Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Kibasen, I've seen this roughly translated as Calvary Games. All I know is I never played it when I was a kid, but it seems to be indigenous to all of Japan. Its beauty is that kibasen isn't just the relatively tame game played by elementary children at field days, but the crazy, often brutal, game played by junior high students, high school students and wild drunken men as well.

But let's start at the beginning.

The second Monday in October is Taiiku no hi , a kind of health and sports day. Before that though, schools have their own sports day called undo kai, field day. J's school has been practicing for their field day for up to four hours a day for nearly two months. This is serious business. There are all sorts of events and games and even neat little dances, but being in the fifth grade this year his class got to do for the first time kibasen against the sixth graders. I wasn't quite sure why this was such a big deal.

Let's see if I can explain.

One group consists of three people on bottom acting as 'horse' and one lighter (preferably insane) person on top, the 'rider'. Here you can see J as the front of the horse and his two back men. They do their hands like that...all funky like, so they can carry that girl.

Then they stand up. Voila'! A samurai and his/her horse!

Some kids get to make and wear special kabuto/samurai helmets. You can see one in the bottom right hand corner of this next picture.

So you have the entire fifth grade classes (um, roughly one hundred kids) all divided up into horse and rider versus the entire sixth grade classes divided up the same way. They then parade out and make two lines facing each other, two hundred kids all looking something like this. They're adrenalin pumped and mean. The effect is quite breathtaking.

The game in elementary school is played like so:

Various loudspeaker announcements are made (this army versus that army), cat calls are hurled across battle lines, tension builds, the crowd (moms, dads, teachers and grandparents) go wild, ... a whistle is blown. Suddenly each side charges the other while the top samurai tries to snag the hat (or headband) of one of the enemy teams. Chaos ensues. When the whistle is blown again the hats are counted and the winning team decided. This goes on for several rounds. When the kids get older they play by actually bringing the rider to the ground...Invariably injuries, usually broken bones occur. You don't even want to know what happens when the drunken men play this game.

So these kids have spent months practicing and drilling various strategies on how to win. The reason J and his buddy are dressed as they are is because their strategy was the 'Make em laugh, steal the hat' strategy. Well, as they decorated themselves, the entire school went nuts (as it is totally against the rules). Little tattle tells ran around yelling "Sensei!" while the more braver encouraged the rebellious art. Of everyone in the fifth grade team only J's back horse men accepted the offer of paint and were donned with two vein throb marks on their head.

Luckily, J's teacher is super cool and belly laughed and gave a big thumbs up when he saw what they had done.

The inherent flaw in this strategy is of course, with all the hoopla surrounding the preparation the entire sixth grade class already saw them and was therefore unamused on the battlefield. Yea, the fifth graders lost.

When reading up on kibasen I came across some interesting techniques often used.

①Just run away and continue to run away, don't worry about getting anyone's cap/headband, just save your own ass.

②Tie your head band in such a way as to make it impossible to get off. For example, girls with long hair can braid it into their hair. This may result in great pain and possibly baldness for the rider.

③Step on the feet of the enemy horse to bring it down.

④Form teams to gang up on one horse and rider, surrounding them and then move on to the next. (Note: this seemed to work best)

⑤Pull the pants down of the kids who are acting as horse.

Here is a picture of a few of the groups kinda rambling around. You can see all the neat kabutos the kids made.

And wouldn'cha know even Youtube had a few kibasen videos. This one is short and kind of give you the feel for it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I am in no fine mood.

This coffee that came in bean form and cost too much tastes...watery.

Yesterday we had a 'ghost in the machine' at the radio station and that was cool. On air when suddenly this high pitch squeal lets loose. Happened twice. Why is it so fun to believe in ghosts? So sad to learn it was just a short in one of the monitors.

Today I met again that lady who habitually relieves herself on the side of the road. She was nice to me though. She spoke kindly and used polite Japanese even. Then I was angry at me for not liking her.

I found a market I wanted to send something too and then saw that they only take mss during the month of September. Damn! I hurried and readied my stuff and went to take it to the post office. Upon opening my front door I found a woman there! Like I actually hit her with the door when I opened it. We both screamed and jumped. I suppose she wanted to sell me something. She was hurrying down the street pretty fast.


So tomorrow we will learn about calvary games and why my son and his best friend are dressed like this.