Inaugural Undoukai Sports Festival Inspires Camaraderie and School Spirit

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On Friday, March 24, more than 50 students were on hand for Colgate University’s inaugural Undoukai Sports Festival, organized by the Colgate Japanese Cultural Community (CJCC).

Undoukai, or Sports Day, is a traditional school event in Japan, involving intramural sports competitions. The Colgate version comprised four teams of six, competing in games such as a cardboard box relay race, a four-legged race, and tug-a-war.

While many of the featured games could have been plucked straight from the schoolyard, they inspired fierce camaraderie and competitive spirit in participants, who donned armbands in their team colors and huddled together to strategize.

The first of these event was the moving basketball game, in which one student from each team entered a ring of cones, an open backpack on their back. Members of the opposing teams stood on the outside of the cones with small, colorful balls and attempted to toss them into the backpack as the wearer ducked and dodged. The team that sunk the most balls into the backpack basked in the glory of victory.

That is, until the next competition: the cardboard box relay race. Teams lined up and were presented with six large cardboard boxes. The first in line quickly navigated a series of twisting, turning cones while carrying the first box. Each subsequent team member not only had to carry their own box, but also the boxes of those who came before — stacked one on top of the other. The final person in line appeared simply as an eight-foot-tall stack of cardboard boxes, with legs wobbling and weaving precariously from one end of the space to the other.

The four-legged race was reminiscent of the classic three-legged race but significantly more perilous — three people were connected at the ankles rather than two. All for three and three for one, the teams alternately stumbled and strode their way through the obstacle course.

It all led to the grand finale: the tug-a-war. The four teams fought valiantly, but in the end, only the yellow team, “Harry and Henry’s B-Day Celebration,” prevailed, leaving all others with nothing but rope burn and dashed dreams. 

“I loved witnessing everyone engaging in friendly competition with one another — whether that was cheering for their team or strategizing the best way to tug-a-war,” said Mieko Kim, CJCC president emeritus and co-organizer of the event. “I think this togetherness is central to having a fun Undoukai experience.”

Each team was awarded points according to how they had ranked in the games, from first to fourth place, but no one went home empty-handed. Each participant — win, place, or show — selected a prize related to Japanese culture, such as ornate rice bowls, colorful lanterns, authentic instant ramen, and goody bags filled with authentic sweet and salty snacks.

The students responsible for making the Undoukai Festival a reality are CJCC President Tatsu Nishizawa and Kim. They organized the event to share their Japanese culture and traditions with the Colgate community.

“As a cultural club, CJCC’s goal is to share Japanese culture throughout campus,” explained Kim. “Our hope is that all Undoukai participants left with a sense of this mission and the fun-spirited, inclusive community CJCC strives to be.”