New Japan, Old Japan / Students graduate in style at art college

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kanazawa College of Art student Satoshi Niwa receives his diploma from President Masahiko Maeda while in costume during the graduation ceremony for the 2016 academic year on March 1. Niwa, 22, relied on his stereognostic senses, honed at the college, to construct by hand the head of a manga character he has been fond of since elementary school.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerIn Japan, March is a time for graduation ceremonies. At most universities and graduate schools, it’s traditional for outgoing students to attend in their student uniforms, suits or kimono.

Things are quite different, however, at the graduation ceremonies for undergraduate and graduate students at Kanazawa College of Art in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. Outgoing students are allowed to attend in unique costumes of their own choice.

This year’s ceremony was held on March 1 and attended by nearly all 153 undergraduate students and 35 graduate students. Most of them turned themselves into “artworks” of their own liking.

Some dressed as characters from manga or games, while others appeared as household goods such as a box of tissues or even a pack of tofu. It was their last opportunity as students of the university to display their works of art.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Graduates pose for photos in their costumes.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Guests watch a graduating student on the stage.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A graduating student reads his speech dressed as an astronaut.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A graduating student dressed as a pack of tofu

Kanazawa Mayor Yukiyoshi Yamano praised the liberal atmosphere of the college in his congratulatory address.

“At the closing ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wore a costume like all of you and appeared as Super Mario,” Yamano said. “Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo Co., who created the Super Mario character, happens to be a graduate of this college. I felt the presence of our college at the closing ceremony.”

Kanade Takano, 23, a fine arts undergraduate who majored in aesthetics and art history, was dressed as a Hindu goddess.

“I got the idea when I was a sophomore and I borrowed books to study it,” Takano said after the ceremony. “I don’t like attending ceremonies, but here, everybody puts their energy into making [their costumes] and they’re really earnest, and their personalities all come out.

“Last night, many students stayed in lecture rooms and spent all night making their costumes. I think the ceremony is enjoyable for the guests, and for me, it became a memorable moment in my life.”

The college was established in 1946, soon after the end of World War II, but it’s unclear when and why the students started wearing costumes at their graduation. According to the college secretariat, one theory is that it began when a graduating student wore a costume in the early 1980s. However, others say it dates further back.

In any event, the students have kept this tradition alive for more than 30 years on a voluntary basis.

In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun after the ceremony, university President Masahiko Maeda said: “If you prohibited things in a college of art, then it could no longer be a college of art. Wearing costumes has become a tradition here, but I believe it’s allowed because the content is serious.

“They may look like they’re fooling around, but the farewell address and the reply address are serious. I think people will see it as a ceremony one might expect of a college of art. I think people are entertained because the gap between the surface and what’s inside stands out so much.”

(New Japan, Old Japan is a series exclusive to The Japan News.)

[Released on March 13, 2017]


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