Junior High Graduation

The junior high across the river from my house held their graduation last week. They’re not confused. All across Japan school graduation happens in March. Seems like a weird month to graduate. But I guess it doesn’t matter when you graduate… you still gotta go out and find a job.

In Japan you get a lot of practice graduating. First you graduate from kindergarten, then from elementary school, then junior high and high school. Finally, if you’re lucky, you graduate from a good college and go to work for Sony or Toyota. If you’re not so lucky, you drop out and go to work making the styrofoam “Cup Ramen” bowls, or the styrofoam “Cup Ramen” noodles.

In April all the companies in Japan conduct mass hirings, so if you don’t graduate in March you’ll miss out until the next year. No worries though. If you’re smart enough to get into college you’re smart enough to graduate. No actual learning occurs in Japanese colleges. It doesn’t have to. Most students have already learned everything there is to know by about the 6th to 8th grade, depending on which cram school they were compelled to attend on nights and weekends. College is really just a test of how much you can drink and how socially adept you are. Not so different from the U.S., I guess. Except most of us Americans didn’t learn anything in the 6th or 8th grade either. The good news is, if you have enough brain cells to keep basic motor skills operating at graduation, you have enough officially to graduate.

College graduate in kimono and hakama

Through high school the graduation ceremony is performed in school uniforms, but in college, men wear suits and women wear kimono with hakama pants. It’s a fairly non-traditional look to begin with, but it’s usually pretty jazzed up by these new graduates drunk with the short-lived feeling of freedom. So it’s pretty cool walking the streets of Nagoya’s Motoyama university district and seeing all the grad fashions. Some of these kimonos look straight off the pages of manga novels. Others look like they should be returned to the Venice Beach Salvation Army. But who would fault our promising youth for trying to make their own mark on society.

So congratulations graduating class of 2012. I graduated too once. Course things were tougher then. Everyday I had to walk five miles in the snow to school… uphill both ways…

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