The Bunkasai

Education is not just book learning. Japanese schools hold several team building events throughout the year which are viewed on par with academic performance. The teachers are only superficially involved in an administrative role. Depending on the event young people will be grouped by age, by class, by club, or randomly, but never by ability. From the chaos a leader rises, the group coalesces, and the events are held — sometimes for the public, as in this event, Bunkasai, or the Culture Festival.

Several days before the Bunkasai all classes stop to set up the event. The students aren’t monitored. When I first started working in the public school system I hung out in the classrooms to see it all unfolds. I half expected the girls to get bossed around, but gender has nothing to do with it. Students didn’t just blindly follow, either. They argued, debated, and often settled an impasse with Rock, Paper, Scissors and lived with the result. What needed to be done was done — equally. They have a sense of what’s fair and they have never been shy to point out inequality. Everyone participates. There are no slackers. And in the time I’ve been there I’ve yet to see the students go to get help from the teachers to settle something.

In case you’re wondering, during Bunkasai students set up shops on campus. They make foods like sandwiches, cakes, yakitori and set up restaurants or cafes; they open game booths, karaoke rooms, haunted houses; they hold fashion shows, perform concerts, organize galleries. Every year, and each school, is a bit different, but where I work they tend to revolve around those things. You might have heard of the movie Waterboys. That schools Bunkasai became famous nation wide for their all male synchronized swimming events. Japanese groups like Radwimps came out of the Bunkasai. Alumni make the trip and so do people who live near the school. It is a wonderful slice of Japanese life.


These are just a handful of shots from the preparations — and the first edited with my calibrated monitor. πŸ˜‰ I’m giving all of them to the PTA for the yearbook. I don’t want to upload portraits without permission from the students, but you might get to see some of those later.Β 

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11 Comments on “The Bunkasai

  1. There’s a playground in the park near the pool where I swim. As I walk by, I’ll get glimpses into the world of these tiny tots. Sure, there’s the occasional whiner or crybaby… but for the most part, they all cooperate and exhibit rather impressive social skills. Your description of bunkasai reminds me of this. So – WTF happens to us to produce road rage and Republicans in adulthood???

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of my kids submitted a five-page essay on Sandy Springs and the concept of gated communities. He is completely baffled by the selfishness of those people, whom he quotes, as saying they feel that their taxes are stolen from them. To your comment, the crybabies have the loudspeaker without learning the responsibility that comes with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Short people | Made by you and I

  3. You’re able to make your own learning process completely appealing ! πŸ™‚ It’s as if we’re standing by and watching you come to terms with all these great new toys.
    And also … your love of things Japanese is VERY appealing. I hope they love you back. Well, you know I’m not talking A.C.P. [grin]

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You sure know how to make me miss Japan. As part of my studies there in college, I taught English at a middle school in Morioka. These pictures, and your description, remind me of the happy times there….Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not know that, Dena.

      Middle school fun. It’s like they’re in metamorphosis. Distorted proportions, acne, attitudes all with lack of confidence. (lol)

      How long were in Morioka? Did you get to do bunkasai or ‘sports day’ or any of the other ones?


      • I was there for 8 months…I remember ‘sports day’….and another when we all cleaned the school together….It’s been a while but it was an entirely pleasant experience.


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