A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Graduation: The Final Countdown

Today I attended the Graduation Ceremony in honour of the parting third year students. The ceremony was typical of what I’ve come to expect from formal Japanese events, i.e. a hell of a lot of bowing to each other, lots of boring speeches, and military marching with military precision. In fact last week I attended some of the “graduation ceremony practices” where bowing in perfect unison was being rehearsed to perfection.

It was a touching experience to witness the third years as they marched up to the stage to collect their certificate from the principal, knowing this was the final day of their junior high school lives. For many of the students and teachers the moment was too much to bare, and they became overwhelmed with sadness. This wasn’t helped by the choice of music that accompanied the scene. Instead of a “Hooray! We’ve just graduated and we’re moving on to bigger and better things” kind of sound track, the music teacher played the most heart rendering, tear inducing, poignant piano solo you could imagine, which was guaranteed to turn on the water works in even some of the baddest boys of the year.

However, the tears of sorrow were soon to dry up as the ceremony took on a more mundane mid section, with so many bows and speeches I was surprised they didn’t start crying again from boredom.

The grand finale saw everybody sing another rather sad song, which set many of them off again, (I have to admit it did tug at the heart strings somewhat) before marching out, heads bowed in sorrow, accompanied to the applause of the school. Then we all ate special graduation miso soup, and everybody was happy again.

The Graduation gift of choice was a mobile phone. Junior high students are forbidden by their school to own such a device, so it is seen as an important coming of age present here. They proudly showed off their flash new devices, swapped numbers and took photos of each other, before collecting their things, and walking out of the school for the last time ever.

School will be a lot quieter for a while.


Blogger Lewis said...

The highlight of graduation day at my school was seeing just how many students decided to dye their hair blonde for the event - which is most definitely not allowed under school rules. Unfortunately, Japanese hair doesn't go blonde easily, so a huge swathe of the third year girls appeared that morning in a scary shade of ginger. Even more hilarious was the fact that every one of them was then summoned to the teachers' room in order to have their hair sprayed black again with some kind of "hair-paint" aerosol. As I watched one of the Japanese teachers giving yet another naughty student a damn good spraying he turned to me and said (in English): "This is an old school tradition".

Wednesday, March 16, 2005 2:53:00 pm


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