All right, I’ve been dragging my feet a bit in regards to writing this post. It’s actually been a little over a month now, as the cultural festival I attended at one of my schools was actually in late September.
But I did say I’d write about it, so here we go.
Let’s go through this in chronological order, to the best of my memory.
Day 1 was on a Friday. As you’d expect, there were no classes. All of the classrooms had been emptied out by the students the day prior. Desks were moved out, and their chairs were all moved into the gym. So the kids basically had to just stand around in their classrooms in the morning, before all filing into the gym where they sat with their respective classes.
In the gym there was a bit of an opening ceremony that also involved a video / skit put on by the student council and some words from Kocho-sensei (the principal).
After that, some students gave speeches. It wasn’t a competition though, like the kind of speech competitions I remember having when I was in school. Four students gave speeches. One first year girl, one first year boy, and two second year girls.
One of the second year girls gave her speech in English, and she’s none other than the Story Girl I wrote about in a prior post! She’s also the girl that has a twin sister in another class, something that initially confused me until I realized what was going on. Prior to the cultural festival, I had spent a good amount of time after school on various days helping her practice. One of the English teachers even recorded me reading her speech so she could listen to it when she practiced on her own.
So naturally, I was shocked when she completely flopped…!
Just kidding, she did great.
After the speeches was dances I believe. Several groups of students signed up for that, and basically they would dance to a certain song or a mix of songs. Kind of like Jpop / Kpop style dancing / choreographs. It was pretty cool and looked like they put a lot of work into it, even if that kind of thing isn’t really that exciting to me personally.
Once the dances were done, if I’m remembering correctly, was the school tour. Every class was given a schedule, and as a class, they all walked through each of the rooms that had been setup with displays of their work. Each grade had a physical craft that they made, and a painted work that they made.
So for example, for the projects, the third years made stamps out of wood. Like the fancy kind that are basically a handle that you can press down. The second years made… I believe they were supposed to be letter openers? But of course they were all fairly creative, some looking real fantasy-like. One was just a wrench. And the first years made these little wooden shelves that would sit on a desk.
Those projects would be on display in the hallways for each respective grade (3rd years – 1st floor, 2nd years – 2nd floor, 1st years – 3rd floor).
The paintings were displayed on the walls of the classrooms. The third year class walls were plastered with paintings the students had done of themselves. The second year class walls were artistic representations of kanji. And the first year classes were paintings of shoes.
There was also a display of the school’s history in the big meeting room, which had models of the old school lunches the students had to eat over the years, and photos of every single year since the school’s inception over 50 years ago.
As I wasn’t restricted to staying with a class, I basically just wandered around while all the students stuck with their classes and moved around one classroom at a time.
There were no fancy cafes or roller coasters or other crazy things you may have seen in anime or online. Mainly because this is a junior high school, and because of covid they sort of reined the festival in in terms of that sort of thing. I know at another school there was a play, but there was no play at my school.
After lunch there was a trivia game that was conducted via the school’s broadcast system. They basically had a video feed play to every classroom, and the students in each class had to come up with the answers to the trivia questions. One of the questions asked them to spell my full first name in katakana, which only one group got correct (they all call me Chris-sensei, but my full first name is Christopher).
After the trivia, one grade at a time was called down to the gym for a physical competition which was two parts – first was a jump rope competition where each entire class would have to line up and jump through a rope over and over as much as they could. Second was a relay race of sorts where students had to run to a box, grab a string, tie it to a string that was taped to the ground, and then tag the next student. Longest distance getting the highest score.
That essentially concludes day 1.
Day 2 was on a Saturday, so more parents could come.
First was a performance put on by the school’s brass band. They performed four songs, and did really well. I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard many live brass bands before, so it was pretty cool.
Next each class sang a song, one at a time. It reminded me of the “Christmas concerts” that we had in my schools when I was a kid, where we’d have to sing a song. But of course, these weren’t Christmas songs. In fact, they were very choral songs for the most part, generally only having piano as the backup music, and having many dedicated parts for the males and females. They were also well done.
After that was a break where students could just wander around the school, and also parents this time. As I’d already seen everything the day prior, I… actually can’t remember what I did during that time. I think I made several trips to the teacher’s room to get a drink of water out of boredom.
Next was lunch.
Funnily enough, immediately after lunch was the closing ceremonies. So while the parents had to leave at lunch, they could then come back afterwards to watch the closing ceremonies. Seemed kind of odd but I guess the school HAS to provide a lunchtime for the kids, so they had to stick it in there.
The student council finished off their skit, announced the winners for the various competitions, said some words, and then Kocho-sensei finished it off.
Next the students and teachers all cleaned up the school and put it back in order for the upcoming school week. And then the day was over around 2:30pm.
So yeah, that was my cultural festival experience at a Japanese junior high school. I’ve heard that high schools tend to be more of a “festival” experience, with the food stalls, games, fortune telling, haunted houses, et cetera. But maybe even the high schools went a little easy this year because of covid, I don’t know.
It was a fairly straightforward experience, but I think the kids had fun and many of them got to show off some of their abilities in one way or another. I had fun too, not doing anything of importance for the entire two days.
Anyways, that’s that.
I’ll try and write some more stories soon.
Feel free to ask if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer!
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.