I participated in 清真学園高等学校・中学校(seishin gakuen koutou-gakkou / chuugakkou; the official name of my school)'s 第三十一回(dai san-jyuu-ichi kai; 31st time) 体育祭!
For more understanding, let's break down the kanji. Just a bit of extra information, I use Denshi Jisho (website only, keitai/iphone/mobile websites available), Usagi Japanese Dictionary App (I use Android version, iPhone also available) and JED App(I think there is only an Android app) on my phone, and mahou for looking up different kanji.
体 たい body
育 いく bring up, raise
祭 さい festival
体+育 = たいいく which is Gym class!
運 うん carry, advance (this kanji actually has many meanings, most are situational)
動 どう move, motion, shift, shake
会 かい meeting, event
運+動 = motion, or to exercise!
Now do you see the difference? There really isn't much! However, 運動会 is meant to show off different talents to family, friends, teachers, classmates, which is something you do at events like 体育祭!
**From here on out I will relay how things were at my school. I have only been to one school's 体育祭 so I can only speak for my school. Things may vary school by school, so if you're doing exchange, please do not look to this as an end-all to understanding how these run**
For my school, all six grades (中１年から高３年まで from Middle School 1st years [in the American system, grade 7] until High School 3rd years [American System grade 12]) participated. Usually, we're divided by grades via colors on our shoes, gym uniforms, gym sneakers, but for the 体育祭 we were divided into different groups (from A団(A-dan or Team/Group A) to F団) by colors.
The 体育祭 is always held in late April, right before the Golden Week vacation and is the first big activity of the year[note: The Japanese school year begins in April]. It is also used as a way to introduce the younger kids to their 先輩(せんぱい; senior-ranking students) and as a way for kids to get to know other kids in their homerooms. The group that the student will be on from their first year until their last is determined when they enter the school. However, seeing as I had entered in as a 高２年生(kou-ni-nen-sei; 2nd year HS student) in October, I was not assigned to a group. Now, you would think, that they would have done it in April when they assigned me to a new homeroom, but alas - that was not done.
After Christmas, all that was on everyone's mind was this 体育祭 business and every five seconds I was bombarded with "ステイシーは何団？？" ("Stacy wa nani dan?" "Stacy, what team are you?") At first, all I could manage was "What the heck are you talking about?" but then I asked my Japanese teacher who assisted me and the Thai exchange student in being placed on a team. I was placed on A団, whose color was yellow. I was placed on the team with one of my best friends from my first home room.
After that, the big thing was to decide what exactly the gaijin would do. I was nominated for dancing. Yep, the blonde foreigner was going to dance. We then decided the theme would be "Abloom". The other themes included: ecstasy(yep, they allowed it), crescendo, dazzling, etc. When it came to our mascot, there was a rather intense debate over who was better: manga character Tiger Mask or American children's puppet show character Big Bird. Yes, I'm not kidding. There LITERALLY was debate over this.
Big bird won. You can imagine my disappointment. Big bird won,
And then it became 春休み or Spring Break. During this time, my phone went on the spritz and I couldn't mail anyone from au, which is what my friend had, so our communication was cut. I also switched hosts. Was informed of a two-week trip I'd be taking right before the 体育祭. And wasn't able to make -any- of the practices. My best friend was coordinating the dance for our group and, fearing her wrath, I nervously asked where she was on the first day of school in April. The first thing she said was "お前っ！" (omae - a very masculine way to say "you", in this case expressing her obvious discontent with me). I followed it with a long, deep bow and a "本当に申し訳ない". The literal translation is "hontouni[really] moushi[polite speech for to say] wake[reason, explanation] nai[don't have]". In essence, it means "I really have no reason[excuse]/anything to say [for my behavior, for what I've done]".
Once we started practicing and I had learned the first 20 seconds almost perfectly our first practice she started to forgive me. And then we had to really, really work hard. Because it was my first 体育祭, I had no idea what was going on so a lot of people had to explain things to me. It also gave me many chances to talk to people I'd never spoken to before and I made a lot more guy friends. The captain of my group in particular made it a point to talk to me a lot more and he was really hot so I was happy~
We practiced every day after school and also for extended practices on Saturdays. Our practice uniform was just our usual gym uniform, but sometimes we'd sneak a different shirt. I often wore my class shirt from America, which got a lot of "Ooh, I wanna go to America~" responses. Then discussion began about the costumes for the dance. Everyone was supposed to make their own dresses, but hello~ I'm an exchange student. I didn't have the resources or know-how of where and when I could access a sewing machine. I offered to ask around, perhaps we could use the home ec machines?! but nope, I was told not to worry.
I probably should've done it myself because after all, Japanese female bodies are nothing like my female body and it was less than flattering. If I had to make it myself, I probably could have made it a little more flattering, but alas, they made it for me and I had one less thing to worry about. We were supposed to wear fishnets underneath, but I had moved from Kashima to Namegata, which is like moving from a small city with everything you need into it to farmland with nothing there. Ugh, it was just bad.
It was during this time I really started to feel bad for how much everyone had to help me out and take care of me. My last host family was very much "we do our thing, you do your thing, lets just eat dinner together" so even if I asked, it was very hard to get the help I needed.
But, it despite all it's snags, it all came together for a very eventful and memorable day, which will be in part 2. :] (and a lot more pictures!!)
Would you like to see an in-depth review of the sites/apps I use for dictionaries? That's something easy that I could do, haha!
My next post will be announcing my giveaway's winner! Thanks to everyone who entered! I had quite a few entries and I'm really excited to pick the winner! I'll also announce what my next giveaway will be. :]