While some American schools are getting rid of field days claiming the events are too competitive; field days are, and always will be a vital part of Japanese school life because they are competitive in a good way: the emphasis is placed on team performance, not on the individuals. There's no I(ndividual) in team. Students compete as a homeroom team against other homeroom teams of the same grade level. Competing as a team takes pressure off the individual, letting everyone compete better and have more fun, which is what field days should be about.
And Japanese field days are blast because most of the events are pretty goofy. Sure they run 100m dashes and relay races, but those are only the filler events between the big shows: the hand blistering class tug-of-war, the marvel of coordination class jump rope, and the ever exciting typhoon run.
The all-class tug-of-war is a joy to watch. Here two classes match their brute forces in a battle of torque, grunting, and contorted faces. It's brilliant to see the students who spend 90% of their school life asleep (minus lunch) wake up and crank on a rope with never-before-seen passion. Teachers stand on the side and root for their team, sometimes yelling threats instead of encouragement.
Watching the field day I couldn't help but think back on my own junior high days. I was a skateboarder and I couldn't give a rat's ass about homeroom class, much less my school in general. I had no "Frenship Tiger Spirit," and neither did anyone else I knew who wasn't a football player or a cheerleader. I didn't care because I didn't have a reason too. The only scores that mattered were TAAS scores. Outside of pep rallies the school did nothing as a whole, and even at the pep rallies the majority of us didn't much care about football because we weren't playing it. I didn't have any pride in my class but I wish I did. If I were made to participate in a field day in junior high I probably wouldn't have liked it, but I would've participated, and, who knows, I might've enjoyed it, especially if I could jump rope or run around in circles with a laundry pole.
Photos: Top: There are three trophies which are awarded to the best teams in each of the three grade levels. Middle: Students grunting through the tug of war. Video 1: "Everybody jump 33 times." Video 2: the super fun looking Typhoon Relay