Monday, October 26, 2015

Community - the heart of the Japanese spirit

The phrase "fighting spirit" is often banded around in Japan to recognise achievement against the odds. However it rarely questions whether the achievement was actually the right thing to do in the first place. When two schools recently competed in baseball and the game remained tied for four days the teachers forced the pitchers to continue hour after hour. The parents praised the children's "fighting spirit" for having stood in the summer sun for four straight days. However, in many other countries the teachers would be considered guilty of child abuse.

Strangely though, there is a significantly more real, and arguably more important, aspect of the Japanese character, and that is a real and genuine sense of community. It's something I haven't experienced in my home country; there would be many local events true, where we would go along and join in the fun as a family, but not necessarily as a community. Would we know each other or would we turn out to represent our local neighbourhood, for example?

So when the local Sports Day in Japan comes around, it's not simply a school event, in fact, it has nothing to do with the school at all. Organised by the representative committees, over three hundred people spent the entire day competing (more or less) in a series of races, obstacle courses and various imaginative trials by cardboard box. Fifteen neighbourhoods, from toddlers to teens to great grand parents, everyone came together to enjoy their community. And it's something special. An achievement so much more important than "fighting spirit". And I like that.

sports day

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