Hello Spring, Goodbye students!

In the UK, spring is a time of renewal and celebration. We welcome the warmer weather with the blooming of daffodils and cherry blossoms and enjoy traditions like Easter and May Day. Although spring is a time for renewal in Japan, it is also a time for farewell as students graduate from school in March, saying goodbye to the academic year and each other. Spring marks a time of both hellos and goodbyes, as we embrace new beginnings and bid farewell to the old.   Some of you may wonder if Japanese graduation ceremony is done in the same manner as here in the UK. So today, I would like to tell you a little bit about graduation ceremonies in Japan.  

Graduation ceremony

Normally, there is no graduation ceremony in the UK when the children finish their primary school, secondary school and six form/college although they may have a leaving party/event. However, in Japan, the graduation ceremony is held in almost all schools and is probably the most significant school event along with the entrance ceremony. It is a formal event that involves traditional rituals and customs, such as bowing, speeches, and the presentation of certificates.

A gleeful girl in school attire, clutching a diploma stands before cherry blossoms
A graduate with her graduation certificate in a cylinder holder

When does it take place?

As I mentioned above, the graduation ceremonies take place in March in Japan. For primary schools - normally the third or fourth week, junior high schools (equivalent to secondary school) - the second or third week, and for high schools (equivalent to six form) – either 1st or 2nd of March. It really varies when it comes to university graduation ceremonies.  

Who attends the ceremony?

The eldest year groups (graduating year) and their parents, and the year group below normally attend the ceremony. The pupils/students have weeks of practice for the graduation ceremony. They rehearse so that they can enter the hall quietly and walk in straight line to their seat and then take a seat quietly for example! (This is conducted in a solemn manner!)  

So, what happens during the ceremony?

It begins with each class teacher leading the graduates in and let them take their seat in the school hall. The opening address is given, followed by national anthem. The graduates receive their certificates from the head teacher one by one. Celebration messages to the graduates are read and the gift from the graduates to school is announced. Messages from the graduates are given and then messages from the non-graduates. These speeches are typically emotional and heartfelt. There is an interesting fact!  A few songs are sung during the ceremony and one of them is called ‘Hotaru no Hikari (Glow of a Firefly). This song’s tune comes from the Scottish folk song ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (but completely different lyrics) and that means that most of the Japanese know this tune! Finally, the closing address is given, and the graduates leave the hall.

A crowd in black dress stand facing a stage with a Korean banner in a vibrant hall
A scene from a graduation ceremony

After the ceremony…there is a cute custom

After the formal ceremony, there is often a time of celebration and socializing. Students may take commemorative photos with their classmates and teachers, and may exchange gifts and messages of congratulations. There is a unique and cute custom that girls try get the second button of school uniform from someone they have a crush on! It is also possible that some boys give their second button to the girl they have a crush on, but it is less common. Some popular boys get asked for their buttons and I have seen a boy who had no buttons on his uniform (usually it has 5 buttons) as he left the school! But why the second button? This is because it is closest to the heart!

Close-up of a navy polo shirt , showing textured fabric, smart collar & intricate gold buttons
A typical Japanese boy's school uniform  

Graduation Gifts

One important aspect of Japanese graduation ceremonies is the giving of gifts. Traditionally, parents and family members present their graduating children with special gifts to commemorate the occasion. Stationery, flowers, teacups, handkerchiefs, some money in a money envelope are commonly given.   Here at The Japanese Shop, we have a wide range of graduation gifts to choose from. We have beautiful collection of high-quality handkerchiefs. We also have a wide range of Shugi Bukuro, or money envelopes, decorated with traditional mizuhiki too for those wanting to give money as a graduation gift.

A real Japanese shugi-bukuro with a mizuhiki knot, set on a vibrant floral fabric backdrop.
Shugi Bukuro - A gift money envelope  

A folded blue wave-patterned towel with a cream band
Blue Seikaiha Japanese Handkerchief      

For those looking for a more unique gift option, we also offer a selection of Japanese tea sets and ceramics. These items make a great gift for students who appreciate traditional Japanese culture and can be used to create a peaceful and relaxing environment for studying or reflection. A blue ceramic tea set, featuring a teapot with a bamboo handle and four matching cups
Indigo Blue Namako Japanese Teaset

I hope this blog helps you to learn more about the Japanese culture and, perhaps, gives you inspiration to some graduation gifts for when your beloved someone experiences this significant event! Are you following us on Facebook and/or Instagram? Check those social network platforms for our latest news!

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