The national holiday started in 1966 to commemorate the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics

Japan is celebrating the 50th anniversary of National Sports Day today as part of a three-day holiday break.

Also known as Health Sports Day or Sports Day, the national holiday falls on the second Monday in October, which happens to be today, 10 October. The month of October was chosen to celebrate National Sports Day as it sees the least rainfall throughout the year and is known for its very comfortable temperatures.

The holiday is relatively new in Japan, dating back to 1966. The day commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics, which was held in Tokyo. National Sports day promotes sports and an active lifestyle.

To celebrate the day, most schools and businesses choose the day to host their annual Field Day (運動会 Undō-kai). Traditional Undō-kai Sports Day activities include track-and-field sprints, relays and a tug of war. More unique sports such as ‘tamaire’ is also played, where two teams compete to see who can throw more beanbags into a basket within a set time.

‘O-tama’ is also traditionally played, where a large ball – often the size of a person – is rolled in a relay race.

The Japanese take the sporting holiday very seriously and often train for the events. Sports Day events typically start with speeches by local government officials or those in leadership roles.