A swimming class at a middle school. (Tamaki Yamamoto)
Swimming is an important part of the physical education curriculum during the summer months. About 72.4% of all middle schools in Japan have a swimming pool, and swimming is a popular summertime sport among Japanese students.
Most schools with a pool inaugurate the swimming season in June. For three months until the season's close in mid-September, students look forward to swimming classes during the all-too-brief summer.
From fall through spring, water is left in the pool to be used as a reservoir in case of fire. This means that leaves and soot gather at the bottom of the pool during the nonswimming season.
Students jump in at a pool-opening ceremony. (Tamaki Yamamoto)
Before the pool can be used for swimming, therefore, it must be thoroughly cleaned. After the water is completely drained, the pool is filled again with clean water the following day. It is ready to usher in the swimming season.
Usually, the season's commencement is marked with a ceremony organized not by the school but by the physical education faculty. It is supervised by the gym teacher, members of the student gym committee, as well as other teachers and students.