I have yet to meet a single International parent, in Japan, or anywhere for that matter, who said:
‘I am fully aware that I will be attending at least 8 or more graduation and entrance ceremonies for each child during the course of their school life.’
If I ever meet them, I’ll say ‘Man, you are brave!’
graduating or entering students sit up front
Looking back at my own journey through the school system, I might have done a bit more planned parenting, or whatever it is when you decide to have a certain number of children on a certain schedule…rather than randomly welcoming them into my world whenever they chose to arrive, if I had fully realized how many ceremonies I’d be sitting through!
This year I was in danger of sitting through at least 5 ceremonies within a 2-month period, but lucky for me, have dodged a couple of those, and am sighing with relief that I only need to attend 3 (it’s kind of a ‘the good news or the bad news’ psychology…tell me I have 5 to go to, then later tell me I have 3 and I’ll be very happy!)
graduating students: little cases to hold certificates
To explain, Japanese culture seems to love ceremonies. I still haven’t figured it out, and I’m not at all anti-ceremony. I think ceremony is important to mark something special or momentous, but, I don’t feel that every step of my child’s school life is so momentous it requires 3 hours or more sitting in a ceremony for it. A mostly cold room, wearing formal clothes, and freezing, trying to stay alert and follow all the speeches, while secretly counting off the program items to see how much longer is left.
Entrance and Graduation ceremonies are held for the following, with graduations in March and entrances in April:
— jr. High– high school
Considering I have 4 kids, 3 of whom are 2 school grades apart each, and the youngest seems to be in perfect tandem with the next sibling up, it seems I’m attending some sort of ceremony basically every few months– not really, but if feels like it.
kindergarten graduation, just as serious as HS!
Of course, I’ve made all of the mistakes, came in my jeans (Major Ooops!! Who realized you needed a suit or dress or kimono for a KINDERGARTEN entrance ceremony!!??), came in the wrong color suit (pastels for graduations, black for entrances…or is it pastel to nursery school, blacks to Jr. High?? Still can’t get it straight. I’ve settled on black slacks, white shirt and soft pink jacket, with a bright blue scarf!) came late, came without a camera.
And then there’s mistakes within the ceremony itself: I hear ‘Stand up!’ and so I do. Then ‘Sit down’, and of course I do, then 10 seconds later, ‘Stand up!’ except I miss the ‘students only’ bit, so I jump up out of my seat to find I’m the only parent in the room standing up… for this reason I tend to sit in the back row so I can copy or cover my mistakes.
Not to mention making sure the kids are properly attired…a 3-piece suit for a 6-y/o?? Damn expensive those things are, and the little tikes grow so fast, they’ll only get one or two good uses out of it! Truth be told, I never bought them a suit, we made do with what we had, and that was it.
see the pink jacket– we made do with what we had!
Ceremonies seem to have about 13 or so components to the schedule. These range from opening with the National Anthem, the school song, to speeches from the principal, head of the PTA, other distinguished persons in the town. 10 minutes devoted to reading any telegrams (yep, telegrams!) received from city clubs or sponsors outside of the school. Then there are messages from the graduating or entering class to the student body and vice-versa. Graduations involve each graduating student to be called up by name and presented with their certificate.
filing into the auditorium, no cheering or whistling allowed!
receiving a graduation certificate from the principal
And finally the ceremony is closed with a song and maybe another speech from the principal, the kids file out to clapping (no cheering, unless you’re like me and have invited any foreign friends or relatives nearby to help you through the ceremony), and…we can go home. Our own private family tradition is to take the kid out for lunch afterwards, and spend some time together afterwards. That’s my favorite part, and if the weather gods are with us, there might even be some cherry blossoms around for nice photos.
pictures at the end.
little boys in uniforms are pretty adorable!
Here’s my personal list of items necessary to the ceremony:
1. Thermos of hot drink
2. Chewing gum or other small candy
3. Lap blanket
4. Notebook and pen for doodling
5. My iPad which has a Japanese-English dictionary inside
6. My small purse cross-stitch project in case I feel brave enough to pull it out and work on it. I mean, all those parents have their cell-phones for fooling around on!
7. Camera and/or video camera, charged, with enough room to record important parts…and a tripod!
And now, let’s hear from a couple of our KA Moms (Mums!) about ceremonies:
Jen: My kindergarten/new elementary school expect me to take 6 days off of work in a 4 week span. Right. This is the time of year I really regret putting my kids in kindy and not daycare!
Erinn: And what about the ones scheduled for a work day!! Daughter is on Friday, any normal parent wouldn’t be able to attend, lucky for her, her dad works in the afternoon so he can come. And so you can see, this is a part of Japanese culture us International Parents have had a hard time comprehending, and yet, we do our best to keep up and make the event special for our children.
Mandatory education is done! Time for the next step.