Next weekend is a three-day holiday break due to Health and Sports Day (体育の日 Taiiku no hi), also known as Health-Sports Day or Sports Day on October 14th. What is Sports Day? It is an annual national holiday in Japan celebrated the second Monday in October. Sports Day is a relatively new national holiday in Japan having only started in 1966. Sports Day commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle. Wonder if there will be a second sports day added after the 2020 Olympics?? Sports Day is the 12th holiday of the 15 annual Japanese national holidays this year (more details on Japan national holidays below).
What is Sports Day? – Japan National
October was chosen as the month to celebrate Sports Day since it is one of the best weather months of the year with less rain and comfortable temperatures. Since Health and Sports Day was created to promote sports and physical and mental health, many schools and businesses choose this day to hold their annual Field Day (運動会 Undō-kai). If you are invited to attend a Sports Day undo-kai be prepared to partake in traditional track-and-field sprints and relays, and tug of war. However, you will also get to experience some unique Japanese games as well. The tamaire game is played between two teams, red and white. Each team has 50-100 small beanbags in red or white and a basket attached to the top of a tall pole. The teams compete to see who can throw more of their beanbags into their basket within a given time (about 5-10 mins). Another common game is the o-tama korogashi where the goal is to roll a huge ball the size as one person in a relay race.
Japanese take their Sports Day (Undokai) very seriously and often have weeks of practice for the events. Sports Day events start early with speeches by government or people in leadership roles. Moms give great thought and preparation to the beautiful and healthy obento boxes for lunch, and Dads buy new video cameras to memorialise their children.
If you have the opportunity to participate in a Sports Day event here are five tips I have learned:
- Plan an all day event – usually start time is 8 – 9a.m. and ends between 3 – 5p.m.
- Take your own plastic sheet or folding chairs to sit on. You might not be able to use it, but if you can it is very handy.
- Take lots of water for the event – October can be hot. Also, make sure you take sun protection and hats.
- Charge all your tech items the night before. Bummer not to catch the excitement.
- Don’t be shy – you will be asked to get involved. Join everything with a big smile, no matter how unusual it may seem!
Did you know?
Japan had 15 national holidays in 2015 and added a new national holiday – Mountain Day, on Aug 11, 2016! Japan increasing the number of national holidays to 16 will result in Japan ranking in the top five countries in the world with the most national holidays; compare that to the US’s 10 or UK’s 8! Japan implemented a “Happy Monday System” from 2000 which changed set date holidays to be flexible each year to fall on a Mondays, creating three day weekends which increases the number of actually holiday days to 17-18 depending on the year. Examples of the “Happy Monday System”, include; Coming-of-Age Day which used to be set on January 15th but now is flexible to the 2nd Monday of January, and Marine Day which used to be set on July 20th but now is flexible to the 3rd Monday of July. Besides the end of year and New Years break, Golden Week from April 28th – May 6th, and Silver week from September 21st – 23rd are big vacation periods for families so travel costs do increase, and destinations become crowded. Enjoy the time off, and plan early!
Living in or visiting Japan with Kids? Here are our favorite holidays and celebrations you should know about in Japan!
January – Coming of Age Day – Celebration of Adulthood for people becoming 18-20.
February – Setsubun – Devil Day
May – Boys Day or Kids Day
July – Tanabata
August – Obon
October – Sports Day
October/November – 7-5-3
December –New Years Celebration
What is Sports Day? – Japan National Holiday