I love the ceremony and solemnity of Japanese graduation ceremonies. It never fails to impress me how smooth and well-orchestrated everything is. (As it should be considering how long they spend practicing beforehand! But that's another story...)
Apart from the Kirita graduation ceremony, I also went to two elementary school ceremonies this year. The first one was at a large school, with 113 students graduating. With that many students, I was really impressed at how in sync they were as the picked up their graduation certificates, moved their chairs to face the audience instead of the stage, and then sat down again--pretty much all in unison.
The other nice thing about elementary graduation ceremonies is that they have a sort of choral reading combined with their song presentations. It's hard to explain, but it's kind of like a conversation between the graduating students and their underclassmen. A few students stand up at a time and one by one they say phrases/sentences recollecting memories from their six years at the school, or giving words of advice to their underclassmen/upperclassmen. For some lines all of the students say it together--like "arigatou gozaimashita" or "sayonara" ("thank you," "goodbye").
And occassionally intermixed with that are songs. At the larger school, one of the songs even had a part for the teachers to sing! Since I was sitting with the teachers and the lyrics were printed in the program, I did my best to sing along, too.
Even though I didn't spend nearly as much time with the elementary school kids as I did with my Kirita students (usually I only saw them once a month), the elementary school ceremonies were nonetheless moving at parts. (Or maybe I'm just turning into a sap?) I found it quite touching how all the students really put their hearts into the choral readings/songs.
And at the second elementary graduation I attended--at a small school this time--I was really moved by the 感謝の言葉 (kansha no kotoba--words of thanks). Since there were only 10 graduating students, they had enough time to include messages of thanks from all of the students to their parents. Each student stood in front of their parent(s) and one by one they read aloud thank you messages.
Seeing the parents (and sometimes the students themselves as well) sniffling and wiping away tears, I couldn't help but get a little watery-eyed as well. (I was already feeling a bit teary just from listening to the messages, but I'm also a sympathetic crier--when I see people crying, my eyes water, too.) Of course, that day just happened to be the day that I completely forgot to put any tissues or a handkerchief in my bag (whereas I had both for the Sanbongi graduation and didn't use either), so it was a bit of an effort to hold my sniffling back.
At most schools they have some sort of send off--or at least the students go off somewhere for an after party, but the students at the small school had their lunch/party in the school gym, so instead of just seeing them off, I went up to the classroom to say my farewells. I was really happy that I also got a chance to take a photo with all of them (and the fifth graders as well, since it was a split 5/6 class). ^__^ They were definitely one of my favourite classes of all time to teach. (You can probably guess why just from looking at the photo.)