Ahh the Undokai. One of my favorite times of year. September and early October are when many schools have their annual sports festivals. These festivals promote exercise, teamwork and school pride for the students. Upperclassmen will spend hours outside of the normal school day preparing for the undokai and trying to make it the best for the younger students.
As with all things in Japan there are some interesting fashion rules that occur the weeks prior to and on the day of the sports festival, which is another reason why I love undokai so much.
The week or so leading up to your undokai will usually involve some sort of training and various meetings between teachers and students during the school day. Since the teachers may be helping students prepare and train for the games they will be dressed a bit more casually than usual. Clothes such as cargo or track pants and basic T-shirts or sports gear are acceptable to wear during this time. If you aren’t sure if there will be some kind of training that day, wear your normal work clothes, but bring a bag with clothes to change into if you see other teachers in a casual manner.
Also, don’t be surprised if you have a lot of classes canceled this week. If you find yourself with a lot of free time, try to go watch the training for the games. It’s a great excuse to get out of the staff room and talk with some of your students.
On the day of the sports festival, the look you want is sporty casual. If you have a full track suit, you can wear that. Throughout September the weather is extremely hot and humid so dress in light, breathable clothes. There are usually a couple games where students face off between parents and teachers, so dress ready to participate in some activities such as relay races or tug of war.
Try not to wear clothes that are too tight or revealing. This is an event with lots of parents and VIPs in attendance and they may not appreciate your cleavage-enhancing tank top or junk-highlighting bike shorts. (Also, this is an event for children, who are you trying to impress, really?)
Other things to keep on your must-bring list include:
- Water bottle
Melanie is a third-year JET living in Ishikawa. She wore a denim skirt and tank top to her first undokai.