One of the lead-ups for Sports Day is the implementation of rajio taisou, or radio exercises. A series of very simple movements with swinging arms and slight bending over set to cheerful piano music, it's less of a workout than a mindset, a reminder that "this is how your body works." Not that the students need any such thing, but it feels very good to follow along from the sidelines. Though I probably wouldn't consider it fun enough to get up early in the morning to gather in front of a temple to follow along, as people used to do. After the War the US occupying forces forbid it for being too militaristic. Which in a way, but not really compared to the rest of the educational system.
Today, for instance, the kids spent a couple of hours, off and on, marching in place under a hot sun, "ichi, ni!" It was about as boot camp as you get, except that they alternated the marching with rehearsals. Here I thought Sports Day would show off their clubs - maybe a baseball game, some tennis, etc. Instead they've prepared some rather bizarre games. One involves a long bamboo pole that the littlest member of the class clings to like a monkey while two members bear it at either end as they run to and around a traffic cone. Another has all the class bending at the waist to form a firm right-angle platform which another littlest member (there's always more than one, and this is their shining day) uses like stepping stones - as soon as one is walked on they run to the front of the line to do it again. One starts out like normal tug-of-war with just the girls holding the hugest rope ever - the boys have to run around the track and try to get back fastest to help the invariably stalemated females. The most anti-climactic has four boys carrying one on their shoulders into the center of the field - where he plays rock-paper-scissors with another similarly bourne - the winner of which wins. "But what was the point of the people carrying them?" I cried, "Why not just play rock-paper-scissors on the ground?"
But there are some understandable competitions - racing, of course, is universal. I'm inclined to think our Sports Day will outdo the Olympics in this regard - there's nothing as emblematic of speed as a fourteen year old boy, bare feet pounding on hard sand. I think it takes the viewer's breath away more than the runners. They do the marathon thing where the kid in front starts running, and go through the entire class - of course there's often such a size difference among the same age that the poor person who just wants to hand over the baton can't quite reach - "too fast!" they protest.
The girls will do the Soran Bushi dance, and the boys will do a series of gymnastic moves. They get progressively more complex - starting with half of them doing a handstand while the other half hold their feet - which is still pretty impressive when 150 pairs are doing it. It climaxes with each entire class building a human pyramid, four people high so the top kid has quite a ways to fall. There's so much general stepping on and and shoving and generally knocking each other about that I'm inclined to think they're all made of rubber.
Ah, so I'd wondered if Japanese people burn like we do? While the ladies don long sleeves and sunscreen, apparently it's not the manly thing to do. After an entire day supervising the monkey antics they were all brighter than neon signs. The head 2nd teacher, already a nut-brown man, now bears an amazing resemblance to a brick house. I dread the next few days as they all sting and start to peel, both in sympathy and fear of the resulting tempers. I, meanwhile, sit in the shade and fan myself and stay lily-white, with increasing nose freckles.
The Japanese news has been very interesting lately.
First I turned on my tv the other night to see a man speaking very seriously at a press conference. I switch channels - and he's on the next six channels. I recognize him as the prime minister - when I interviewed for this job they asked about current events, like who the PM was. I named one, and they said, "ah, actually it just changed." So he's had the job less than a year, and already he's resigning. Apparently the last one did the same. A. and I thought it interesting as the leaders of our countries would never dream of giving up their thrones. K-sensei and I agreed that it was maybe better to keep fighting than give up when a job gets difficult.
Hard times for everyone are hard for monks, too. You'd think they deserve some kind of holy discount.
On a lighter note, life-sized sex-doll or murder victim?
I was fascinated by this article about Professional Seducers. It puts a price to things you would think are priceless - imminently practical, as expected from Japan. I feel a little sorry for everyone involved and a little like they get what they deserve - or pay for. You have to wonder whether it's really possible to plan things like that - what their success rate is. And why exactly should it be that "Bringing separated people back together is altogether more complicated – and more expensive. It also takes longer" ?
I was also blown away by a single line in this story: "No sitting U.S. president or vice president has ever visited Hiroshima." Seriously? What on earth is wrong with them?
But in happy news, news near and dear to my heart, my beloved duo Kinki Kids has just released a new single. It's the 27th since their debut, and every single consecutive one has been #1 on the charts, which means they have an entry in the Guiness Book of World Records <3 On the inevitable day that they lose that record it will be a sad day for the Japanese music industry. It's a fun, jazzy number that is also the theme song to the show one of them, Tsuyoshi, is starring in, "33 Minute Detective."