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YumCha! Picks: 10 + 1 Graduation Songs

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

In the US, students usually graduate in May and June. In Japan, it's March; in Korea, February; in China, June. No matter when and where you graduate, though, there's probably a song or two accompanying your final days of school. Songs to belt out together with friends, songs with corny lyrics that ring so true, songs that bring back memories when you hear them again years later.

Here are the 10+1 songs on our graduation playlist of friendship, days gone by and days to come!

1. Arai Yumi (Matsutoya Yumi)Sotsugyou Shashin
Singer-songwriter Arai Yumi (now Matsutoya Yumi) tied the theme of graduation in with another popular schoolyard story in her hit 1975 ballad about an adult woman who remembers her youth by looking at the graduation photo of her first love. A gentle ballad with just the right hint of bittersweet, the song has served as the inspiration for at least two television drama specials, and it has been covered by Hamasaki Ayumi, Ikimonogakari and Tokunaga Hideaki.

2. Christine Fan Journey
Tomorrow is another day. That was the tagline of the 2001 Taiwan coming-of-age idol drama Tomorrow, for which "Journey" served as the theme song. Rather than bittersweet sentiments, this soft, refreshing ballad is filled with hope and anticipation for the journey towards tomorrow and the many possibilities the future holds.

3. Emil ChauFriend
There are many songs about friendship, but few as defining as Emil Chau's "Friend." With its simple and heartfelt melody and lyrics that feel even more fitting as time passes, this Mandopop classic is a campus and karaoke favorite and a surefire singalong for all ages. The Korean remake of "Friend" by Ahn Jae Wook is just as popular in Korea.

4. ExhibitionGraduation
Exhibition, the nineties duo formed by Kim Dong Ryul and Seo Dong Wook, released their "Graduation" song in 1997, though K-pop fans may better know the 2009 version by 2AM's Jo Kwon and Chang Min. Through weeping guitar riffs and Kim Dong Ryul's deep, expressive vocals, the rock ballad captures the momentous feeling of graduating and bidding farewell to friends and childhood memories.

5. Hong Kyung MinTo My Friend
Send this musical letter to your closest friends: "To my friend, I'm able to live by believing in our friendship." Hong Kyung Min's breakout hit may have been 2000's "Broken Friendship," but he heartily affirms friendship in this warm and husky 2004 ballad dedicated to the friends who see you through tough times and make you who you are.

6. IUGraduation Day
Graduation songs are often wiser in years than the young people who sing them, but this one from IU's 2009 album Growing Up is right in the bright-eyed moment. The K-pop sweetheart was only 16 years old when she sang this age-appropriate pop song sprinkled with sunny beats, school bells and endearingly direct and simplistic lyrics. The graduation in question: junior high.

7. Lao LangTong Zhuo de Ni
Singer-songwriter Lao Lang and lyricist Gao Xiaosong tell the story of an innocent schoolyard love in this landmark folk rock hit. Written for Lao Lang's girlfriend at the time (now his wife), Tong Zhuo De Ni recounts a man's memories of the classroom seatmate that he would eventually fall in love with. The song is so popular in China, it became the blueprint of director Frant Gwo's 2014 hit film My Old Classmate starring Lin Gengxin and Zhou Dongyu.

8. Leo KuFriendship
Graduation is a time of separation and uncertain futures, but Leo Ku offers a reassuring message to all potential graduates with his 1997 hit. With a catchy chorus and a simple message explicitly spelled out in the chorus – "The world may change, but friendship never changes" – "Friendship" is the perfect song to get the people singing and the tears flowing at any graduation party.

9. Mr. ChildrenKurumi
Mr. Children's discography has plenty of songs about dreams, aspirations and overcoming the odds, but perhaps none touch pessimistic graduates as much as Kurumi. A song about returning to abandoned dreams and the fear of hope being replaced by disappointment, Kurumi says that it's OK to hold on to dreams even when you think you've grown too old or cynical for them. The music video – about five middle-aged men reuniting to form a band named "Mr. Adult" – earns a tear or two from even the most cynical adult.

10. Remioromen3 Gatsu 9 Ka
Originally written for the wedding of the band members' friend, Remioromen's 3 Gatsu 9 Ka ("March 9th") has since become the quintessential graduation song thanks to its title (the wedding date also happens to be the middle of graduation season in Japan) and its appearance in television drama One Liter of Tears. A rock ballad about two lovers looking forward to a bright future together, the song appeals to Japanese youngsters with its optimistic outlook and poetic depiction of early spring.

+1 AKB48's Sakura Songs
Since 2006, AKB48 has been releasing "sakura songs" every spring. While the practice of incorporating the word "sakura" in the song titles ended with 2012's Give Me Five, the tradition has remained. Welcoming the renewal energy of spring, AKB's "sakura songs" also coincide with graduation season in Japan by delivering messages about growing up, looking forward to a bright future and the values of friendship.

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Published May 9, 2014

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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