Culture Festivals at Japanese Schools

21 February, 2022
Culture Festivals at Japanese Schools
Brass band club performing on stage (Image courtesy of Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin)

The culture festival is one of the important events that brings color to high school life. In many cases it is held over two days in the fall. Dances, plays and band performances are held on the stage, and booths selling light snacks and sweets, and study exhibitions are set up in classrooms.
The atmosphere of the culture festival varies depending on the school, with some having a vibrant festival mood, and others focusing on research presentations, but it is usual for all students to participate. This kind of regular event, in which all members take part, is unusual in the world, and can be said to be a characteristic of Japanese schools. The culture festival executive committee is active throughout the year, and in some schools, the students do everything, from the planning to the operation.
In recent years, the number of combined junior high and senior high schools, both private and public, has been increasing. In many such schools, the six grades of junior high and senior high hold the festival at the same time, which is particularly lively.

1) Dances and booths are popular. Main programs of culture festivals

In culture festivals, it is customary for each class to prepare a program. Teachers give instruction, however, students talk among themselves and decide what to do, and spend time on preparation.
So, what programs are popular? The results of LINE Research, which targeted high school students, regarding the 2020 culture festival are presented below.

Top 10 popular culture festival programs/events

Top 10 popular culture festival programs/events
Source: 2020 LINE Research survey (n=463)
Aggregate base: High school students who conducted programs and events at 2020 culture festivals (Including those scheduled)

According to this survey, the top three popular programs are dance, food and drink booths and band concerts. At stalls in the school grounds and booths in the classrooms, yakisoba noodles, hot dogs, crepes and tapioca drinks are often served. Although they are not in the top ten, haunted houses in classrooms and maid cafes are often seen.
Club activities are divided into two fields—sports clubs and culture clubs. The culture festival is a big opportunity for the culture clubs to show the results of their daily activities. Theater clubs and dance clubs give performances, and brass band clubs hold concerts. Art clubs, manga clubs and photography clubs hold exhibitions to show their works. It is an opportunity to not only present their activity results to their friends and parents, but also to attract new members to the clubs.
Programs which are not presented by club or class are often seen, with some students getting together to form a band and perform, etc.

2) A precious opportunity to interact with people from the outside, such as parents, and friends who attend other schools

The culture festival is generally open to people outside the school. Visitors can feel the atmosphere of the school, so many junior high school students who are taking entrance exams, and in the case of combined junior and senior high schools, students in the higher grades of elementary school visit in order to choose a school.
For high school students, visiting other schools’ culture festivals offers the enjoyable chance to meet friends from elementary and junior high school, and to make new friends. The culture festival offers a precious opportunity for students to interact with people outside the school. Parents are able to glimpse a part of their child’s school life, which they cannot usually see.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools cancelled the 2020 culture festival. According to a 2020 LINE Research survey, 40% of high school students answered that the culture festival was not held. However, in 2021, many schools held the festival with measures in place to prevent infection, such as limiting participants from outside the school to parents, and combining online and live events.

3) Unique case – “Entrepreneur Experience Program” in which the class becomes a stock corporation

A unique case, in which students experience society through the culture festival, and not just by running food booths, is the “Entrepreneur Experience Program”, at Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin, which is a combined junior and senior girls’ high school in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo.
Each class from three grades of students—junior high 3rd grade, and senior high 1st and 2nd grades establish and register a stock corporation in the school, with a view to the culture festival. Preparations for the “White rose festival”, which is held in September, begin in April when the new school year starts. Students choose a president, accountant and publicity roles, and establish a corporate philosophy.
Based on the philosophy, the students conduct product development and come up with sales strategy plans, and sell their developed products at the culture festival. Finally, they hold a general meeting of shareholders, in which they settle the accounts, and dissolve the company. The students also create IR reports and accounting balance sheets.

We will introduce an initiative conducted in 2021. The 5th grade (high school 2nd grade) students in D class established a company called “Happi”. The word has two meanings: the English term “happy”, and the traditional costume “happi”, which is worn at Japanese festivals. The students researched the situation at the neighboring Kita Shinagawa shopping area, and considered ways to invigorate the area, which is in decline. They designed two reusable shopping bags printed with a map of the shopping area, and sold them at the culture festival. They also exhibited the survey and analysis results regarding the shopping area.

PR poster of the reusable shopping bags designed by “Happi”
PR poster of the reusable shopping bags designed by “Happi” (Image courtesy of Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin)
On the day of the culture festival, they exhibited the results of the survey in a classroom and sold the reusable shopping bags which they had designed. (Image courtesy of Shinagawa Joshi Gakuin)

Through class programs, such as this “Entrepreneur Experience Program”, and by considering and implementing programs in clubs and by volunteers, the students increase their independence at culture festivals. It is a precious opportunity for students to cooperate together and develop their creativity.