I recently attended my first Japanese High School graduation. It is definitely done differently than American High School, but there are also a lot of similarities.
I put on my ill-fitting suit (lost weight, clothes don’t fit ^_^) and headed into the gym for the ceremony. All the teachers dressed nice, except for a few. The senior class homeroom teachers dressed especially formal. The male homeroom teachers wore a suit with a white tie and corsage. Some of the female homeroom teachers wore BEAUTIFUL kimonos.
I took my seat next to the other teachers on the side of the gym. The music teacher played the piano. The seniors entered the gym from the back and sat by homeroom at the front, near the stage. The students wore their normal school uniforms, but with corsages as well. Once everyone took their seat, the speeches began.
I sat through roughly 1 ½ hours of Japanese speeches. I’ll admit, I was pretty bored. Before, during, and after speeches there was A LOT of bowing. I had to look to the other teachers and students for the bowing cue. It was not just any bow. Every bow was a deep one. Each one lasted at least 3 seconds. High School Graduation is a 2 hour long Squats exercise and I was getting my work out.
The principal called out each student’s name by homeroom. When students heard their name, they would stand up and shout “Hai!” When all the students of that homeroom had been announced, a class representative would approach the principal, bow, and receive the diplomas (or some kind of document).
When the ceremony had completed, the students (well, I guess they are no longer students), moved towards the back of the gym, turned, and walked by the teachers on the way to the side exit. This was a nice moment for us. All the students walked by the teachers. I got to see all my students as they made their way to the exit. I did not feel much at this moment. I only taught these kids for 3 months, so I had only developed a relationship with a few. Next year will be much more emotional for me.