Graduation murals

Since the Japanese school year recently ended, I wanted to share this sweet graduation tradition that I saw at both of my junior high schools. The third-year students band together and make a mystery mural to hang in the gym for their ceremony.

The students are given stacks of 8.5 x 11 papers covered with coded grids (like color-by-number, but with kanji). In the weeks before graduation, they sit together during their breaks, coloring the tiny squares. None of them knows what the resulting image will be. At my countryside school, I was pulled into the third-years’ classroom by a couple of students to help out, and all they could tell me was that it would make a big picture.

japanese graduation mural close up

That it did. The result—a pointillist rendition of blooming cherry trees—is stunning.

japanese graduation mural closerjapanese graduation mural

My larger school did one of a flying whale (photo coming soon!).

I heard later that the image patterns were planned and printed by the school staff using a downloadable software called Big Picture; you can input any photo and the program will make a large-scale gridded template.

I can’t help but get choked up over this communal farewell effort. The banners will hang in the gym all year long, until the next graduating class makes their own.

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