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Youth & Sports

Traditional and Western sports are part of Japanese culture. In Japan, sports groups are an important part of school life. Youth participation in these groups allows students to learn and adjust to Japan's vertical society. For example, besides mastering technique, players learn to use keigo (formal, polite speech), respect, and traditions.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) is working on fostering comprehensive community sports clubs where everyone can participate according to their interests and goals. In order to achieve a sports society in which anyone can practice sports at any stage of their lives, the ministry is working on measures to improve children's physical fitness levels.

Strong sporting traditions

One of the initiatives the government made was to make the 1964 Olympic and Paralympic Games, October 10th, a national holiday called the Health and Sports Day.

The system has undergone some changes over the years and the Health and Sports Day has taken place on the second Monday in October. It remains one of the holidays that all Japanese know and respect. Children prepare for weeks and family members show up to cheer on their sporting achievements. Mothers prepare lunch for the entire family and they all have picnics on the grass.

There are running competitions and ball games for the youngest ones, dance spectacles and team gymnastics for those who are a little older. They finish off the day with a festive human pyramid made by the senior class balancing on each other shoulders. Although the Health and Sports Day does not go back further than the 1960s, there is already a long line of traditions connected to this day.

Another significance of sports in post-war Japan is the enormous popularity of the national high school baseball championships each year. Each of Japan's 47 prefectures sends a high school team that has qualified through extensive rounds. The playoffs take place in rough conditions at the old Koshien stadium, located between Osaka, and Kobe in the scorching sun. The entire prefecture follows the live transmissions on state TV for most of the most of the day as people cheer their local team.

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