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School Events

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Japanese schools LOVE ceremonies. There are ceremonies during every term, so make sure that you are prepared in mind and wardrobe! Most ceremonies at Junior and Senior High Schools you will be expected to have business attire. See what everyone else is wearing around you and take your cues from what your coworkers are wearing. Keep a backup suit in your car or locker because you will have a sneak attack ceremony sometime during your career as an ALT. Here is a bit of a breakdown:

  • April
    • Entering class ceremony
    • 1st term opening ceremony
  • May/June
    • Pep Rally before sports tournaments
  • July
    • Awards ceremony
    • 1st term closing ceremony
  • August
    • 2nd term opening ceremony
  • September
    • Cultural Festival ceremonies (JHS)
  • October/November
    • Pep Rally before sports tournaments
  • December
    • 2nd term closing ceremony
  • January
    • 3rd term opening ceremony
  • February/March
    • Pep Rally before sports tournaments
    • Graduation ceremony
    • 3rd term closing ceremony

Sports and Culture Days

Two of the most prominent features of Japanese school culture are Sports and Culture Days!

Sometimes these events are held together, and sometimes over one or two days. They are always full of activities, though, and require a lot of hard work and organization by the students and staff. If you want to build a great relationship with your staff and students help with practice and preparing. ALTs usually get off around 4:30 but practice is usually cut around 4:45-5:00pm. Take the few extra minutes and they will be greatly appreciated by all of your students and teachers.

Sports Days are just what they sound like - days dedicated to athletic activities and competitions.

Culture Days, likewise, are dedicated to the arts and work of the culture clubs.

Be sure to attend your schools' special events, and don't be afraid to ask if you can help out in any way! You will get mega-brownie-points if you stay till everything is cleaned up. They will eventually force you out of the office, but again this is about building good relationships.


It may seem weird to most, but in Japan you have drinking parties with your coworkers to take time to bond, bid farewell, and welcome new faces. Your schools will hold enkai for a number of reasons.

Here are a few:

  • New teachers entering (April)
  • After Sports and Cultural Festivals (September-JHS/ES SHS-?)
  • At the end of the term
  • Bonenkai - End of the year drinking party (December)
  • End of the school year (March; This is also when departing teachers will say goodbye)
  • After other major events

The enkai usually has a schedule with an opening speech and review of the recent events. Afterward there are usually speeches and it concludes with a closing speech and a bonzai! They are generally good fun but there are some points to take care.

  • Keep up with the crowd, don't outrun them! Don't get sloppy. Sometimes enkai can get crazy, while other times schools keep it classy. Monitor your drinking and make sure that you respect the atmosphere. If coworkers incessantly come and top off your drink, take incredibly small sips and allow them to put a few drops back in out of respect. You also have the option to drink non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Serve! It is customary to make your way around and chat with your coworkers and pour them drinks. Practice your Japanese or just smile and nod! Remember: bottle label up!
  • It is not rude to return to your seat and eat.
  • Follow suit with seiza (sitting on your knees). Some schools will remain in seiza for the entirety of speeches and such while others will be more relaxed. Try your best!
  • Women should be aware that many Japanese women choose to stay sober during these events, so don't be surprised if your coworkers are hyper-aware of your drinking. By all means don't let this discourage you from imbibing just know that your coworkers will probably be curious.
  • If you need a ride ask! Those living in more rural places will typically have ride-shares set up by the school.

Enkai are great fun and a good time to get to know your coworkers on a deeper level. Try not to be shy!