So... yesterday was Health and Sports Day, a national holiday here in good ol' Japan. The kanji for this holiday, 体育の日, literally translates to "physical education day."
I was able to meet several of my students' parents, and hopefully impressed them by showing that their children knew how to say more than just "hello" in English. I also tallied each student's results, so they could compare with each other. Everyone who participated received a sankasho, which according to my coworker means "participation gift." The gift was a monogrammed towel and a bottle of green tea.
Health and Sports Day is usually one of the fairest days of the year weather-wise, and began in 1966 as a result of the 1964 Summer Olympics being held in Japan. Though it was originally held on October tenth of every year, the Happy Monday System used by Japan has changed. Now Health and Sports Day falls on the second Monday of every October, in order to grant hard-working individuals (like me) a three-day weekend. Other national holidays that have been moved to Mondays as a result of the Happy Monday System include: Coming of Age Day, Respect for the Aged Day, and Marine Day.
Although the athletic tournament was held on Saturday, my coworker told me most people do not actually celebrate the holiday on its chosen date. No one goes to the gym, or jogs ten miles, or anything like that. Mostly, it's simply another day to relax. Much in the same way that no one visits a president's grave on President's Day.