Every year, Keio University holds official reunions for members of its alumni, who are affectionately known as jukuin. Celebrations are held separately by graduating class: 25-year alumni gather at commencement in March, 50-year alumni come to the April entrance ceremony, and 51-plus alumni are invited to a spring reunion in May. Though the shape and size of the gatherings have changed over the years as the number of graduates grows, they remain an invaluable opportunity for jukuin to reminisce and connect with former classmates.
The first Reunion for Keio Alumni, called the jukuin shotaikai in Japanese, happened in 1953 for alumni celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversary of their graduation. These jukuin were invited as honored guests to that year’s commencement, held in the Mita Hilltop Square, alongside fellow alumni who graduated more than fifty years prior.
Invitations were sent out to 1,089 eligible jukuin nationwide with a total of 110 attending to rekindle old friendships at an afternoon banquet held in the Student Hall at Mita. The oldest alumnus in attendance at this first reunion was Class of 1889 graduate Ginjiro Fujiwara, who was 83 years of age at the time. One of the founders of Keio’s Faculty of Science and Technology, he served as the former president of Oji Paper in the prewar era and was commonly known as Japan’s king of paper manufacturing.
The first Reunion for Keio Alumni took after silver and gold wedding anniversaries, celebrating the professional success of 25-year alumni as well as the health and longevity of 50-year alumni, many of them well into their seventies. At the same time, the event was also intended for alumni to reminisce about their school days as they celebrated the current graduating class at commencement.
With an increasing number of alumni, the reunion was split in two in 1986, dividing 25-year and 50-year alumni from the 51-plus, who were invited to a reunion in the pleasant spring weather of May. The first of this split reunion featured a ceremony in Classroom 518 in the West School Building on Mita Campus (now the West School Building Hall), followed by a social gathering in the university-operated cafeteria (now the Co-op Cafeteria). Attendees to this reunion included the likes of former Keio presidents Shohei Takamura and Saku Sato.
In 1988, the reunion was further split into morning and afternoon ceremonies as the number of guests reached 1,000. In 1994, this number rose to 1,700, and the Yamashoku cafeteria was added as a venue. That same year, the 50-year alumni reunion was moved from commencement in March to the entrance ceremony in April, a tradition that continues today.
When the number of 51-plus alumni surpassed 2,000, the reunion moved to the spacious Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall, where the morning and afternoon ceremonies were combined into a single event once more. In 2006, ceremonies were held at different times in two locations: the Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall and Hiyoshi Kaido, which also serves as the Keio Senior High School Gymnasium. In 2012, when attendance reached 3,900, a third venue was added at the Hiyoshi Cafeteria Building. That same year, the inaugural class at the Faculty of Business and Commerce celebrated 51 years since graduation. Then, in 2013, proceedings returned once more to a single venue at the Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall, though the event was again split into morning and afternoon ceremonies.
A few years prior, in 2009, the reunion was held outside of Keio for the first time due to plans to rebuild the Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall. A large team of Keio staff and students was assembled to guide the guests from Shinagawa Station to the venue at the International Convention Center Pamir inside the Grand Prince Hotel Shin-Takanawa. The reconstruction plans eventually fell through, and the Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall instead received structural reinforcements, which allowed the 51-plus reunion to return to Hiyoshi Campus from 2010 to 2015.
In 2019, with construction now underway on a new Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall, both the entrance and commencement ceremonies were held inside the exhibition halls at the Pacifico Yokohama while receptions for 25-year and 50-year alumni were held at the InterContinental Yokohama Grand and Yokohama Royal Park Hotel, respectively.
In addition to the official reunion, 25-year alumni also organize their own pre-parties. Many choose to donate money that goes to support current Keio students, and those who do are gifted a "second graduation yearbook." 50-year alumni celebrate with large get-togethers as well and contribute donations that are earmarked to improve university facilities. Alumni are also invited to Mita-Kai Homecoming Day (called the Keio Rengo Mita-Kai Taikai), where the president of Keio presides over a special social gathering in their honor.
In many cases, these reunions provide an opportunity for alumni to reaffirm old friendships and forge new ones with fellow Keio graduates. No matter their shape or size, they will continue to be cherished as symbolic events that cement the close ties that Keio University shares with its alumni.