On September 30, the “Advanced A” middle school Japanese class was lucky enough to coincide with one of the Kokutai soccer matches being played nearby at the Asahi Soccer Ground. The Kokutai, short for Kokumin Taiiku Taikai (National Sports Festival of Japan), is Japan’s domestic version of the Olympics, an annual sporting event that is held annually over two different seasons. All 47 of Japan’s prefectures are supposed to take turns hosting the event, and this year’s edition – named Sports Festival Tokyo 2013 – is garnering great attention as it is taking place right after the IOC’s decision to award the Japanese capital hosting rights to the 2020 Olympic Games.
Considering the walk to the field and back, the class was only able to see about 25 minutes of the match and speak with volunteers about the event. That turned out to be more than enough time to witness the spectacle of Nagasaki and Yamanashi prefectures’ respective U-16 teams, mostly ninth- and tenth-graders who normally play for top-ranked schools and clubs —and some of whom could very well find a place in the Samurai Blue team that represents Japan at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. (Steve Harris, MS Japanese)