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Sports Day is an official holiday in Japan. All schools, including preschools, hold related events called undokai. Most of the photos you've seen in the past of our kids racing around school yards were taken on various Sports Days.

Here, Calvin is racing around his elementary school yard.

Such events go on all day, with a break at noon for a picnic lunch. Yoko was up at 6:00 a.m. racing around the kitchen preparing our Japanese style lunch. I'm sure she got more exercise doing that than Calvin got racing around his school yard.

One week later, it was Brian's turn. Because Brian's school is next door to Calvin's school, and Brian's school has a smaller school yard but just as many students, Brian's undokai was held in Calvin's school yard. (Got that? Hope so. There'll be a quiz later on.)

In the picture at right, Brian is racing around the school yard carrying a papier-mache daruma doll.


Here are the two schools, Brian's in the bottom left corner, Calvin's in the other three corners.

Noteworthy note: in the upper right corner of the picture, just above Calvin's school, are some square patches of dirt surrounded by roads. Those are housing lots. Now compare the size of one of those lots with one of the classrooms (those black squares, which are windows) in Calvin's school. The classrooms are average in size. Alas, those lots are bigger than average! Now put a house on one of those lots and you have a 1.3-million dollar investment -- and no front or back yard. Lucky you live America, eh, brah!

A few weeks ago, Brian's Yochien held a carnival. One of the events was this traditional game of yo-yo fishing. The poles have rubber bands attached, with paper clips as hooks. The object is to 'hook' a small loop in the rubber cord attached to each balloon and lift the balloon out.

Why is it called a yo-yo? Because the kids place a finger in the loop and bounce the balloon off the palm of their hand. A small amount of water in the balloon gives the balloon enough mass to stretch the cord quite far. Of course, should the yo-yo break...


Surf's up, indeed. When this thing went off just offshore of our little island, it gave our building a good shaking, sending Yoko out of her chair, unsure as to where to run to escape Earthquake Part II. Me? It didn't bother me a bit. I merely changed my underwear and went on with what was left of my life.

Later that day, we drove down to the in-laws, who asked about the event. They had seen news reports about it on TV. Only then did we understand that it wasn't an earthquake. Sure enough, the nightly news carried the story and showed some pretty spectacular video of the detonation.

But I do have a request. Next time, particularly if that next time is in still-jittery Kobe, the authorities really should consider warning all nearby residents.

How did the authorities find this thing? Well, they are going to build another island off our southern end and were doing surveys of the bottom. I only hope they performed similar surveys before they built OUR island. Hate to have one of these things go off underneath our building while I was wearing new underwear.

(Photo and caption from the Japan Times)


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