May 29th, Tuesday:
- Corn Potage (Corn, Onion, Parsley)
- Macaroni Salad (Macaroni Noodle, Cucumber, Tuna, Mandarin Orange)
- Meat Dumplings in Ketchup
- Butter Bread
This week, the schools have all been having their Sports Festivals (undou-kai). Anyway who is acquainted with me will surely be aware of my absolute abhorrence of anything that even smells like a “sport”. I could write an essay about the shallow meaninglessness of sports, but this is not the place. Rather, I would like to inform you about a surprising truth: I sort of enjoy (watching) the Sports Festival. Let me explain.
The Sports Festival in Japan has a long history, extending back into the glorious (and militant) Meiji Period. Students are divided up into red and white teams. Red and white are celebratory colours in Japan. If the school is large, other teams will be added, usually blue and yellow, based on Taoist colour theory (ask me for more details, I loved to talk about that). The main event of the Sports Festival is the competition between these teams in various activities. Some examples include relay race, hurdle jumping, giant ball rolling, tug-of-war, throwing bean bags in a basket, lassoing while riding a saw horse, and who can pick up the most trash within the time limit. These sorts of activities are manifold more useful and exciting than say…. volleyball. But please let me tell you about the true beauty of the Sports Festival. They are given a real meaning, completely lacking in modern sports. The teams are organized similar to vigilante outlaw groups of old. There is a commander and a vice-commander. When the commander shouts and all his followers reply “Osu!”, it is beautiful. When they march to their positions and perform the colour guard–spinning flags of their team’s colour and another painted with their chosen insignia–it is historic. When the commander throws out his long scroll, his vice-commander kneeling beside him, and yells out his challenge, how they will not again suffer the shame of defeat and will show that insolent aka-gumi what true strength is, I hear echoing the glorious deeds of the past!! –when, unlike this easy and lackluster age, life was hard but had real meaning.
In 5th grade, my grade level reenacted the American Civil War. It was absolutely wonderful. Through that, not only could we truly begin to understand the feelings and problems of our ancestors (not that I had any ancestors in the Civil War), but it is something I remember fondly even at this old age. We built battlements of newspaper stuffed trashbags and bullets of flour filled beanbags. I sewed a flag to wave triumphantly, or at least defiantly, at those bastard yankees. When the actual battle occurred, staged upon the grassy battlefield of the playground, I acted as a medic, dragging our wounded to rest beneath the shade of the stink pod trees. The Sports Festival is almost as awesome as that civil war, and it happens every year!