Throughout early March, each year, Japanese Universities hold Sotsugyo Shiki or Graduation Ceremonies. The ceremony is usually a rather formulaic affair with speeches and parents in attendance.

For the graduating students this particular rite of passage is a chance for a party at a restaurant with fellow graduates and perhaps even a shopping trip to a department store, courtesy of Okasan (Mum) and Otosan (Dad).

In our neighbourhood, the graduating female students of Kacho Tankidaigaku (Kacho Junior College) could be seen wandering along the streets between the college and the kimono rental shop dressed in colourful kimono and hakama. Women rarely wear hakama (loose trousers, like a split skirt) except for doing kendo (fencing) or for graduation ceremonies. Kimono and hakama were actually the school uniform for girls between the Meiji and Taisho periods (1868 - 1926) . These days the style is colourful, modern and a lot easier to wear than kimono.

After her ceremony we met 20 year old Emi Kawagishi. She had just spent 2 years in Kyoto at Kacho TanDai studying Social Work. She already has a job as a social worker waiting for her back in her hometown in Yamaguchi prefecture. Her two years in Kyoto had been "fun" she said, "I am from the "Inaka" (countryside) and it has been really exciting living here."