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Health and Sports Day Posted by on Oct 25, 2009 in Holidays

体育の日 (Taiiku no Hi) is Health and Sports Day in Japan. 体育の日 is held in October to commemorate the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. To avoid the summer rains, Health and Sports Day is held in October, which is a fairly sunny month in Japan. Usually 体育の日 is held the second Monday of October, so that people can enjoy a three day weekend. 体育の日 is a national holiday encouraging an active lifestyle, especially for kids. It’s a day where communities come together to hold various events that involve physical exercise.

The day usually starts with a parade that features the events that will take place. Some common events include, three legged races, relay running races, and obstacle course races like jumping through tires. After the parade the national anthem is played and families perform the radio taiso (ラジオ体操). Radio taiso (ラジオ体操) is a stretching/warm up exercise created by the Japanese government after World War II. The exercises are presided by a speaker over the radio with some music that accompanies the exercises. On Health and Sports Day a speaker with a microphone may replace the ラジオ体操. 

My favorite event is the tsunahiki (綱引き) also known as the tug of war. This is where the whole community can participate and develop communal bonds. In fact, that’s probably one of the reasons why Health and Sports Day is so popular- people get a chance to socialize and create friendships through these activities. Although there is a competitive spirit to these games, there are also events emphasizing the importance of physical finesse rather than winning. For example there may be martial arts performances held by school clubs, where the focus is on form and discipline rather than winning a prize.

Towards the closing of the games public officials of the community usually give a speech thanking all the families that attended. Prizes are handed out and the winners are congradulated for their efforts. The great thing about Health and Sports Day is that everyone can participate in the events. Even senior citizens can participate in the traditional dances performed by each city. Young children are also taught these traditional dances in school, so provided you know the movements you could be moving to a synchronized dance with several dozen people. Health and Sports Day also allows everyone to get the physical exercise that modern day people sometimes lack; which is a good way to encourage an active lifestyle!

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