Activities You Can Partake in As an ALT in Japan
Being an ALT in Japan, you will be teaching English. Of course, that should be your main priority as it was what you were hired for but aside from that, after teaching, you may be expected or even required to take part in other activities with the class or even the local neighborhood you work at. Rest assured though, many of them are actually very exciting and deeply cultural. Here are a few things I hope you get to partake in with parents and teachers as other ALTs have.
Elementary School Bazaars
This large event hosted by the community usually takes place after summer ends. Around fall and winter time, you can spot posters outside many shop windows and on the block’s local bulletin boards, advertising about them which are hosted by the neighborhood’s elementary schools. They are usually planned by the Parent-Teacher Association.
Selling goods no longer needed donated by local households, you can snatch some goods in excellent condition for a tiny fraction of the price. I’ve bought beautiful glasses and plates for less than 50 yen each and full sets of ceramic-ware for about 200 yen. Brand new pairs of socks for 20 yen?
Undokai (Sports Day Event)
This event takes place around Mid-October. School kids from kindergarten to 6th grade take part in different sports activities from track running, to making human pyramids, to huge tug-of-wars. The intention of every game and performance is to show the importance of working together.
Kids are split into 2 teams: red team and white team, competing in sports such as ball throwing and obstacle racing. Same games include Bottle-Bowling, Ring-Toss, Ball-Throw and other simplified versions of carnival games. Perhaps you will be asked to partake in the events or just have fun watching.
These are when the kids and parents participate together to make something yummy and of course uniquely Japanese. They can range from sweet potato or chestnut desserts (sometimes grown on the school grounds). Many mothers/fathers may be interested to meet and know more about you so be sure you can communicate in Japanese.
Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter Festivals
Japanese people love their festivals. They have different ones for every season and sometimes they involve costumes, music, dancing or fireworks. Be sure to attend these as they are often entire community events and can include school kids and their families. I highly recommend you attend while wearing a yukata even though they may laugh at you.
As an ALT, you will make a unique impression on the community you work in. No matter what area you are assigned to teach in, I highly recommend you partake in as many events as you can so that they can see you as an upstanding citizen willing to play as big a role you can in your neighborhood.