A number of schools in Japan held graduation ceremonies Tuesday amid the new coronavirus outbreak, by limiting the number of participants and shortening the proceedings to prevent the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus.
As Japan entered the last month of the academic year, schools turned to unusual measures to enable graduates and their families to mark the occasion in a brief respite from weeks of school closures prompted by a government request.
At Midoricho Elementary School in Chiba, near Tokyo, only graduates, their parents and teachers attended the ceremony. Many participants wore masks and speeches were handed out on paper rather than delivered orally.
"In many ways, I think this will be engraved in everyone's memories," Principal Nobuhiro Ikeda said, while asking students not to forget their appreciation for their families who have supported them.
"I am glad I was able to meet everyone for the first time in a while," said Kyoko Furuta, 12, who graduated from the school. "I was able to tell them goodbye and sing songs (at the ceremony)."
On Feb. 28, the education ministry asked education boards across the country to close their schools as part of efforts to contain the outbreak, prompting many to follow the request.
Some education boards have decided to resume school from Monday, although most schools remain shut and expected to do so until the spring break, which normally ends in early April.
A kindergarten in Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan, held its graduation ceremony by dividing its 30 graduates into two groups and shortening the event to about 20 minutes each.
Guests and other children at the kindergarten refrained from attending, and the number of parents attending were limited to one per graduate.
All attendees wore masks and sat 1 meter apart to avoid potential infections.
"This was our last chance to see friends because we are moving out from Wakayama Prefecture. I am really glad we were able to hold the ceremony," said Mizuho Yoneda, 35, whose son graduated from the kindergarten.
Koyamadai High School in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward also held a shortened and scaled-back graduation ceremony.
"I feel sorry the parents cannot attend. I had thought about cancelling it, but I am glad the third-year students were all able to gather and hold the ceremony," said Principal Hiroyuki Otahara.