by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant
The kyugi taikai is an all-school competition in Japan between the classes. Each student chooses either volleyball or basketball. All the students in the same class who decide to play volleyball, for example, are on the same volleyball team, and then compete against the other classes in the school. Because there are so many students in each class, and the classes usually are divided roughly in half, there are too many students on each team for everyone to play at once. At my school, each team was divided into three groups, which took turns to play against the other team. The points scored by each respective group were tallied up as if they were one group. Although this is mostly intended to be a ‘fun’ activity, the teachers and students take it seriously.
When I asked my teacher a question about the kyugi taikai, she told me to ‘Ganbate‘. (It means ‘Try your hardest’, or more literally ‘fight to succeed’) No one gets in trouble for being bad at their chosen sport, but all students try their hardest to win. It was something of a novel experience for me. In America, when we play sports in gym, usually about half the class plays, and the other half just stands there.
On the day of the kyugi taikai, we had no classes whatsoever. We all changed in the classroom (which is not weird in Japan; when we change for gym we all use the same big room) and went down together to the gym. We sat in lines according to class, and listened to a variety of speeches, most of which I either didn’t listen to or understand. After that we went to one of the smaller gyms (My school is huge), and sat according to the signs on the wall, which said things like ‘Basketball II-1′(Basketball team, class 1 grade 2). Once there we waited for a while. There wasn’t enough space for all the classes to play at once, so we took turns. I was playing basketball, so I didn’t have to play until the afternoon, after lunch. Finally, it was time for our volleyball team to play. Most of the basketball group went as well, to cheer them on. We mostly yelled things like ‘Ganbare‘ (fight), and ‘lucky’ or ‘Don’t mind!’ (in English). Everyone was very enthusiastic, and very loud.
Unfortunately, the volleyball team lost, so the various members of the basketball team split up. Most of us watched friends in other classes compete. I don’t know that many people in other classes, but I watched as well. I saw my current host sister play, along with a friend of my previous host sister. After a while, everyone got bored, so we returned to the gym, and either studied for the test that we had the next day, or talked. Almost everyone started out studying, but ended up talking. Finally, we went back to the big gym, where the winner of the volleyball competition was announced, and various other speeches were made. We returned to the classroom for lunch.
After lunch, everyone on the basketball team was incredibly nervous. I was terrified that I would make a mistake and embarrass myself. (I don’t know the rules of basketball very well at all. ) There was a long wait before we had to play, which didn’t help matters much. By the time we walked out into the gym, everyone was either not talking, or chattering nervously. Surprisingly, the game was relatively painless, even funny.
Everyone in the first group (on both teams) was terrible. My teacher kept saying ‘This isn’t even a game’. No one scored a single point. Our team’s second group of people was pretty good, so they scored a lot of points. I was in the third group, which was also terrible. The other team gained a lot of ground while we were playing, but we still managed to win the game. Sadly, however, the next team we played was actually good, and they won. After that, everyone watched other teams, studied, or talked. When the tournament was over, we all gathered in the big gym for a speech similar to the one before lunch, announcing who won, etc. Finally, we all changed, and returned to the classroom for the end of the day.