It was a hot day, very typical of the humid midsummer weather in Totsuka. I walked with my host family down a windy street cluttered with houses to the boys’ school, located few minutes away.
Behind the compact school was a large gravel recess field, surrounded by tents. We were there for the children’s PE festival, a big day for the city wide community, drawing teams from all of the neighboring schools. The community elders were walking to and from the officiating tent, while Mothers were busy organizing teams of children. Older age group teams formed as well, giving everyone a chance to get involved.
I was amazed at how the event, although focused on the kids, engaged everyone in the community, including citizens well into their retirement.
The first event was a big synchronized stretch set to music that everyone had known since they were in elementary school. Even grandparents were stretching and competing, surprising me with their flexibility and willingness to compete in such ‘childish’ games as 3-legged races and dodgeball.
While in America it would be odd to see adults participate like this, in Japan it's embraced as part of living in the community. Middle aged men and women, many of them successful businesspeople, would not only compete, but try their best so that their neighborhood might win.
I was blessed by the good natured spirit of the community, where nobody was afraid to run hard or play hard- like a child.