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【Graduation and Entrance】The Formality of Graduation and Entrance Ceremonies has Little changed for Generations2015.03.26

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In Japan, spring is a season to say hello and goodbye as a school term begins in April and ends in March. There are two of the most important school events of the year in March and April, graduation and entrance ceremonies. Many people have memories of the ceremonies as most of all schools carry out them, from elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, vocational schools to universities. They are quite formal with the order and manner fixed in detail. It is notable that the styles of the ceremonies have little changed for generations.

Of the two, the graduation ceremony is more elaborate, requiring weeks of practice for students. This is more often the case at elementary and junior high schools which are compulsory education. Students meticulously rehearse the ways they march, bow, turn, sit, queue up and receive graduation certificates. At many schools, each student goes on to the stage of the hall and receives the certificates from the school principal after his or her name is called by the homeroom teacher.

The highlight of the graduation ceremony is the singing of songs in chorus, for which much of the practice time is spent. In addition to the national anthem and respective school songs, there are a few standard farewell songs that have been used at the ceremony for decades. Among such songs are “Hotaru no Hikari”, “Aogeba Toutoshi” and “Tabidachi no Hini”. Some students can’t hold back their tears while singing. This is because they are filled with such emotion that this would be the last time they share the time together with their friends and the songs remind them of years of their school life. Students practice so much that they remember the melody and lyrics of these songs even after they become adults.

In terms of dress, junior high school and high school students wear school uniforms at these ceremonies. It is popular among female college students to wear traditional clothing “hakama” at a graduation ceremony.

Entrance ceremonies are held in early April when cherry blossoms bloom in the Honshu main island. It is common that cherry trees are planted at school locations. Because of this, cherry blossoms occasionally make people feel a little sentimental remembering fond memories of the beginning of their school life.

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