It's the end of the school year. For those of you who don't know, the Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April. This is why in anime like Hikaru no Go you can see the cherry blossoms at graduation. Unfortunately, my school, like most in my prefecture, has graduation in early March. *sigh* No beautiful cherry blossoms for us, although we did get snow this year. (-_-;)
In America, the graduation ceremony is long and all the students file to the front to shake the principal's hand and receive their diploma. At my school there were 3 representatives. The first student represents the entire general level classes, classrooms 301-305 respectively. These classes cover everything a high school student would cover in America (math, science, foreign language, art, etc). The second student represents the nursing course students (classroom 306). The nursing course is a special case because it is a five year certification course, so their part in the ceremony marks the end of their 3 year general education/beginner nursing classes. They will spend 2 more years focusing on high level nursing classes before having a special ceremony apart from the actual graduation ceremony. The third student represents the home economics course. The graduates from this class will pursue careers is design, catering, and the like. Only the reps are called to the front, one at a time. They stand before the principal and receive the diplomas for all the students in their section. There is much bowing and the rep steps off stage and formally sets the diplomas on a separate table. This part of the graduation is surprisingly short.
In most American schools there are speeches, music, and pictures during the ceremony. While this also happened at my school, the main part of the ceremony revolved around speeches from the principal, a rep from the graduating class, and a rep from the upcoming 3rd years or "seniors". The principal's speech is formal and congradulatory. The next speech from the upcoming senior class is solomn wishing the graduates the best for the future, while vowing to uphold the standards of the school and provide an example for the lower classmen. The final speech is from the graduating rep thanking the prefecture, the principal, the teachers, and their fellow students. It is very emotional as the rep promises to do their best for the future and be a proud graduate of the school.
After the speeches graduation is finished. It takes roughly an hour from start to finish. The students leave and go to their respective homerooms one last time to receive their diploma from their homeroom teacher. Then they gather in the parking lot in front of the school where all the teachers and fellow students cheer for them. The band plays and there are many pictures and farewells. The clubs gather together as the students say good-bye to their senpai. The graduates take gifts to their favorite teachers and grab them for pictures. Then they depart with their families leaving school behind them.
As a side note, this years graduation was very bittersweet. My school became an intergrated school last year. Before my school had been an all girls school with a long and prestigious history. This year the last of the girls high school students graduated. The home economics specialization course will no longer be offered. Of course there will still be home ec classes, but the fashion show and food extravaganza will not continue, being a part of the old school's curricula. Starting this school year there will only be one uniform at our school. I love teaching all my students, but part of me will miss the sass I got from the girls' school class.