The boys’ Field Day (運動会) will be held this Sunday and the kids have been practicing—dancing, running, marching, etc.—for hours each day since the beginning of May. They were so exhausted this morning, they couldn’t get out of bed.
I’ve been asking everyone what the purpose of the undōkai is, but still haven’t got any good answers. My suspicion is that it’s training for how to be a good Japanese citizen—namely, how to suppress the ego, how to endure, how to cooperate, how to be a team player, and so on. I suspect that if you can’t hack the undōkai, you probably won’t be able to manage in other areas of Japanese life.
People often ask me if there are field days in America and the answer is yes, there are. But field days in America are very different from those in Japan. For one, the kids normally don’t rehearse or practice for it. And, more importantly, the event is for the kids not for the parents, so mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers normally do not attend. Moreover, the children are free to take part in whatever “events” they like. The purpose seems to be to have fun. And it is fun.
Here are some examples of field days in America: