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School Ceremonies Coincide with Cherry Blossom Season (April 17, 2003)

entrance ceremony
An entrance ceremony at an elementary school. (PANA)
Japanese educational institutions, from elementary schools to universities, hold their graduation ceremonies in March and their entrance ceremonies in April. Tears of emotion flow freely at graduation ceremonies as the leavers bid goodbye to their friends and teachers. At entrance ceremonies the following month, incoming students feel a mixture of hope and anxiety about what life at their new school will be like. Parents turn out in large numbers at both types of ceremony to celebrate these important landmarks in their children's lives. The cherry trees that line most schoolyards come into full bloom around this time. The blossom comes earlier in southern regions of Japan's long archipelago and later in northern areas.

Graduation Ceremonies: A Solemn Affair
For children and parents alike, school graduation and entrance ceremonies are steeped with memories. Graduation is held in late March, typically in the school gym or auditorium, with all students and teachers in attendance. The ceremonies are somber affairs consisting of congratulatory speeches by the principal and guest speakers; the handing out of diplomas; farewell addresses by representatives of graduating students; and messages of thanks and good luck to the graduates from remaining students. As the standard graduation song is sung, many teary-eyed faces can be seen around the hall.

According to fashion experts, this solemn occasion calls for the wearing of subdued colors like black, navy blue, or gray. Some parents show up in kimono, though this traditional attire is less common nowadays. If the school has a school uniform, the students wear that to the graduation ceremony. At schools where there is no uniform, students wear something a bit smarter than their everyday clothing for graduation. This often means formal trousers and blazers or suits for boys and formal dresses for girls. For junior college and college graduation ceremonies, many female students don brightly colored hakama (loose trousers worn over a kimono in Japanese ceremonial dress).

"Welcome to Your New School"
School entrance ceremonies take place in early April. Like graduation ceremonies, entrance ceremonies are rather solemn. Both students and parents generally wear light colors such as beige, pink, or white that are in keeping with the season of spring. In recent years, some parents of elementary-school entrants have sought to make their little ones stand out from the rest at entrance ceremonies by dressing them differently. Blazers with short trousers are the standard entrance-ceremony attire for little boys. For little girls, dresses paired with frilly cardigans or boleros are all the rage. White collars, checks, and crisp, chic blues are particularly popular.

One of the most recognizable elements of how new elementary-school students dress is the gleaming backpack-style satchels they carry their school books in. In the case of first-graders in particular, the satchel sometimes looks bigger than the child! The most popular colors for satchels have traditionally been black for boys and red for girls. But the trend toward individual choice has recently extended itself even to this old standard, and big department stores are expanding their satchel selections to include ones in pink, navy, and a variety of other colors. And students are now expressing their individuality (or perhaps their parents are expressing it for them) by choosing their school satchels by material (for example, ultralightweight models weighing less than a kilogram) or manufacturer (there are now even designer-label satchels).

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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