Graduation

As the end of the school year draws close, the children become more and more sentimental. Jenny and I spoke about this on our recent podcast actually. Japan is a sentimental country. This isn’t something I dislike per say; it is something that I grow concerned with at times though. The emotions that they hold back and keep in are so raw by the time they break free of their bonds in this communal gathering that the children are often overcome. A little crying is one thing, but the outburst, the faint, and the uncontrollable tears feel more heart wrenching and breaking than relieving. I just worry is all.

I suppose you are wondering about how the school year could be drawing to a close so soon. But, the school year in Japan ends on March 23rd and begins on April 5th. That’s our, and their, summer break. All you American children should feel REALLY BLESSED. I know I do retrospectively.

Graduation happens about two weeks before the end of school. At Mutsumi, we recently had our ceremony for the san nensei (3rd year) class.

Megu and another ninensei handing out programmes for the ceremony as well as signing in parents.

Megu and another ninensei handing out programmes for the ceremony as well as signing in parents.

Graduation is a very formal affair. Female teachers that are not responsible for the san nensei class and all male teachers dress in suits of black or very neutral colors. I wore black and bright blue of course. You all know how I am about convention. The san nensei female teachers wore what is called hakama, a traditional Japanese clothing that used to be worn only by men but is no longer exclusive to that sex. The woman treat this day like a prom really. It is very important to get up early and go get their hair styled to match their colorful hakama. I won’t lie; I was jealous.  The students wear their uniforms.

Two of my san nensei teacher friends from Takatsu sent me this picture on graduation day!! I was so happy to be remembered! >u<

Two of my san nensei teacher friends from Takatsu sent me this picture on graduation day!! I was so happy to be remembered! >u<

There is always a student, or a few students, who can play the piano at school. They play for all the ceremonies.

There is always a student, or a few students, who can play the piano at school. They play for all the ceremonies.

I suppose I should explain that a bit. The students at middle schools, or chuugakkou, wear uniforms to and from school that are specific to their school. The female uniforms tend to be the ones that help you tell the schools apart of course because the boy’s uniforms trend toward uniformity. (Hahahahaha!!!) Aside from that time and ceremonies, the students wear a jersey. This uniform is color specific to their schools and normally worn beneath their overlarge uniforms. During the summer it is a pair of shorts and a short sleeved shirt. Winter time it can get very cold so the children where the short set as well as a jacket of darker color as well as matching pants. Students are not suppose to, but they do often wear cardigans beneath the jacket.

Ichi nensei who likes to sleep in my classes. Hahaha! I still like him though.

Ichi nensei who likes to sleep in my classes. Hahaha! I still like him though.

Goofing off before the ceremony began. I ran around and took lots of pictures with the ni's and ichi's.

Goofing off before the ceremony began. I ran around and took lots of pictures with the ni’s and ichi’s.

The girl in the middle of the three, her name is Yuki-chan. She's a yankee which means she's like a female gang member, aka, a trouble maker. I love her though.

The girl in the middle of the three, her name is Yuki-chan. She’s a yankee which means she’s like a female gang member, aka, a trouble maker. I love her though.

He's a trouble maker, but he likes to play games and always participates in his own way.

He’s a trouble maker, but he likes to play games and always participates in his own way.

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For graduation, all the students wore their uniforms and the ni (2nd) and ichi (first)  nensei sat to the right of the gym just before the teachers seats and across from the families seats. Special guests sat to the upper left of the gym closest to the stage. The san nensei class sat nearest the gym door in the middle of the gym.

The ni's and ichi's practicing for graduation ceremony.

The ni’s and ichi’s practicing for graduation ceremony.

We sang songs, bowed a million times to one another and the Japanese flag. The children’s names were called to graduate and they accepted their paper, bowed, walked and then loudly thanked, good lucked, or stated their dream to everyone.

The boy closest to me, his soccer number is 11. HE and number 10 enjoy reminding me of that instead of their names, so those numbers have become their names.

The boy closest to me, his soccer number is 11. HE and number 10 enjoy reminding me of that instead of their names, so those numbers have become their names.

The boy with the mask is Kazehiro I believe and is one of the sweetest boys I've had the pleasure of meeting.

The boy with the mask is Kazehiro I believe and is one of the sweetest boys I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

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This boy likes to photo bomb all my pictures! lol

This boy likes to photo bomb all my pictures! lol

Ni nensei and ichi nensei

Ni nensei and ichi nensei

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More goofing off. This boy is really tall and one day was going to skip class with Daichi but when they heard we would play a game all tumbled in a little sheepish looking but happy. I was happy too. ^_^

More goofing off. This boy is really tall and one day was going to skip class with Daichi but when they heard we would play a game all tumbled in a little sheepish looking but happy. I was happy too. ^_^

I didn’t cry. Not until the very end. Like I’ve said before, the san nensei classes and I did not really get along all that well. I had written them a congratulations, omedeto, poster which was posted on the outside of their class. It was not mentioned by them in anyway which is fine, but it makes one wonder. I will say that some of them must like me a little. When I went up just before the ceremony to tell them good luck, four of the girls walked up to me and asked me excitedly to sign their yearbooks. I was very surprised, but happy too.

Haruka and me. I tried to teach her to snap her fingers. She's REALLY REALLY SWEET! She's always very happy to see me. She's in chorus club and I'm sad that I will have to miss their performance.

Haruka and me. I tried to teach her to snap her fingers. She’s REALLY REALLY SWEET! She’s always very happy to see me. She’s in chorus club and I’m sad that I will have to miss their performance.

Mio and I both like the Chesire cat! She drew me a picture of Alice in Wonderland with the Chesire in the middle and me as Alice. It was super cute!! I made her a bookmark.

Mio and I both like the Chesire cat! She drew me a picture of Alice in Wonderland with the Chesire in the middle and me as Alice. It was super cute!! I made her a bookmark.

What touched me really was, as is the custom, the last student(s) to leave the gym turns to face the gym again and bows low for a bit longer than is normal as a sign of silent respect and appreciation. It was really beautiful to me and so full of quiet thankfulness that even I was moved. Not that moving me is very hard of course.

I'll really miss these kids even if they were punks some times. It's amazing how your heart can change when you have to say goodbye.

I’ll really miss these kids even if they were punks some times. It’s amazing how your heart can change when you have to say goodbye.

Another custom occurs secretly between the san nensei students and revolves around spring every year regardless of where you live: the confession. I’ve always thought that the Japanese female population was superbly more courageous than I have ever or will ever be. They just go up to the guy they like and tell them exactly how they feel. Amazing, really. Upon graduating high- or middle-school, girls will go up to their crush and ask for his 第二 button – the second-button down on his uniform jacket. If the boy has similar romantic feelings for the girl, he will remove this button – and give it to her. The significance of the second button is its proximity to his heart.

Thank you Jenny Tam for the custom and picture.

Thank you Jenny Tam for the custom and picture.

Now, is not that the most beautiful show of youthful awakening.

2 thoughts on “Graduation

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