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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Japan Series at JapanesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Japanese holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 9- "Graduation and Entrance Ceremony."
A graduation ceremony celebrates and certifies the completion of an educational curriculum, and they are often held at the end of March. School entrance ceremonies celebrate and authorize enrollment in a school, and they are held at the start of April. Both graduation and entrance ceremonies are school events held all the way from elementary school to university and vocational school.
Now, before we go any further, do you know the answer to this question- which song is sung in graduation and entrance ceremonies throughout the country?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Graduation ceremonies have an official name in Japanese which literally means the "ceremony for the award of graduation certificates." At these ceremonies, elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as specialist schools, award students a school certificate. At universities and graduate school ceremonies, students receive a diploma. At entrance ceremonies, freshmen are called one by one and often shout a reply. Both graduation and entrance ceremonies are held in large spaces such as gymnasiums and are attended by the school principal and parents. A representative from the graduating students or freshmen greets these attendees.
Graduation ceremonies are formal events. Attendees wear suits or uniforms. Also, it is customary for female college students to wear kimono and hakama, and many are featured in newspapers and on television. The focal point of the ceremony is the awarding of the diploma and transcript from the principal. Some schools call all of the students to the stage, whereas others call just a representative of the students. There are even some graduates who shed tears as they look back on their school life.
Entrance ceremonies occur each year around the time that cherry blossoms bloom. Freshmen dress in brand new uniforms and ceremonial dress, and participate in the welcoming ceremony. From elementary to high school, the homeroom teacher calls the name of each new student, who then receives a greeting and words of encouragement from the principal. A representative of the new students then makes a pledge concerning the start of their new school life. Many schools also take a commemorative photograph of each class.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question- what do students sing at each ceremony?
The correct answer is the Japanese national anthem, 君が代 (Kimigayo). From elementary to high school, the national curriculum specifies in the Curriculum Guidelines that this song should be sung at graduation and entrance ceremonies. The school song is also sung. However, while at graduation ceremonies everybody sings the school song, at entrance ceremonies existing students and teachers perform the song for the new students who have not learned it.
Here’s another fun fact! The song 蛍の光 (Hotaru no hikari) is also sung at many graduation ceremonies. The original tune is the Scottish folk song Auld Lang Syne, and there are many who like to sing it, but don't know the origin. Part of a Chinese poem is also included in the lyrics, a fact that is surprisingly not widely known.
Well listeners, how was this lesson?
Did you learn something new?
In your country, how are graduation and entrance ceremonies celebrated? Are there any interesting customs?
Please leave us a comment telling us at JapanesePod101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!