last Saturday, I put on my only orange shirt and rooted for my team through such events as the 5 legged hundred meter race, some kind of elevated cornhole-type game, 20 person jumprope, etc. I can`t remember what the strangest was called, but it struck me as very odd and very dangerous - kids line up four wide and ten lines deep, forty or so in all, and the four kids in front carry a long bamboo pole as they run around two traffic cones, and as they return to the other kids in formation, they lower the pole as they run and have the other kids in line jump over it. It almost always smacks against the poor kids` legs on the way back. But, even worse perhaps, when they reach the end of the line, they lift the pole up, and run back to the front of the kids, the pole just inches from the back of everyone`s head.
In any case, I came in early on a Saturday morning, and I stayed late, but through it all I was giving high-fives, getting hugs and really interacting with the students here. It was a really fun day in retrospect, even though I was worried about potential kancho, etc. during the day`s activities. I really wish that I hadn`t lost my camera`s battery charger, because I lost some really great photos Saturday. When the kids were all seperated by color, standing across a field under their team`s banner, with colored bandanas tied around their head, it had the feel and spacing of a Kurosawa movie, though much less epic in scope.
And as far as holidays go, they`re happening constantly. Yesterday was "Old People Day" in Japan. I celebrated by meeting my friend Jade in Tokyo, and walking around Shibuya, Harajuku and Yoyogi station. It was a really great day, full of conveyor-belt sushi, a couple of strange japanese pop t-shirts (I bought two; they are yellow and purple, both extremely strange colors for me to wear, far out of my color repertoire). Yoyogi park is beautiful - it`s like a really clean, friendly Central Park. Because space is at a premium, a lot of bands and dance troupes and anything else you can name are all practicing everywhere, giving it a really cool feel.
Then, I get Thursday off work, because I came in all day Saturday. No plans yet. I may just relax and read a book, maybe get dinner in a nearby city.
And then Saturday, I`m headed back to Kansai to stay with Josh and Shannon. I`m really excited because I had such an amazing time last time. They`ve just made reservation for Hiroshima, and it will hopefully be a very cool visit there. I`ve always wanted to go; I`ve felt that it was one of the necessary American prilgrimages to make. As an American, I`ve certainly got a lot to atone for, or at the very least, a lot of horrible truths to face.
I`m taking next Monday off, to extend my trip, but I get Tuesday off as a holiday, anyway. That said, this week and next week will be short and sweet. And frankly, I wouldn`t want it any other way.