Sunday was the track-and-field portion for 2010’s Iki Junior High School Sports Tournament. It was misting. Then raining. Then just humid. Then misting. Then behold! The skies parted a little after noon and, via magic, it was a nice day! But of course, the sun made me tired.
This is a little taste of the quintessential Japanese need for ceremony. It’s part of the culture surrounding politeness and order, I believe. They have ceremonies for the smallest of things. Have a student get second place at a local shodo competition? Ceremony! Meet a guitar player at the ferry port? Ceremony! They have opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies. Invariably, there are three speeches at least: one from the principal, one from the head of the PTA, and one from the students. There are often more. I usually space out after a few sentences. (They use that uber polite Japanese that I don’t bother learning. I would only use it if I spoke to, like, the Emperor. Or Takeshi Kaneshiro.)
My favorite part is the effort they go through to make the ceremony look really… ceremonious. It’s not just a simple: “All right students, come forward and swear that you’ll act sportsmanlike. You will? Awesome. Let’s get to it.” It’s, “[blah blah blah] sportsmanship is an integral part of the community because it represents [blah blah blah] and now students, come and swear [blah blah blah].” Then the students arrive, and they get decorated with flags, and they scream their oaths of awesomeness, and then people clap, and then they return to their very straight lines, and everyone bows, and then they return to their tents in an incredibly orderly fashion.
This would never happen in America. Ever.