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Almost all public elementary and junior high and high schools hoisted the Hinomaru flag at their graduation and entrance ceremonies this spring in accordance with instructions issued by the Education Ministry, according to a survey released Friday by the ministry.

The ministry has conducted the survey every year since the 1990 introduction of a guideline that calls on schools to raise the national flag and have the national anthem sung at these ceremonies.

This spring, for the first time, all of the 3,928 high schools across the country hoisted the Hinomaru at their graduation ceremonies, a dramatic surge compared with 10 years ago, when about only 80 percent of the schools raised the flag — which was then not officially the national flag.

As for elementary schools and junior high schools, 99.9 percent raised the flag at both spring ceremonies, according to the survey.

Concerning “Kimigayo,” students were told to sing the national anthem during the ceremonies at 98 percent to 99 percent of the nation’s schools, roughly 23,000 elementary schools and 14,000 junior and senior high schools, the survey results show.

Ministry officials said they welcome the improved figures, but will continue to instruct the heads of prefectural boards of education to ensure that all schools follow the educational guideline.

The Hinomaru and “Kimigayo” have traditionally served as de facto national symbols, but they were legally recognized as the national flag and the anthem in 1999.

The official recognition of the two had been a sensitive issue because of their links to Japan’s Imperial system and wartime militarism.

But the law making the flag and anthem official was enacted after a high school principal in Hiroshima Prefecture in February committed suicide in 1999, apparently caught between school authorities and teachers over an order from the prefectural education board that “Kimigayo” be sung at its graduation ceremony.

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