卒業式(Graduation)/第二ボタン(Second Button)

The Japanese school year starts in April  and you will see 卒業式(そつぎょうしき—graduation ceremonies) all around Japan in March.  Japanese 卒業式 is usually an event for the entire school  and all teachers and students, including underclassmen, attend the ceremony. A typical graduation consists of diploma presentations, speeches (from a graduate, the student body, a PTO representative, politicians, teachers, etc.), and singing ofgraduation songs” in chorus.  Please read more about Japanese graduation in this Wikipedia article.


One 卒業式 custom that may be unique to Japan is the giving/receiving of “第二ボタン”(second button of boy’s uniform jacket).  On graduation day at junior high and high schools, a male graduate may give his second button to a female student. Although some boys give their buttons to girls they like without being asked, it’s more common for a female junior to ask a senpai (senior) she likes for his button. If the senpai likes her, and/or he does not have other requests he may give the botton to her.

When a male graduate receives multiple requests, he is to give his second button to the girl he cares the most, and then the other buttons to the other girls. Popular boys often end up handing over other uniform accessories, such as nametags, cuff links, stand collar inserts, and school pins.

Many report that this custom has its roots in World War II. Before young soldiers went to war, they handed their second buttons to their lovers as keepsakes. They did so, especially in the case of Kamikaze pilots, knowing there was little chance of a safe return. Kanko, a major school uniform company explains that the soldiers selected the “second” button, because its absence would be less noticeable to commanding officers.   Kanko also suggests that it was the second button because it is located close to one’s heart. 

The following are extra reading materials/video clips regarding 卒業式 and  第二ボタン。 Please review them and share your comments. 


 • Japan Q& A: The Dai-ni Button Episode


 • The Official Blog of Unique Japan: The Button-Less Suits at Graduation


• Aogeba Totoshi:a very popular traditional graduation song.


•Diploma presentation


Propose Daisakusen: A TV drama clip

7 thoughts on “卒業式(Graduation)/第二ボタン(Second Button)

  1. I haven’t ever heard of the Dai-in button before. I find it extremely cute for a usually quiet kind of culture. It’s a different way to express your feelings and how to say goodbye. Or for some girls, just a collection. But the idea of a shy girl wanting to express her feelings for her sempai, and asking for the 2nd button is touching. Keeping the button is a reminder of the feelings she has/had even when the boy is away and they haven’t seen each other in a long time. The symbolism of the 2nd button being closest to the heart is sweet for a teenage girl.

    It kind of reminds me of ホワイトデー(White Day)-the opposite of Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is where only women give the men gifts of chocolate as well as other gifts to express their feelings. White Day is men get to relieve their guilty feelings of receiving chocolate. It takes place on March 14th, and the men return the favor by giving the women who gave them gifts one back, usually more expensive. Usual gifts are cookies, jewelry, white chocolate, and marshmallows. The Japanese idea of “thrice the return” is usually applied where a return gift should be two to three times more expensive.

    It also reminds me of how in the US usually boyfriends will give their class ring or varsity jacket to their girlfriend. I think in the end the ring/jacket is usually returned before graduation anyway, so it’s not that similar.

  2. I really enjoyed this culture blog post because I have never heard of the Dai-ni button before. Yet, it is particularly appealing to me because of the simple fact that I was talking to someone from China today about the subtly within the Asian cultures. We were discussing the process of gift giving, in which they never open them in front of the people that gave them. I am not sure if the Japanese do this as well, but it is another example of how shy the culture is when showing emotion, whether it be toward another person or being proud of a gift you gave someone. This is a rather foreign concept to me because normally I want to see the person open it because I think it is the most awesome thing in the world. I would end up leaving and calling them the next second to see if they liked it.
    This article also reminds me of different things that Americans do to show that they care about one another, like in high school when a guy gives a girl their class ring. This isn’t as widely practiced as it use to be, but it does still occur. It is a simple way of letting someone know they care about you, but the only difference is is that the girls normally wear the rings around their neck to display that affection. Some people will give their lettermen jacket for them to wear, but this rarely happens because one the jacket is too big for the girl and two, the guys want to show their accomplishments.

  3. This post reminds me strongly of scenes in many, many manga I’ve read. I haven’t seen one yet that depicts Dai-ni, but I have read one about White Day. Many others show similar exchanges going on, not necessarily anything culturally specific, I would imagine, but what I feel connects it so strongly is the overwhelming sense of shyness, sentimentalism, and, for lack of a better word, ceremonialism that the scenes create. It seems to me that many manga are structured around the tension that results from unrequited or unrealized love, however, the shyness factor sets it apart from scenes depicted in American media. As a way of comparison, most American novels will put the heroine together with their man by the end of the first volume (if not sooner), whereas it might take an entire series to get a Japanese heroine hooked up.
    I suppose this is another way the differences in Japanese and American views on social interaction play out – as was discussed in an earlier culture blog, the Japanese are terribly concerned with what others think of them, whereas Americans don’t particularly care – which would certainly contribute to shyness. The ceremony factor, I would suppose, helps people remove themselves somewhat from the situation to make it easier – so, instead of “I am giving you my button because I’ve loved you since I was fourteen” it looks like “I am giving you my button because I’m graduating, and this is what’s prescribed”.
    As a side note, I am very interested to see these clips and have this information about Japanese graduation ceremonies. I tried to do some research on it for my last project, but came up empty-handed. I find it interesting that, even though it’s essentially the same ceremony we perform in the United States, it seems somehow more ceremonial or more formal to me – but perhaps this is because I’m a foreigner.

  4. I think that this is an interesting tradition. However, I can easily see where it could be tainted. I could see students using the buttons mosr as status symbols and less of a show of true emotion. Like the boys would compete to see who gets the prettiest girl to ask for his button or the girls compete to see who can get the most buttons. This situation makes it less “sweet” as Kari put it.

    I do think that it is a very nice gesture though. I heard one time about a branch of the military in the U.S. that did something similar by “pinning” a girl before you leave for duty. This entails the soldier giving one of his military pins to his girlfriend or what not before he is deployed. I was wondering if anyone else has heard of this tradition.

    I personally would be flattered if someone asked for my second button on graduation day (hint, hint) haha so I can see how this tradition became a popular one. If it truly did come from a military practice, then I can see even more significance to it. And I also though about the high school ring and letterman jacket situation that Kari mentioned. But I would agree that this was different because it was more of a situation where the girl wore the ring or jacket while the two were dating, and not after.

    While I have not seen this tradition in manga or anime, I do watch arguably much less anime and read much less manga then a lot of the other people in this blog forum so that is not surprising. I still think that it is a very nice tradition that has obviously left its mark on the Japanese culture. I also think that when I graduate, I will give my second button to Jonathon because he is my special amigo in class 😉

  5. As others have said, this seems slightly similar to exchanging class rings. My high school sweetheart back in Kansas wears mine around his neck.

    I don’t know if this is true at all high school’s in America, but at graduation it is a tradition for to place the sash worn for graduation around the neck of the person we feel inspired us the most throughout high school. Usually it is given to a parent, but occasionally will be given to another relative such as an older or younger sibling or a grandparent. I gave my class sash to my mom and my honor’s sash to my dad at my graduation.

    I think the idea of giving the second button to a girl is cute, however I’m sure that not everyone uses it as a way to share true emotion. It may have been that way at one time, and I’m sure it’s still true in some cases, but I think that in today’s society, it is probably used more as a status symbol to show how popular one is. After all, teenagers are teenagers, no matter where they live.

  6. There seem to be a lot of similarities between typical American graduation ceremonies and Japanese ones. These similarities, however, seem to have slight distinctions within them. The uniform Japanese students wear is their school’s uniform, whereas in America, it’s a gown in the school’s colors.

    The Dai-ni botton, while it may seem incredibly different from anything we do in the U.S., is not really so unusual. Here, there’s the tradition of throwing up hats when the ceremony is finished, and the Dai-ni botton is just a Japan-specific phenomenon.

    One very big difference that I noticed about the Japanese ceremony is the general atmosphere. While the American ceremony is more festive or exciting, the Japanese ceremony appears to be much more formal, or even solemn.

    Also, when you take these two phenomena- the throwing of hats and the Dai-ni botton- it seems to say something about the way the event is viewed by both sides. Giving bottons to each other signifies a longing to maintain contact with one another. It seems to suggest that the ceremony is not necessarily the end, but a last chance to bond. On the other hand, I remember quite clearly my own graduation ceremony. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t want to finally get out of there and forget high school ever existed. The throwing of hats might reflect this mentality; that the ceremony is the marker of the end of high school.

  7. Gift giving is a big deal in Japanese culture. The Dai-ni is an interesting notion because the girls ask for the boy’s button. As other people have commented, I agree that its cute but can see a slight downside. If a girl asks for a button and the boy already had multiple requests then the girl might not receive it. I would be worried about rejection and humiliating myself if the boy didn’t like me back. Deana made a good point that this could be looked at as letter-jackets in American culture. Cheerleaders would wear the jackets of the football players they liked.

    It was interesting to look at the videos of graduation as well. Giving the diplomas was very orderly and serious. I almost felt as if the students were in the military they way they accepted the diploma. My graduation was nice but it did not feel this uptight. The popular song video sounded like a church hymn. This again showed the attitude of the event and seriousness. Graduation is an important day in Japan however I felt like the ceremony was to uptight to be able to enjoy it.

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