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March: Graduation

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Graduation Ceremony

(The Japan Forum)

March is a time for goodbyes in Japan, where the school year begins in April and ends the next March. One of the highlights of the year is the graduation ceremony, in which the school principal hands out graduation certificates.

The graduating students, younger students, and families of the graduating students all sit facing the stage at a typical graduation. Each student walks up onto the stage when his or her name is called, bows once, receives the certificate with both hands, bows once more, and then sits back down. Although this is the traditional style, nowadays there are schools where students shake hands with the principal instead of bowing.

Graduation Ceremony

(The Japan Forum)

At most schools, the ceremony also includes a farewell address by a representative of the younger classes, a return address on behalf of the graduating class, and singing. Two long-time standards are Hotaru no Hikari - better known around the world as Auld Lang Syne - and Aogeba Totoshi (Song of Gratitude). Tabidachi no hi (The Day of Departure), a song that became instantly famous after being written by a middle school teacher, and current pop hits are also among the common song choices.

The singing heightens the farewell mood, and sniffles are heard here and there from among the graduating students and their families.