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This will be a graduation day the students of Japan never forget. It started as a wonderful, eventful day for many, and became a frightening and hellish eventful day for many as well. 03/11/11, like America’s 9/11, will live on in the memories of people for generations. It will be something to tell your kids where you were and what happened on this day. But first, the happy part:

In Japan, education is only required through the equivalent of the 9th grade in the US. Children go to elementary school until 6th grade, then go to junior high school for the next three grades. These students are referred to as ichinensei (7th grade), ninensei (8th grade), and sannensei (9th grade). The Japanese school year starts in April, and graduation is in March. Graduation and the end of school are not the same time. Graduation happens the second week in March as the plums are blooming, while school actually ends for the ichi and ninensei two weeks later. The kids get a short week between school years, and then when the cherry blossoms bloom full.

For many junior high schools and universities/colleges, Friday, March 11th was graduation day, or the Sotsugyou Shiki. The graduation for my school, Ono Junior High School, lasted about 2 hours. After that, the ichi and ninensei went home for lunch, while the sannensei had their last home room and gathered the last of their things.

ALTs in Fujioka have half days on Fridays, and since all the kids are gone anyway, we were able to go home after lunch.

Traditionally, female homeroom teachers, and school officials like the principal if they are female, wear a hakama for the graduation. Graduating college/university students also wear traditional hakama. Originally, kimono and hakama were school uniforms for girls, until everyone moved toward the sailor-style uniforms usual today. I can see why the change; they are not exactly easy to put on in the morning! After my practice it only took me about 20-25 minutes to put mine on, and another 20-25 to do hair and makeup. I had an early morning! Here are my pictures:

Preparing the gym the day before. The red and white stripes are traditional graduation day colors!

A nice last lunch for the school the day before the ceremony. Fried shrimp, a miso soup with special “congrats” theme, traditional “congrats” style rice, and cake! Yuuuum.

Sannensei and teachers wore flowers the next day. All my other schools had fake ones, but these were real! So so pretty!

The gym the next morning

Ichi and ninensei waiting for the sannensei to come in. Parents were to the left and right, teachers on one side close to the stage, and city officials (the mayor came!), PTA members, and BOE members on the other side.

My sannsensei JTE’s hakama. The ceremony is extremely formal (and the gym extremely cold!)

Students went up one-by-one for their diplomas, and some went back for various awards and honors.

Students leaving after the ceremony

The teacher’s lunch, chinese! This was yummy tooo!

Kenji picked me up, and we took some quick pictures at the school before heading home

And then did another quick photoshoot at the local shrine! Dark stormy skies during an otherwise shiny day.. foreshadowing?

It was about one o’clock or so by the time we got home. I had taken off my hakama and was on the internet in my room when the big one hit, but more on that in the next post.