In Japan March 1st is a day where every 3rd year high school student is nervous, but excited for. Yesterday just so happened to be that day, meaning all over the country of Japan students had graduated from high school. Graduation for many is an exciting time. It is a time that we all know is precious, a moment we engrave into our memories so we’ll never forget. Though there are differences on how each person experiences the tradition that is graduation in the end we all complete the same goal. We survived by making it to the finish line.
Japanese graduations are fairly different form the American fan fair graduations I am use to. For one, Pomp and Circumstance is not played during any point of the ceremony, something I am terribly grateful for. But besides that, there are other differences and similarities as well.
In Japan there is a strange use of military like protocol during any event or ceremony and graduation isn’t an exception. While it is a time for celebration, it is still rather strict in being black and white. Everyone is to bow, stand, and respond at all the precise moments. There is always a teacher that is in charge of calling out each command that is to be followed. I guess you could say it is similar to old school Sunday mass, for those of you who know what I am talking about. Though events like this give off a strict feeling, it is rather a show of respect, something I fear America has lost.
Just a little less than a year ago my brother graduated from high school himself. His ceremony was nothing like I remember graduation being when I was younger. (Wow, sounding old there…) For my brothers, students had been dressed in jeans and sneakers while wearing their cap and gown. The ceremony was also dragged with longer than necessary speeches. The audience and students alike had not been interested in the event unfolding before them. Instead everyone was captured by their phones, Facebook, and other apps. Myself included.
The Japanese version I saw yesterday was not like ones I had seen in all my years viewing high school and college graduations. I know not everyone had been excited to be sitting in a freezing cold gym, because Japan does not have heated or air-conditioned gymnasiums, everyone was still attentive. The speeches didn’t drag on, no one was on their cell phone and the whole ceremony was completed within an hour. The best part, at least at my base school, there is no procession of every student to receive a diploma. One student walks up onto the stage to receive a diploma on behalf of all the students, who would later each receive their own.
Since graduation takes place during the school day for Japanese students there time for socializing, senior photo albums to be signed, and student clubs hosting farewell parties. The 3rd years also have one last long homeroom with their classmates, parents, and homeroom teachers. It is a long emotional day for the students, but the students smiles full of warmth and joy take away from the sadness of saying good bye.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to teach this years graduating students, I was lucky enough to get to know a few of them. I do wish them all the happiness and luck in the world on their life’s journey. The road will be long and filled with bumps, but I have faith they will make it through. To all the students out their who graduated, congratulations! Best of luck!