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School Festival
It's highly likely that any manga or anime set primarily in a school will have an episode or even arc taking place during the school's annual cultural festival (an important part of the Japanese Education System). The wackier the story and the larger the campus, the more elaborate and strange the festival will be.

Each homeroom class will put on some sort of event to demonstrate the students' talents; the two most common involve turning a classroom either into a small cafe (kissaten), or a Haunted House (obakeyashiki). This itself has become such an ingrained part of the trope that it is rare to see any other possibilities discussed when a class is trying to decide what to do for their participation in the festival, but carnival games and student-crafts shops crop up from time to time. Student clubs will also participate, generally creating club-theme-related attractions in hopes of attracting future recruits. Theme costumes will be commonplace.

May involve a School Play.

Paralleling the cultural festival is, of course, the athletics festival, in which students compete in track and field events and other outdoor activities. Besides footraces, the most iconic events are the "fetch race" (a kind of Scavenger Hunt), the bread-eating contest (a run to buns suspended from an overhead line), the beanbag throw (a crowd throwing color-coded beanbags into a high basket, with winner determined by quantity), and the mock cavalry battle (three students hold up a fourth, and the object is to 'unhorse' the opposing teams). Besides competition at the student-to-student level, the students are also organized into teams (usually by classes or clubs), and the winners of events also score points for their team, leading to a great victory or defeat for the protagonists.

Either event may culminate in an evening bonfire and folk dance, to the lilting strains of "Turkey in the Straw."

Compare High School Dance, which generally fills the same storytelling niche in Western works.


Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Azumanga Daioh had a cafe for one festival, and a small shop selling stuffed animals for a different school festival. Each year, the same students made the same suggestions at first, one suggesting "A haunted house", another "A cafe", with Chiyo noticing this. It also subverted the normal obakeyashki/kissaten pattern, where one year Osaka suggested an obakeyashki kissaten, or "haunted cafe"; when that didn't fly, she suggested a "haunted cute animal cafe" - "It's full of adorable dogs and cats... and they're all dead." They ended up taking the cute stuffed animal theme of the first and combining it with a cafe.
  • An example of an obakeyashiki can be found in the school festival episode of Mahoraba.
  • Touno Junna's class in W~Wish runs an obakeyashiki.
  • Awkward Silence has an arc where one of the protagonists ends up on the culture festival committe because he was Asleep in Class and too shy to say no. Organizing it completely exhausts him. His boyfriend's class runs a Maid Cafe (the other old favourite, the Haunted House, was suggested but rejected on the grounds that they did it last year).
  • The feature-length Urusei Yatsura film Beautiful Dreamer is centered, in an odd and surreal way, around one such school festival. Megane insists on turning their class into a World War II Nazi coffee shop, Mendo supplies a panzer for added authenticity, and things only get weirder (albeit more tasteful) from there.
  • Miki's class in Marmalade Boy runs a kissaten at their School Festival.
  • So does Ranma's.
  • The Yamayurikai at Lillian Jogakuen in Maria-sama Ga Miteru puts on a performance of Cinderella at their School Festival, which becomes a major plot point.
    • Festival time rolls around again in Season 4. This time they do Torikaebaya Monogatari, mostly at Sachiko's insistence so she doesn't have to play the lead. Touko having the split her time between the Yamayurikai's play and the Drama Club's production of Little Women is also a source of drama in the lead up. Yumi and Yoshino's class are quite laid back in comparison, simply doing a food stall.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • The first episode shows the video the SOS-Dan created for the School Festival, which is shown in episode 12. Yuki's class does fortune-telling (with Yuki being amusingly exact), and Mikuru's class did a yakisoba cafe, while Kyon and Haruhi's class "copped out and did a survey" and Itsuki's class performed a play (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).
    • The second season arc (especially The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya) shows the leadup to the festival, as well as more detail for the sports part. The SOS Brigade wins every single event—most of those victories secured by Haruhi herself. Well, except for the relay race, where Yuki forgot to limit herself to human speeds. It's only much later that everyone remembers that the SOS Brigade technically isn't a club, so they shouldn't have been allowed to compete.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! takes the trope and runs with it. A city-sized school having a festival somewhere in size and scope between Disneyland and Mardi Gras, complete with airship rides, a fighting tournament, holographic amusements, a parade with everything from costumes to Humongous Mecha, beauty contests, concerts, plays, a 1:1 scale replica of l'arc de triomphe, a fleet of zeppelins with large TVs on the side and the usual student-run cafes and haunted houses. Negi's class does a haunted house of their own, which is helped by the fact that one of their classmates just happens to be a ghost. It also happens to be one of the largest arcs in the series, with half the manga by the time it concluded either leading up to or taking place during it. The whole affair is capped off with a small war.
  • Kaitou Saint Tail has to steal something during a School Festival that involves costumes... so she puts up an illusion that every girl in school is dressed just like her to keep her detective pursuer running.
  • The festival in School Days forms a major plot point, since the dance around the bonfire is used for couples to declare their love. Of course, the "lounge" at the haunted house helps some too. There was also some amusement to be had by the fact that one class actually did do a "haunted cafe", staffed by zombie cosplayers.
  • Persona 4: The Animation has this in episode 19, complete with a cheesy play, beauty pageant, cross-dressing pageant and a "Group Date Cafe."
  • Manabi Straight revolves almost entirely around the actions of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, headed by the titular Manabi, to save their school festival and keep the spirit of Seioh alive. They by and far succeed.
  • Lucky Star had its final episode end at the cultural festival. Aside from their own classes things, all the main characters ended up doing a cheerleading dance that would have been suspiciously familiar to anybody who had been watching the anime...
    • By the way, at that episode Konata got her class to do fortune-telling (see Suzumiya Haruhi example, above) and in Yutaka's class, Hiyori used it as an opportunity to get Minami to wear something masculine...
  • Inuyasha featured a two-part episode centering on the festival held by Kagome's school. The series being what it is, several monsters show up and Kagome and Inuyasha are obliged to find and vanquish them while Kagome tries to both prevent anyone at the school from catching on and fulfill the various responsibilities her friends have roped her into. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Fruits Basket includes two festivals, one where the class has a riceball stand (with Yuki in a dress as a sideshow attraction) and the next year when they stage a Cinderella play. Sorta.
  • Code Geass liked it so much, they did it twice: the first season has the annual School Festival as a whole episode, complete with a horror house and Student Council President Milly's attempt at making the world's largest pizza. R2 has one in honor of classmate/high-ranking noble Suzaku, who had just returned to the school. Both festivals have a good deal of Hilarity Ensues and Fanservice.
  • Gakuen Alice had a festival episode where Mikan's Special Abilities class had an Arabian themed maze game.The entering people had to go through stages in order to win, such as to not laugh at a boy who has an Alice that makes everything funny. Also a particularly humorous scene in which Natsume faked an injury to trick Mikan,which worked. It also had a major plot point where Ruka's crush on Mikan is revealed at the ending dance as Natsume looks on peeved. But the person to dance with Mikan in the couple's dance ends up being Hotaru!
  • In Yotsuba&!, Yotsuba visits Fuka's school festival, where her class ran a vaguely French-themed cafe that served Yotsuba not the impressively decorated cake she anticipated but plain pound cake. As Fuka's older sister Asagi cheerfully said later, "Culture festivals usually deceive children."
  • In School Rumble the students take the culture festival very seriously. When they can't choose between hosting a cafe and putting on a play, there's only one way to decide—WITH GUNS! And that's only the start of the culture festival arc. It ends with Eri spraining her ankle before she can compete in the relay, and then Harima promising to win the race for her. Then they dance together at the bonfire.
  • There is one in Nodame Cantabile, which leads to a very ... creative interpretation of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", in which Nodame plays the lead part on a melodica—while wearing a bulky mongoose costume.
  • Having an art school setting, Hidamari Sketch's "cultural festival" is really cultural— students (if not cough Yoshinoya cough teachers) have to put on display their art pieces and school plays. This school festival arc was about Yuno's quest for a topic for the aforementioned art piece.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka manga ends with one being in the works.
  • The Culture festival "with minimum amount of culture possible" in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, as mandated by the titular teacher himself.
  • Karin's school has one, the first one Secret Keeper Kenta's ever been to. Unfortunately, Karin's JerkAss of a grandma Elda shows up to make trouble.
  • In Ai Yori Aoshi, Kaoru and his fellow Photography Club members create a traditional Japanese tea room for their festival. It's very popular thanks to Aoi's talent with such things. Kaoru's a little torn on the subject, given traditionalism's role in his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • All of Ai Yazawa's long series set in a High School involve one. In Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai, since the main characters are in the student council, they have to organize it themselves. In Gokinjo Monogatari and Paradise Kiss, it's an excuse for the aspiring fashion designer protagonists to create a Pimped-Out Dress.
  • The original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga featured a School Festival story that culminated in Yami Yugi killing a school bully with a test tube full of nitroglycerin. It was awesome.
    • To elaborate: Yugi's class had set up a carnival booth for the school but some Jerkass upper classmen demanded the space for their okonomiyaki stand and wrecked the booth and put their massive grill in it's place. Yami then shows up and challenges the head jerkass to air hockey on their grill using a puck of ice with the tube of nitroglecrin in it... and using his oppnents tendency to hit really big against him by splitting the puck, causing it to break and explode next time the jerkass hit it. Awesome.
  • In Change 123, some events which are important for the main plot actually took place at School Festivals - so far at least two of them.
  • Ouran High School Host Club's final two episodes involve a school festival. Of course, being Ouran, the festival is over the top. The typical 'bread eating race' is turned into a bread dining event, the bean bags are made by a famous designer, and the cavalry race is scrapped since they think that it would require actual horses.
  • Toradora! has a three episode arc. Ryuji's class puts on a Wrestling Show, with Taiga as the Big Bad and Ryuji as her dragon.
  • Koihime†Musou's High School AU Bonus Episode trilogy wraps up with an episode set at St. Francesca's school festival. The main characters do a cafe dressed in Shuri's outfit from the main series, and every other class gets to put on a show.
  • A major story arc in Rosario + Vampire involved Tsukune preparing for the school festival, but the festival itself was only a minor arc to wrap up the season.
  • Tenchi Academy gets a maid-themed festival. This is partly due to the Student Council President completely forgetting about the event.
  • This was a central topic of Wandering Son several times within the middle school portion of the series. While haunted houses were seen and the protagonists sister was a part of a cafe, the protagonists were always either a part of a School Play or a beauty pagent.
  • A the first arc of Hyouka revolves around unravelling the mystery of just went on at one nearly forty years ago while the preparations for one class's film project form the basis of the second arc while the third arc features the festival itself. Kamiyama High's is a little unusual in that it takes place of three (formerly five) days rather than the usual one.
  • A Certain Magical Index
    • This gets a twist due to the espers. Powers are allowed in competitions, which means the lesser schools are inevitably completely shown up by the better ones, even with a handicap. Though Touma's class of Level Zeroes does surprisingly well, and not because of his Anti-Magic hand. It's because someone made their teacher cry.
    • The Railgun side of the arc involves a plot to kidnap Mikoto Misaka that accidentally grabs one of her clones instead, a mind-controller erasing all memories of Mikoto from her closest friends, the swim team girls being badass, two Level 5 espers teaming up against a Kihara, plus a few flashbacks to said mind-controller's heartwarming interactions with Mikoto's very first clone. Oh, and the overly-confident Tokiwadai girls get curb-stomped by a school of low-level espers who were very cautious and well-prepared.
    • Separate from the sports festival, there is also a city-wide festival where schools compete to attract new students, and Tokiwadai puts on a rather more organized than typical one to show off the non-esper portion of their curriculum.
  • A chapter in Gakuen Babysitters takes place in Morinomiya's school festival, and the toddlers participate by opening up their own vegetable-themed cafe.
  • The latter part of the Goddess Arc in The World God Only Knows occurred in the school's Mai-High Festival. Although earlier chapters (Flag 54 mentioned that one of the capture targets was going to perform there) before the said arc were foreshadowing this trope as an integral part thereof.
  • B Gata H Kei has a school festival with the main character participating in the haunted house
  • Maid-Sama! has at least one of these, with the Student Council President vetoing what she considers ridiculous suggestions for class booths.
  • A sort-of plot point in The King of Fighters's Spin-Off manga `KOF:KYO. Athena is asked to perform at school and recruits Kensou, Kyo, and Kyo's girlfriend Yuki to have a band... as well as Iori Yagami, of all people. And then Goenitz crashes the festival, destroys the stage, shows off how he defeated and kidnapped Iori, and challenges Kyo.
  • Sailor Moon has more than one of these:
    • In the R anime, Rei's school organizes one and Rei is slated to sing in there. Too bad the Monster of the Week crashes it. In the manga, this is played differently as Kooan of the Ayakashi sisters infiltrates it as a student and fortune teller, then attempts to recruit students for Black Moon and gets them killed. She dies in her duel with Moon, but Rei are kidnapped by Rubeus.
    • In the Stars anime, Usagi's class runs a kissaten with the girls wearing adorable meido customes and then attempting to get along with the Sailor Starlights, whose identities have just been revealed. Then it's crashed by Sailor Lead Crow, who thanks to the dead Aluminium Siren has deduced that Usagi has a very powerful Star Seed. This leads to Lead Crow taking the school hostage in exchange for said Seed, Usagi almost dying at her hands, Princess Kakyuu finally revealing herself and saving Usagi, and Lead Crow's Alas, Poor Villain death.
  • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! had a good portion of its story dealing with this and is basically the culmination of the whole Fashion Club storyline as Erika's dream is realized.
  • Iris Zero chapters eight and nine: They have not one, but two, battling kissaten, Maid Cafe vs. classical Japanese dress cafe.

    Comic Books 
  • The trope is actually mentioned in FF #15:
    Luna: Oooh. Sports fest. Like in anime.

    Film 

  • In Revenge of the Nerds, homecoming is celebrated with an Olympics-type series of events such as "riding a tricycle while consuming mass quantities of alcohol," the javelin, a burping contest, and a musical/sketch contest.

     Video Games  

  • In Persona 3, nearly a whole week (in game time) is spent setting up the plot for the Culture Festival... which is then rained out by one of the largest typhoons in years. This was a disappointment for a small segment of the fanbase, who really wanted to see Yukari in that maid costume.
    • You can! Check the security camera in the briefing room...
    • Not just the fanbase; several NPCs moan their great disappointment out loud, and the Main Character is asked if he's disappointed for the same reason.
  • Persona 4 had a festival as well. It doesn't last long and all it really does is give you brownie points with some of your social link friends. As a side note: Don't mention "Group Date Cafe" to any of them.
    • Or either of the Beauty Contests (The Guys had to crossdress, and the girls had to wear swimsuits in school.)
  • A staple event of the Tokimeki Memorial series.
  • Setting up the school festival plays a major role in Yukiko and Takahisa's stories in 11eyes -Resona Forma-. Ema's class puts on a cat ears Maid Cafe (even the boys dress up as maids), and Yukiko has the Modern Society Studies Club create a megaplex. Though in both cases, the festival is secondary to other issues that crop up.
  • Happens multiple times in Mana Khemia, which takes place over a three year period. Happens once in the sequel, which lasts only one year in universe.
  • When the school is turned into a dungeon in Fortune Summoners Arche asks if it's dungeon sports day.
  • The Fighting Game Asuka 120% Burning Fest. is set around a school festival at a girls' private school, where each club sends a representative to compete in a martial arts tournament to determine budget allocations.

     Western Animation 
  • The infamous X-Men: Evolution episode known as "Shadow Dance" is centered about one of these, but mostly on the school ball that is supposed to be the cherry on top.
  • Beetlejuice: "Bizarre Bazaar" has B.J. helping Lydia out at a school carnival. His haunted house ride is harmless spooky fun to everyone else (even Lydia's parents), but when Claire Brewster boards, she gets put through a ride worthy of The Devil And Daniel Webster.


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alternative title(s): Sports Festival
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