Kyoto university’s graduation day: a showcase of creativity and rebellion

Green light for freedom of expression at Kyoto University: it is not uncommon to see students graduating wearing costumes of various kinds, including dinosaurs and even the famous director Hayao Miyazaki

At the recent Kyoto University graduation ceremony, the usual caps and gowns were replaced by an array of unconventional outfits, ranging from chicks and dinosaurs to an impersonator of the acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, complete with an Oscar statue in hand. This gesture was not just for show but a nod to the director’s recent win for Best Animated Film. This event has drawn widespread attention and amusement, highlighting a unique tradition of one of Japan’s most prestigious academic institutions.

A tradition of self-expression

Kyoto University allows its graduates the freedom to choose their attire for the graduation ceremony. While some stick to traditional kimonos and suits, others embrace the opportunity to don more whimsical and imaginative costumes, creating a lively and diverse atmosphere. David Hajime Kornhauser, the university’s head of international communications, traces this tradition back several decades, rooted in the institution’s long-standing spirit of resistance and defiance against authoritarianism.

Captured and shared worldwide

This slightly provocative tradition has been a part of Kyoto University since the turbulent 1970s, known for student protests and clashes with law enforcement. Though times have changed, the rebellious spirit persists, celebrated through this unique graduation practice. Despite only about 10% of students choosing to dress up, their visibility is guaranteed by their seating at the front of the ceremony, ensuring their imaginative get-ups are widely shared in newspapers and on social media, making the graduation ceremony a well-known and entertaining event beyond the university’s walls.

A celebration of diversity and individuality

This practice not only adds a touch of originality and joy to the graduation ceremony but also reflects the spirit of freedom and individuality the university promotes among its students. It’s a way to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness, making the event more memorable and meaningful for participants.

In an academic world often dominated by formality and tradition, Kyoto University stands out for its open and inclusive approach, allowing students to express themselves creatively and authentically during one of the most significant moments of their academic lives.

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