High school festival
This is the season when Japanese high schools have their annual school festivals, or open houses, called “gakuensai” in Japanese. They are two-day events, commonly but not always held on Saturday-Sunday; sometimes on Friday-Saturday; from mid-September-to-mid-October. It depends on the school.
Today the public junior-senior high school across the street from my apartment finished its festival. I didn’t know about it beforehand but I guessed it on Saturday when I noticed so many people trekking towards the school. Not just students in school uniform, but students who appeared to be elementary sixth graders, with their parents. That maks sense because of the function of the school festival. Not only is it a way for high schoolers to have fun and leave off their academic work for a while. But these events have a very important public relations function. Schools can show themselves off to potential sixth grade recruits who will check out various schools they might decide to apply to in the near future as Entrance Examinations approach. Even public high schools hold entrance exams.
So much work goes into a school festival that I am not convinced the students enjoy it as much as they appear to - and they really appear to, you know. Planning has to start in the summer - maybe even before summer vacation starts. The entire school needs decorating (and cleaning up afterwards, of course). The most common decoration construction material is heavy, corrugated cardboard which the students collect from local businesses. Convenience stores are the easiest, but supermarkets and drug stores have the largest supply of waste boxes. Each homeroom will be used for something: either the homeroom will host an activity, or else it will be taken over by some school club to exhibit its club activity. A booklet/program advertising it all has to be designed and manufactured.
In years past I would look forward to next doors festival because the culmination of it was a Sunday night fireworks show staged in the middle of the sports field - an apparently safe place. But that ended a few years ago when there was a fireworks mishap that saw sparks, flares and debris falling on the public streets, just outside the ground, that attracted fire department vehicles. No harm was done, but it was serious enough to extinguish the practice. It was what the Japanese call a “happening.” Since then the festival has culminated in a loud student band rock show in the auditorium. I’ve never seen it but I know about it because every year I can hear it. I can hear the school’s brass band playing in the afternoon, and then the electric guitars come out in the evening. After that I can hear scattered groups of loud, excited students walking home until late into the evening: the sound of teen spirit, and good weather to remember it all by, cementing nostalgic memories.