In a Japanese university where graduating students wear their outfit of choice to receive their scrolls at the ceremony, one student stood out among a sea of black suits and colourful kimonos with his convincing get-up as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Japanese man turned a few heads with his olive-coloured top and khaki trousers at the Miyako Messe convention centre in Kyoto, where his university held a degree conferment ceremony for more than 2,800 students last Friday, days after Japanese premier Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit to Kyiv.
“We remember you. Unfortunately, I cannot support you apart from with a modest donation, but one day I will set foot on your land to help with your recovery,” wrote the Kyoto University graduate who goes by Amiki on Twitter, addressing the war-stricken Ukraine, where Russia launched its invasion on Feb 24, 2022.
Mr Amiki told Japanese TV he first thought about picking this outfit after being told that, with facial hair, he looked like Mr Zelensky. He said he had kept his beard since December to complete the look.
He also carried a placard with quotes from the speech that Mr Zelensky had made to the US Congress last year, adding that he saw the Ukrainian President as a “real man among men”.
Television images captured the student holding a shamoji, or a wooden rice-serving spoon akin to the one that Mr Kishida presented to Mr Zelensky in Kyiv as a good-luck charm for victory.
Giving a rice-serving spoon to the leader of a country at war did not seem appropriate, the student told Japanese media. “Nonetheless, I’m happy if the Ukrainian people were pleased and the traditional prayer behind it was conveyed,” he said.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky retweeted images of Mr Amiki in his Zelensky outfit, and many of his countrymen replied with messages of appreciation for the show of solidarity from the Japanese man, who majored in integrated human studies.
Students at the prestigious Kyoto University have been celebrating their graduation in fancy dress for many years, although not all are obliged to participate.
At this year’s ceremony, the first held in-person since the pandemic, others turned up as political figures like former US president Barack Obama or characters from Star Wars and the video game Animal Crossing.
“The university has a long tradition of being kind of anti-authoritarian,” Mr David Hajime Kornhauser, director of global communications at Kyoto University told Bored Panda. “So I’m guessing the roots go back quite a long time, even though the university officially doesn’t condone (fancy dress for graduation cremonies).”