Japanese High School Culture Festival (文化祭 Bunkasai)

If you can't see the video, please go here: http://youtu.be/B75SlPdYqVc

Japanese high schools are already very different from western schools. Students are quiet, they listen, but they have to learn by rote and drill lessons. They have to clean the school themselves, which I think is a great activity for distilling in them respect, you know, that thing completely missing from Western youth. There's other things as well, but as a reward the teachers let the students take control of the school for a weekend in summer. The result is the Culture festival, commonly referred to in Japan as the bunkasai. 

'Culture festival' is a very vague translation. The event covers the variety of games, shops and events that each school club and individual classes want to do.Then there are bands and other performances in the main hall or courtyard (depending on the school) and food stalls at the gates. Click the video above to see exactly what goes on in these events.

The decorated school entrance. It's different every year.

The event is open for two days. On the first day, Saturday, they open in the afternoon and its mainly a closed event for the school and family. Then on Sunday they open in the morning until afternoon for the public. Anyone can go, but it is usually family of students, teachers and the occasional students from other schools who maybe have friends there. Though it's entirely possible they are spies planting bugs and explosive devices in strategic locations.... 

Preparation for the event begins as early as May. Students have to think of what they want to do, confirm it with the student council, and book a room. Then, it is not uncommon at lunchtimes and after school, to find students practicing dance routines and singing in the corridors. I try to sneakily see what they are doing, but nobody wants to be labelled Pervert Teacher, so I don't take photos and sell them online or anything. The practicing continues through the holidays and then the festival is usually on the first weekend after school restarts. In the days leading up to it, some students will go to the gates of other schools and hand out leaflets for their own bunkasai, in a cheeky bit of competition. 

My Bunkasai haul from a previous year, minus all the food... errp!

The Friday before, lessons stop at lunch time, with the afternoon set aside for preparation.  On that day, students transform their classrooms into funfair attractions. They draw pictures on the chalkboards, make posters, tinsel, and whatever they need for their games. I love walking round and speaking to people. It's great to see what everyone is up to, find out their games, and see who wants me to visit. Then when I go, I usually spend a fair few coin on each of the events, but I do come away with a bag of random goodies.

So, does it look like fun? What stall would you hold for this festival?