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. 😉 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.