The second monday in October is reserved for National Sports Day in Japan. It was named such in commemoration of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics which were held in October due to Japan’s rainy season. Schools across the country use National Sports Day as a time to hold Sports Festivals or Field Days. This is a common event portrayed in many school-centered manga and anime series.
I can’t remember the first time I encountered a sports festival in a manga. It’s such a common event that they occur frequently in shoujo manga. However, there are several that I haven’t been able to forget. I’ll share some of my top favorites and you can add your own in the comments.
1. Kimi ni Todoke – Confessions
The Sports Festival in volumes 3 & 4 of Kimi ni Todoke is the setting of several important confessions of feelings from the main characters. While Sawako is enjoying watching Kazehaya play sports, Kurumi suggests that she try to like some other boys. She mentions Ryu since he saves Sawako from being hit by a baseball. She then sets it up so that Ryu and Sawako meet up at the storage gym and Kazehaya is suppose to interrupt their clandestine meeting. During the short time they are alone, Ryu confesses that he likes Chizu. His explanation helps Sawako figure out that she loves Kazehaya.When Kazehaya shows up with Karumi in tow, he grabs Sawako and takes off with her. He asks her if she would like to go out, like boyfriend and girlfriend, but Sawako doesn’t understand. Not wanting to push her away, Kazehaya relents. When Kurumi’s plan fails, she is accosted by Chizu and Yano for spreading rumors about Sawako. Sawako arrives on scene and Kurumi confesses her feelings for Kazehaya.
Manga Chapters 9-17 / Anime episode 10-13
2. Kaichou wa Maid -Sama – Maid at the Sports Festival
Misaki is trying to win all the prizes for the girls during the sports festival. One of the events is a costume race, where the contestants run to a changing station, put on a costume, and then run to the finish line. Already embarrassed that she will be changing in a room full of boys, Misaki also gets to compete against Usui. After grabbing a costume bag, she opens it to find a maid uniform! Terrified to wear it, so as not to jog any memories of her job at the maid cafe, Misaki ends up switching bags and combining costume parts with Usui. When their friend Yukimura from the student council is made fun of because of the maid uniform, Misaki stands up for him as president of the student council with Usui at her back.
Manga chapter 9 / Anime episode 12
3. Itazura na Kiss – Battle of the Brawn
In Itazura na Kiss, Kotoko misjudges Irie’s athletic ability because he comes in second in his first race. She later comments to Irie-kun that it was nice to see that even he isn’t perfect at everything. He admits that he wasn’t even trying because it’s not worth it. Kotoko challenges him to win in the final relay agains her class’s team. Irie takes the bait and ends up sprinting to the final overcoming Ken of class F and winning the race. However, Kotoko ends up pushed out onto the track and Irie falls over her as he crosses the finish line. He then picks her up and carries her to the clinic. Ken, who loves Kotoko, complains and tells Irie to let him carry her. Irie tells him not to bark like a useless dog who just lost the race. It makes a huge scene when Irie carries Kotoko in front of the whole school and authenticates some of the rumors spreading about them being a couple.
Manga chapter 5 / Anime episode 3
4.Cardcaptor Sakura – Sakura vs. Li (Syaoran)
This one isn’t in the manga, but it sure is cute in the anime. It’s the sports festival at Toemoeda Elementary and Sakura and Syaoran are competing in the obstacle course. They stay head to head until the end of the race when Syaoran gets a glimpse of Yuki, whom he kind of admires, and trips. Sakura wins! When Sakura asks Syaoran to have lunch with them he immediately refuses, and then reconsiders when he realizes Yuki will be joining them. He’s embarrassed but asks Sakura if he can come.
Anime episode 10
Health and fitness remain an important aspect of Japanese culture. While researching sports day, I discovered that every day since the 1950s in Japan a national stretching song is played over the airwaves. Everyone learns it, and people of all ages and walks of life practice it. It’s very common to use the national stretching song during the opening of a sports festival.
I found the video fascinating, and discovered that the practice originated in the United States in the 1920s. Wikipedia: Radio Calisthenics