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Day care graduation ceremony moved to Japan forest delights parents, kids

A girl, center in the background, raises her graduation certificate high up in the air during a graduation ceremony for children at Keyanomori Gakuen kindergarten and day care, in a forest in Hidaka, Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, on March 17, 2020. (Mainichi/Takashi Seido)

HIDAKA, Saitama -- A graduation ceremony for children at a private kindergarten and day care was held in a forest in this eastern Japan city on March 17, as fears over the new coronavirus have prompted many institutions to skip or downscale such ceremonies.

Keyanomori Gakuen kindergarten and day care, located in the Saitama Prefectural city of Sayama north of Tokyo, chose to hold the annual ceremony in a forest in the prefectural city of Hidaka for the first time. Among the attendees were 14 graduating children, some 50 current pupils and about 30 parents.

"It was great. They've held the ceremony for the sake of our children, despite what we're all going through now," said the 46-year-old father of a graduating girl from Sayama.

Each of the graduating children made a presentation of what they've achieved during their years at the facility, such as doing a magic show for a Doll Festival event, giving a drum performance and getting to take a ski lift on their own. When director Fumiko Sato handed graduation certificates to the children, they proudly showed them off. After current pupils offered words of gratitude and gifts to graduating seniors, all the children sang a song together at the close of the ceremony.

"It was fantastic that we could hold the ceremony in the forest, rather than at our facility," said one of the smiling graduating pupils.

The school holds a nature experience session for children at the forest every spring and autumn.

(Japanese original by Takashi Seido, Tokorozawa Local Bureau)

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