The Undokai

Uniquely Japanese youth sports days are a big deal

 By Michael Flemming   Nov 11, 2013

Undokai is a uniquely Japanese sports day conducted by schools and work organizations that focuses more on fun and camaraderie than on pure competition. If you've ever noticed large gatherings of youngsters in school athletic uniforms vying against each other in creative sports then you likely witnessed an undokai. I attend my children's undokai each year; this year my four year old's sports day with Matsumoto Preschool was held at the Okinawa City Athletic Park. Events included acrobatic feats of strength, tug-of-war, running, dancing, gymnastics, relays, and box races. The children are divided into age groups and given unique team names and colors. No one really keeps score at an undokai as it's really just a fun day for children and their families. The Matsumoto Preschool undokai had 18 events other then the opening an closing ceremony, including a parents relay race. If you would like to enroll your own child into a Japanese preschool, just drive around, there are two or three in each neighborhood, the vast majority of which are more than willing to enroll non-Japanese speaking students.

Photography by Michael Flemming
Japan Travel Member

Join the discussion

Michael Flemming Photographer 3 years ago
That's awesome that you attended a Japanese school in Chicago complete with an Undokai!
Sakura Watanuki 3 years ago
The photographs do a really nice job at capturing the atmosphere of undokais! It's so action packed and full of energy. I remember attending my own undokai when I went to Japanese school in Chicago when I was younger. It reminds me of my own childhood and makes me feel a little more at home. Thank you for sharing.