Thursday, June 16

The Japanese: Cute and Physically Fit

Here are some super-genki pre-schoolers. photo
This time of year happens to be the time for Sports Festivals at most (if not, all) schools in Japan. (It really irks me that an outdoor sporting event like the Japanese Sports Festival would happen to coincide with the beginning of the rainy season. But that's another topic.) So, when I say "all schools", I mean all schools from high school on down to nursery schools. Everyone spends about a month practicing strange events. (If you're a little lost now, please refer to my Undokai Articleif only for the pictures...)

Every Friday I travel to one of my farther elementary schools to teach English.There is a nursery school right across the street. From where I sit in the teacher's office, I can hear when all the little nursery kids are outside playing. Now, you may or may not know that I love kids, especially the little ones. I gush over the new first graders that when given a chance to ask me any question can't seem to form a complete sentence or ask a real question. It goes something like this:

Teacher - Okay kids, now you can ask Mr. Dan anything you want. What food does he like? What's his favorite color? Let's find out!
Me - Ummm, you! (pointing to one of the serious-yet-seriously-interested face kids).
1st Grader - What's your favorite bug?
Me - Hmm, I like butterflies and ants! Okay,!
Next 1st Grader - (stands up, pushes his chair in) I go to English class on Wednesdays.
Me - Oh really?
Teacher - That's not a question. Nice try. Remember, ask Dan-sensei a question.
Me - Ok, you, in the back!
Another 1st Grader - This morning, I woke up and my dog was barking at the. (sits down with blank expression)
Teacher - That doesn't make any sense. We can understand what you are trying to say. Okay, hmm... Kotaro, ask Dan a question.
Kotaro - Do you like bugs?

I guess my problem here is with the teacher. Either that or the confines of my job. I just wanna lay down on the floor and help these kids build a block castle while they tell me about their barking dogs.

This kind of conveys my feelings.

But this scene is very low on the adorable scale when compared to nursery school kids participating in Sports Day. They have their little reversible red or white hats on. They march like dandy little soldiers with their arms swinging higher than their heads. There's always a few kids that are either just too young or they forget everyone is watching them so they tend to drift off into la-la land and/or pick their nose. This is especially funny when the gun sounds for a race and one kid is left standing at the starting line until the teacher scrambles out on the field and gives him or her a push in the right direction. And that's not to mention when the kids finally does start running it becomes obvious he hasn't exactly fine-tuned his motor skills yet and is still about 5 years off from understanding the concept of "dork". So, his strides are way too high and wasteful while his small arms (ending in plump fists) pump in strange directions.

I could just squeeze that kids cheeks till they split open. Out of love, of course.

So, every Friday, sitting in the teacher's room, I can here those little romper-stompers lining up for the pre-Sports Day stretch. Now, it may be important to know that Japanese schools seem to be underfunded, and nursery schools seem to be in an even worse position financially. You can tell this by the Dumbo-like character statues planted in the playground right next to jungle-gym equipment that make John Travolta (circa Saturday Night Fever) seem like someone from I-Robot. This school also has a fantastic metal slide from the second floor balcony all the way to a sandbox in the playground. (I haven't seen this used, though, so I'm guessing it was outlawed along with lawn darts and the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab which included uranium ore).

So, of course, their warm-up/stretching song is this little gem called "Hoto Poppo" maybe from the 1950s or 60s. Please, indulge in this throwback, and imagine it blaring at unsafe sound levels out of scratchy speakers.

Pigeon Coo Coo
(roughly translated)

Coo, Coo Coo
Pigeon coo, coo
If you like beans
Come down
Let’s eat altogether

Coo, Coo Coo
Pigeon coo, coo
If the beans are delicious
Eat one and fly away

You might not have noticed, but everyone is laughing because these brave actors are mimicking little preschool kids. Now imagine that song with these kids:

Now what's funny about warm ups like this is that it's not just cute little grade-schoolers and toddlers doing these stretches. In fact, they're quite common in the Japanese workplace. Here, a bunch of construction/factory workers (?) warm up with their work belts on.

And this next clip is of the business man variety with the most popular "Radio Calisthenics" which used to be broadcast every morning (it might still be).

 Go Go Japan! Stay Genki! Let's healthy body! This concludes the Japanese lesson. Bow. Thank you.


  1. Laughing together is always good!!

  2. bwaa! I totally know how you feel! those photos are great and the first year convo is ぶち懐かしい! I love 1st graders and given the time and opportunity I would teach only them, and for free!

  3. I feel like it's already なつかしい for me...just over a month of teaching left in Japan. I'm gonna miss all the cute smiling faces. Good thing my next job is a preschool teacher!


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