6 years ago I wrote a short post about Emily's kindergarten graduation, followed shortly by a post about her entrance ceremony to elementary school. Now I can add to the theme with a post about her graduation from elementary school. For anyone who is reading this from another country here is a rundown of what elementary school graduation here in Japan entails (I say in Japan rather than "in our area" because from what I can tell it is pretty universal....). For anyone who has experienced this just skip to the photos at the bottom!
1. The graduating students entered the gym to the song "Pomp and Circumstance", walking in straight lines, bowing at specific points then sat down facing the front. The remaining students from the school, all the important guests, parents and teachers are already seated. They could wear whatever they liked, but most chose to wear their junior high school uniform... much cheaper than buying a new outfit that they would only use once!
2. The students went up one by one to get their graduating certificate (this may vary if the school is very large....), again bowing at specific points on the floor before putting their hands out in very stylised movements to receive the certificate from the principal before bowing again, putting it under their arm and walking back to their seats... with a few more bows at specific points along the way.
3. The speeches begin... in our case one from the principal, one from the head of the education board, one on behalf of the mayor, and one from the head of the PTA (in our case my husband...). Probably about 20 - 30 minutes in total.
4. Introductions of all the important people who are in attendance were made - the head of the old people's association, the head of the local post office, the local policeman etc. etc.... There were about 20 of them and they are all introduced by name and each given the chance to say a few words to the graduates.
5. Any telegrams that have been sent are read.
6. The graduating students thanked all the message givers and then thanked the parents for all their efforts in raising them so far and presented us with flowers. My daughter had lost it by this stage and cried from here on in... most of the teachers cried, but she was the only student to do so.
6. The students finally got to do something more than just sit there and try to stay awake. I really liked this part of the ceremony. The graduating students each said one thing about their school life and then the students who are remaining at the school replied by telling them all the wonderful things they did for them. Farewell songs were sung by both groups - with only 11 kids in my daughter's class they did a great job of making themselves heard in the large gym.
7. A representative of the parents made a speech thanking the teachers and community for their support so far and asking them for further support in the future.
8. The graduating students file out of the gym followed by the important guests, then the parents. The total length of the ceremony was about an hour and a quarter.
9. There is one final class with the teacher and then all the remaining students and teachers make an arch for the graduating children and families to go through.
And that is the end of elementary school life... until next week when they have to go back and farewell any teachers that are leaving!
My views on the whole thing... far too much practicing, but I am not as against these kind of ceremonies as I used to be. It seems to be a good way to make the students really feel like they are moving on, growing up and taking one more extra step towards entering the real world.