Friday, September 7, 2012

Bunkasai Photo Post

It was a bit tough to write up this post, not just because most of my bunkasai photographs included students and I had to leave out so many that I would have liked to display, but also because bunkasai was such a defining time for me in Japan.

Hand-painted banners hanging on the front of the school - I was stepping around these on my way to my
classroom, every day for weeks! They were absolute works of art!

For those unfamiliar - a bunkasai (文化祭) is a cultural festival that is an annual event at every junior high and high school in the country. It most commonly happens in late summer; my school held ours in early September every year. It was the first really school experience I had, as it happened soon after I arrived, while I was still settling in. Whatever I had expected from the event, what I got exceeded those expectations by far. 

At 〇〇 High School, the students very efficiently ran almost every aspect of bunkasai by themselves. It was an exercise in independence that I hadn't quite imagined. Teachers basically sat back and gave the green light, while the students did everything else - program, schedule, setup, takedown, the works. Each class had its own project, as did many of the after-school clubs. I belonged to the ESS club, but they didn't participate in bunkasai at the time, unfortunately. While the first and second-year students (tenth and eleventh grade) were a mix of themed rooms, food stands, games and carnival-like attractions, the third-year (twelfth grade) students had all prepared stage shows - many based on Western musicals. Clubs had filmed movies; the swimming team put on a fantastic show in the outdoor pool. There was an unmitigated supply of ice cream everywhere you looked.

You get the picture - now for the photos! Since I don't have a way to ask my former students for permission to post their photos, I've chosen back-on shots or pixelated faces. Of course, if any of you would like your photo taken down, please contact me and I'll do so. 

Students hanging the giant banners displayed from the roof above while the assembly looks on

Many classes set up these '3-D' billboards near the entrance

Catching yo-yo balloons in a "summer festival" classroom where everyone was decked out in yukata

This classroom has been converted into a haunted house maze 

Twist the Rider - a homemade roller coaster, complete with a projection of a real roller-coaster ride!

Students, teachers, parents and friends waiting for the drama and dance performance to begin

A music number by some of my students!

Mamma Mia!

Hand-sewn felt 'sweets' for sale

Handmade soaps for sale

If you found all the Wallys (Waldos) from this class, you could win a prize!

A classroom decked out like a cafe

My 2nensei students preparing senbei crackers to sell

A yosakoi group performing soranbushi

The boys' swim team had an amazing performance

Tea Ceremony club students preparing a demonstration

Strolling through the school grounds

3nensei taking down their props and sets after a performance

After the main schedule was completed, a stage was set up in the schoolyard

Time for zenyasai, the musical performances that lasted late into the evening!

Thanks for coming by!

Bunkasai was such an amazing experience year after year and I looked forward to not just my own, but attending Emily's when I could, and even a university bunkasai with my Kansai Gaidai friends. Now, though, I consider myself lucky to have had such great experiences and never become tired of it. We had another ALT at my school (not a JET; a lifer) who had been teaching there for a very long time. I came back  from my very first festival bubbling over with excitement over the event to find him seated at his desk typing away at his computer. He said he'd seen it all before. Luckily, I was still in the honeymoon stage and never quite lost my appetite for school festivals, though by year three I spent at least 75% of the day at my desk.

Would I ever have gotten to the point where I'd skip bunkasai altogether? I hope not. The creativity and boundless enthusiasm the kids showed during that time has stuck with me ever since. If you're lucky enough to be able to attend a school cultural festival, it's an unforgettable experience.