Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #013


What do ALTs do during the school festival?


Answered by: Emily

The school festival, or “bunkasai,” is one of the most exciting events of the year at Japanese middle and high schools. It’s a time for everyone, students and teachers, to let their hair down a bit and have fun with the school community. In the weeks before the festival, students work on a project with their homeroom class. Some classes turn their classroom into a maze or a haunted house, and others put together a food stand to sell snacks on the day of the festival. In addition, there are usually performances by students (and teachers!), and some schools award prizes to the best performances or projects.

There are many different ways that you can be involved with your school festival. The simplest and most common way to participate is to visit your students’ classrooms and interact with them over the course of the weekend. Run through their mazes, buy yakisoba from their food stands, and squirt their targets with water guns! The students work really hard on their class projects in the week leading up to the festival, so they’re always glad to see the ALT enjoying their project. (If you know any Japanese, this is also a good time to pull it out – they’ll be thrilled.)

At some schools, students also work on projects for the festival with their extracurricular clubs, so you may be asked to help out with a project for your English club. Below, Shayna Josi, a first year SHS ALT, describes her experience working with English club students at her school festival:

“I’m from South Africa, so for my school’s festival, my English club celebrated Heritage Day, a holiday where South Africans celebrate their cultures. Bracelets made from beads in the colour of the South African flag have become popular in recent years, and are often sold around Heritage Day. At our event, guests made bracelets in the colours of the South African flag, the students made posters with information on South Africa, and we served rooibos tea.”

If you aren’t asked to participate but you’d like to help out somehow, talk to your supervisor or your school’s English club advisor – you can probably start something up on your own. In the past, ALTs have even taken part in special performances with other teachers on the day of the festival. There are plenty of ways to get involved, so ask around!


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