I teach at three senior high schools which means I get to attend three different ceremonies (my JHS doesn’t have graduation this year). Unfortunately, I had to miss one of the ceremonies because it took place on a day when I don’t visit that school. But the third years for that school had written goodbye notes to me the week before, so I wrote replies and asked a teacher to pass them on.The other two ceremonies were quite similar to each other.
The halls are decorated with a red and white striped banner that runs around all the walls. At the back of the stage is the Japan National flag and the school emblem flag. In front is a table where the principal and other speakers will make speeches. On the right of the table is another school flag, on the left is the school bonsai tree. There are three banks of seating: at the front sit the graduating students, in the middle are the other students and at the back are seats for parents. Another bank of seats on the left are reserved for guests; school governers, local figureheads, ex-teachers etc. The teachers of the school sit on the right. The school band sit in the gallery at the back ready to play the National Anthem and School Anthem.
The students are seated, then the teachers, parents and guests. Then some music plays (something classical or an orchestra version of ‘Let It Be’, depending on the school) and the graduating students file in class be class as everyone applaudes. When all the graduating students have been seated, the ceremony officially opens and everyone stands and sings the National Anthem.
The principal goes on stage behind his table, then the ‘roll of honor’ is read out, class by class, by each homeroom teacher. Students shout ‘Hai!’ and stand when their name is read. When the whole class has been read out, a representative goes up on stage to the principal. They bow at each other and the principal presents the graduation certificates to the representative. More bowing and the representative takes the certificates to the homeroom teacher, then returns to his seat. This is done for each class, and at the end everyone applauds.
Then the school Anthem is sung, again everyone stands and sings. Then there are speeches from the Principal and one of the Governers. The new student presidaent also makes a speech about the good job the previous president did and how the new president will try their best to do well too.
Then more classical music is played and the graduates file out class by class as everyone applauds. The this point the teachers gather around the exit and shake hands with some of the students (I was dead-chuffed when one lad singled me out and shook my hand!). And then that’s the ceremony over.
While the graduates have one final homeroom session, other students, teachers and parents gather outside the classes waiting for them to finish. I went across to join them to give my congratulations and to have my photo take with my now-graduated students (which I can’t post here, sorry).
And that’s it. I probably will not see the majority of these students again, which is quite upsetting but unavoidable. A lot of students are travelling away from Tokamachi and Tsunan to study in the big cities so I wish them all the best of luck!
As for myself and the teachers they leave behind, well, we have a chance to drown our sorrows at the Graduation enkai!