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Graduation & Enrollment Ceremonies in Japanese Schools

Isabelle arrived in Japan some three years ago due to her father's job. Now, she is walking home from junior high school with her good friend Shiori; after completing a rehearsal for their fast-approaching graduation ceremony.

Shiori

The day of our graduation ceremony is drawing ever closer.

Isabelle

Yes, the past three years have literally flown by. From April, you and I shall be attending different schools. Just the thought of it makes me rather sad.

Shiori

I am also saddened by the prospect of not seeing you every day! Today, I almost cried when we practiced leaving the gymnasium as part of the graduation ceremony. I suppose I was overcome with emotion when I realized we were actually practicing for the real thing!

Isabelle

Yes! If I think about it, last year was my first opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony at a Japanese school as part of the student body. I must say that I was surprised at the rather solemn atmosphere of the occasion. Everybody formed ordered lines when entering and leaving the gymnasium, and they also bowed in unison. There were also long speeches made by the principal and by representatives of the board of education…

Shiori

I thought such occasions were the norm. Are you telling me that things are done differently in America?

Isabelle

At high schools and colleges in America, graduation ceremonies are also major events. However, they are more casual occasions at elementary and junior high schools, having somewhat of a party atmosphere about them. Many such ceremonies at elementary schools and junior highs are actually conducted outside. Moreover, high school is compulsory in many parts of America. Thus, at elementary schools and junior highs, there is a stronger sense of advancing to the next level of education rather than of graduating from school itself.

Shiori

In Japan, both school graduation and enrollment ceremonies represent momentous occasions.

Isabelle

I agree. In America, there are even schools that don't conduct enrollment ceremonies, but rather commence lessons from the first day of term.

The discussion between the girls then touches on the differences between countries regarding the commencement of school.

Isabelle

I was also rather surprised that the new school year in Japan commences in April. In America, Europe and China, it is normal for the school year to commence in September after the summer holidays.

Shiori

Yes, it seems that standard practice around the world is to commence the school year in the fall. Recently in Japan as well, some colleges have started to consider the introduction of fall enrollments in order to cater to the needs of exchange students.

Isabelle

Yes. For exchange students going overseas and for inbound exchange students as well, such flexibility seems more convenient.

Shiori

However, for Japanese people there is the sense that the start of spring is the season in which cherry blossoms bloom. Thus, I like the idea of school enrollment ceremonies occurring during spring.

Isabelle

I agree. Having actually experienced a junior high school enrollment ceremony here in Japan, I do feel that the cherry blossoms are beautiful, and there is also the sense of them watching over us. As such, I understand the sense of importance that Japanese people attach to school commencing in spring.

Shiori

Isabelle, you really have become accustomed to living in Japan!

Isabelle

Yes, and I owe it to you! I look forward to maintaining our friendship as we become high school students.