Pinoy-themed Japanese sports fest in Aklan marries two cultures in one

The participants and organizers of the Undokai Fiesta 2019 held in Malay Elementary School in Malay, Aklan on August 23, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Ortiz)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

In order to forge stronger relationships between Japan and Philippines, hundreds of elementary school students and children with special needs were exposed to unique Japanese sports activities in the first ever Undokai Fiesta 2019 held in Malay Elementary School in Malay, Aklan on August 23, 2019.

The Undokai Fiesta 2019 which marries the two traditions of Japanese and Filipino culture by celebrating Japan’s sports day in a festive or Filipino way through fiesta is the first ever cross-program in Aklan.

The project is a brainchild of The Japan Foundation in Manila which aims to promote the value of teamwork, discipline, and effort of the learners and at the same time promote social inclusion by involving students with special needs in the activity.

“We hope to bridge two cultures through physical fitness and sports. Through the participation of Malay Elementary School, we hope that the school learned universal values of friendship, self-discipline and diversity,” Hiroaki Uesugi director of The Japan Foundation in Manila, said.

According to Uesugi, the activity is in line with one of the core concepts of the upcoming Paralympic games in Tokyo in 2020, “Unity in Diversity”.

Undokai which is a traditional Japanese sports day held every fall in Japan is composed of a strict order of events carefully designed to showcase the students’ physical capabilities.

Some of the Japanese sports activities conducted in the Undokai Fiesta include Rajo Taiso or a warm-up calisthenics performed to music and guidance from radio broadcasts; Pan Kui Kyoso, a Japanese relay where students run up to a bar with dangling breads; and the famous Tsunahiki popularly known as tug-of-war.

Aside from the sports activities, Japanese volleyball player, Yuri Fukuda alongside Edwin Villanueva, a member of the Philippine Paralympic swimming team also shared their athlete stories to inspire and emphasize the value of teamwork, discipline, and physical fitness among students.

Uesugi added that they are trying to bring in more activities of Japan to the different regions in the country in order to strengthen the relationship of Japanese and Filipino communities.

“We are trying to bring more activities, such as film screening, to the regions. We also have ‘Nihongo Partners’, where we have citizens dispatched from Japan to the Philippines to support local language teachers,” he said.

He noted that the relationship of the two cultures is now directing to a more decentralized one, “from country to country relationship to person to person relationship”.

“In accordance with the increase of Filipino traveling to Japan, we sense that more people will have their personal views of Japan through their own experiences,” he said.