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Small southern island stages sports festival

Date Posted: 2007-10-27

Yuusuke Nema attracted lots of attention this week at the Ogami Jima Undokai, a sports festival staged by his junior high school.

The 13-year-old is the only student at the school, located on a tiny island 15-minutes by ferry from Shimajiri Harbor on Miyako Island, the southernmost reaches of Okinawa’s archipelago, 54 participants in the Undokai celebrated his exploits, including community leaders, school officials and teachers.

School principal Yukie Zakabi, the vice principal and a team of teachers are all required to teach young Nema, and they all joined the sports meeting, which included a relay race, Eisa dance, a tug-of-war and traditional island dance, the same as other schools have. Nemo couldn’t be everywhere, but he started several events and made a speech to the festival-goers.

The school, and Ogami Island as well, has fallen on hard times, with school enrollment declining as people migrate away from the tiny island. Still, Community Chairman Hikokichi Shimajiri says the school will celebrate its 50th anniversary in December, “and they’re going to make a special history book and build a monument.” He called the “Sports meeting one of our pleasant events all islanders look forward to, and like to make the number one sports event anywhere, even though it’s for one student.”

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