It is fall.
Fall in Japan is a season that represents sports and food, and we have a phrase: スポーツの秋 (Sports no Aki where Aki = fall)、食欲の秋 (Shokuyoku no Aki where Shokuyoku = appetite).
It is sensible to consider fall as the time of eating, and it probably comes from agricultural perspectives, but how come it is also a season of sports? Perhaps it is simply because people want to “move” after eating too much.
Another reason we consider fall is “a season of sports” is that people held 運動会(Undoukai =a sports event) in fall.
Undoukai is a whole day event and mainly held by schools. According to Wikipedia, the first Undoukai in Japan was hold by a British nun, but it did not become popular. The signal for Undoukai to take over Japan was one sports event held by a school in Hokkaidou (North part of Japan), and it was a fun event and other schools started to imitate because people just could not not have fun.
Some schools are held Undoukai in June because it is often rains in the fall in Japan, but many schools still hold Undoukai in October, and some schools held Undoukai twice a year in both months.
Undoukai starts with the principle’s speech, and the two representatives (one girl, one boy) of students swear a vow which they will have the “sports spirit” (compete with each other fairly). Then, it is the start of sporting.
The kinds of sports have been very creative, I must say. Certainly we have 50 meter running, 100 meter running, but since Japanese run no different from American, I will introduce some other sports which I think have more cultural contents.
1) ムカデ ( Mukade )
6 to 7 students’ legs are tied together, so they have to move their the same leg at the same time. It looks like a myriapod such as centipede, and Mukade means centipede.
Usually they will put a strong person in the front. In case someone behind messes up the leg right before the goal, the front person can still pull the whole team to the goal by their strength.
2) 大玉転がし (Ootama korogashi where ootama = big ball, Korogashi = turn)
This one is a lot more fun to watch rather than play.
3) 網引き ( abiki where a(ami) = net, and biki(hiki) = pull )
It is a sport which is easy to be truant.
4) 玉入れ ( Tamaire where tama = ball, ire(ireru) = put in)
They have a age limit for this sport. It is only for 1st, 2nd or maybe 3rd grade. 🙁
5) 障害物競走 (Shogaibutsu Kyousou where Shogaibutsu = barriers, kyousou = running race )
My school had one station where you had to find a marshmallow in a bowl of white powder, and it was the first station of the race. It was not difficult to find that tiny little marshmallow, but it was a surely mental pressure to have your face all white and finish the rest of the race.
Undoukai is a social event which lets all students to participate, including these who do not like sports, let schools advertise in front of parents, and lets parents to be proud of their child’s hard works.