Thursday, 24 June 2010

One wheel on my wagon

One of the most touching and improbable moments of my first year in Kanyamamachi was the moment when groups of children drifted out of the shadows of the sports hall and across the baking grit of the playground. Improbably and delightfully they were all holding hands and riding unicycles. The ancient dark of the woods loomed behind, crowned with the hidden earthworks that are all that is left of the harder times when a castle was needed. The contrast  with the dreamlike moments of happiness sparkling under a cloudless sky was perfect. Wheeling and turning in patterns, the children smiled as their parents clapped. It is the miraculous high point of the school sports day each year.

In the year since that day my son has learned and proudly invited us to a private showing. I was duly proud in return, especially when I had tried it and found out just how hard it is.

The school is split into two halves for sports day, the red team and the white team, which then engage in day-long gladiatorial combat spread across more than twenty events. This year one of them was another innovation designed to inculcate the smooth if competitive team working that is central to Japanese culture. It involved a kind of hyped-up leapfrog, with each member having to jump their team-mates in turn. The loosing white team's last boy began running over the backs in a desperate attempt to keep up, producing a beautiful leap as a final, if loosing, flourish.


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