Japanese student goes to graduation dressed like Zelenskyy

In this image made from video provided by Japan's NTV, a Japanese student speaks in an interview and says why he chose to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's look-alike for his graduation ceremony in Kyoto, western Japan, Friday, March 24, 2023. (NTV via AP)

A Japanese student showed up to graduation as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s lookalike, wearing his signature olive-colored, snug-fit T-shirt and khaki trousers to show his support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Most graduation ceremonies in Japan feature graduates in suits or formal dress. But Kyoto University has its own tradition of students who opt for different attire on their special day.

This year, Zelenskyy was the star at the event.

“I am President Zelenskyy,” the student told local TV network Yomiuri. He said it took him three months to grow his beard. He decided to be his lookalike for the graduation ceremony Friday, because “since December, when I was growing out my beard, I was told I look like President Zelenskyy.”

His performance was not just a comical cosplay. The student, who goes by Amiki on Twitter, was holding a sign carrying messages expressing his support for Ukraine, along with a passage from Zelenskyy’s speech in December at the U.S. Congress.

In the video from TV Osaka, he said he respects Zelenskyy as “the real man among men.”

“We stand for Ukraine! Justice will prevail in the end, I hope so. Glory to Ukraine,” he tweeted.

The student also held a wooden shamoji — a rice serving spoon — like the one that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida presented to Zelenskyy as a gift during his secret trip to Kyiv last week. The rice paddle is a specialty of Hiroshima, where Kishida is from, and bears a prayer for victory, but was bitterly criticized by opposition lawmakers as “nonsense.”

Giving a rice serving spoon to the leader of a country at war didn’t seem appropriate, the student said. “Nonetheless, I’m happy if the Ukrainian people were pleased and the traditional prayer behind it was conveyed.”

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky retweeted a scene from the video of the Zelenskyy lookalike, as well as the student’s tweets showing solidarity for Ukraine.