Going Through a Separation

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We pulled off a successful graduation ceremony for the 9th graders today. There is no surprise that it was successful, considering there were probably about ten official rehearsals and I’m sure the speech deliverers practiced endlessly at home. I took some personal notes down during the ceremony and will probably write two or three times about this topic in the future. Today I have a little time before our big celebration tonight in Matsusaka, so I thought I would give you a little bit now.

Graduation anywhere is about moving up to the next level, but also about moving on. Separation from the group is needed to move on and up. In America, it seems like the ceremony is typically upbeat, carrying a feeling of pride and accomplishment. After the ceremony as groups of friends gather for farewells the sadness of separation has a chance to set in.

Japanese society tends to have a stronger focus on the fact that everyone is a part of a group; hence, the separation aspect seems to be more keenly felt. The principal was brought to tears during his speech. Before the ceremony some of the teachers were sniffling. When I asked them about it they said, “hay fever”. After the ceremony, it seemed that everyone was suffering from ‘hay fever’. Perhaps it didn’t help that the closing song had a chorus about “now is the time for separation, to fly away believing in your future, to bound off trusting your youthful energy, …”

Even my hard heart was moved by the subtle memorial to our student who suffered an accidental death last year. I have written before about how a fellow student always holds a memorial photo of him at official events. Today, a bouquet of flowers and his photo were placed on a seat as the graduating students proceeded in. It is lovely that they don’t forget him easily, but I wonder how he will be remembered next year as he would have been a 9th grader this year. I trust that he will always be remembered by family and close friends.

Tonight we have a party in Matsusaka to celebrate. Tomorrow morning I will fly to Hokkaido with the 9th grade teachers to celebrate more (and do some skiing). Monday morning I return to the school to interview 8th graders.

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