by Eve Corbett
The end of the school year is always a bitter-sweet time. While both students and teachers are looking forward to the quickly approaching break, everyone must say farewell to those graduating. Moving on to this next chapter in one’s life can be both exciting and scary, but either way the memories from high school will not be forgotten. Graduation is indeed a difficult but exhilarating time for all….although I suppose everyone back in The United States is not thinking about the end of the school year just yet. You may be wondering why I am bringing it up now, when there are still at least three whole months of the school year left. Well that may be so in The United States, but it is not so here in Japan. In Japan, the school year ends with the winter and starts with the spring. There are many parts of the Japanese end of the school year that are similar to the American one, but not everything.
One all-too-familiar aspect of the end of the school year is exams. You can’t escape them, not even if you go to Japan. Like in the United States, students spend days just studying for the end of the year exams, working late into the night. When exam time finally comes, there is a series of half days just for testing. I found the test papers themselves rather hard to figure out. They didn’t seem to be in order and they weren’t stapled. But everyone else seemed to understand that part at least. For me a lot of the exams were in Japanese, so I didn’t understand much. However some teachers made a special test just for me in English, which I really appreciated.
Then, when exams are finally in the past, it is time for the graduation ceremony. The ceremony was quite different from the American one. There are no special hats or robes. Instead, the graduating students wore their regular school uniforms. But this ceremony was not as simple as it may at first sound. In fact there were practice days beforehand, just like back in The United States. The music clubs practiced on their instruments, the teachers their speeches, and the graduates their graduation song. The famous song for graduation day in Japan is in fact a familiar one, although it is not exactly like we know it. The song is Auld Lang Syne, a popular Christmas and New Year’s song back home. The English words to the song talk of old times and moving on to the new ones, but surprisingly the lyrics are rather different in the Japanese version. The title of the Japanese version is “Hotaru no Hikari” or “Glow of a Firefly” who’s lyrics also reflect the moving of time and saying goodbye to the old, but also talk about contributing to one’s country. Although the lyrics are different, the melody is the same as the original version. The song is also played at closing in stores and events in Japan. Many tears were shed while it was being sung at graduation ceremony.
After graduation comes the end of the school year. Students go on break and there are no more classes…well, mostly. Students are extremely devoted to their high school life here in Japan. I have mentioned before that students who join clubs are often at school early in the mornings, late in the evenings, and all day on weekends. This is true for vacations as well. Sports clubs have meets almost every day of vacation. Many students also come to school for extra classes as well. There is no long and completely school free break this time. Because there are more days off during the school year, there are no uninterrupted breaks at the end of the school year. What break there is, it is broken up with random days of school.
My host sister and I have planned on going to Universals Japan over this break, which I am really looking forward too. Although it was very different from what I am used to, it was interesting to see how another country deals with such an important ceremony as high school graduation. It really got me thinking about my own graduation that will take place next year, and about how far I have come since my graduation from middle school. I am looking forward to see how far I can go.
Eve Corbett is a junior at Lincoln Academy, currently spending the school year in Okayama, Japan with Greenheart Travel. She is the daughter of Jody Corbett and Elizabeth Proffetty of Newcastle.