Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Junior High School Graduation Ceremony

There is a ceremony for nearly every occasion at Japanese public schools. The school year begins in early April with the entrance ceremony for incoming first-year students. Scheduled for the following day is the ceremony inaugurating the new school year. Not to discriminate, the first and last days of each term throughout the year are similarly granted their own special notice. Another ceremony, that welcoming new teachers to a school, is held at the beginning of the year and throughout the year when necessary. Niigata City ALTs change schools three times a year and are therefore welcomed at their second and third term placements in what is effectively a private ceremony. The farewell ceremony for teachers is held at the end of the school year. The public servant transfer system accounts for most departures. Under this system, public school teachers are sent to two schools during their first six years, often in isolated or rural areas. If the teacher survives six years in the sticks, he is rewarded with a seven year posting at a school administered by the city in which he hopes to reside. Every seven years thereafter the teacher is transferred to a different school. Finally, Japanese schools celebrate the major anniversaries of their founding, with commemorative aerial photos taken of the students arrayed on the playground in the form of the school logo. These ceremonies are observed with varying degrees of pomp and circumstance. The super heavyweight event of them all, that boasting the greatest endowment of the two aforementioned qualities, is the Graduation Ceremony. The ceremony is formally opened with an official declaration, followed by the singing of the controversial national anthem, the Kimigayo, as well as the school's own song. The graduating students are then called to the stage by homeroom class to receive their diplomas from the principal. Speeches exhorting the graduates to perseverance and excellence are made by the principal and PTA president, the addresses often including references to Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, successful Japanese baseballers in the U.S. Major Leagues. The speeches are followed by choral performances by the entire student body. The accompanying photos show the school entrance and gymnasium decorated for graduation on March 7.

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