Photo/IllutrationFukagawa High School students listen to the end-of-semester assembly broadcast in a room equipped with air conditioning and fans in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on July 20. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

Although students at Fukagawa High School in Tokyo's Koto Ward couldn't see their principal, he found a way to convey his personal message before they started their summer break.

“I will speak with all my heart because I cannot see your faces today,” Masato Suzuki, 57, told students at around 9 a.m. on July 20 over the school's intercom. “It’s especially hot this summer. I hope you will take care of your body and will enjoy a fulfilling and productive summer holiday.”

As the scorching heat continues across Japan, many municipal schools in the center of Tokyo held a closing ceremony to mark the end of the first semester on July 20.

Schools were forced to find preventative ways to safeguard students such as not holding assemblies in gymnasiums that don't have air conditioning.

That came in response to the heatstroke that was reported among 25 students at Oizumi Sakura High School in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward on July 19 during a schoolwide event. The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education gave notice to all municipal high schools that their end-of-semester assemblies must be conducted in classrooms or other rooms equipped with air conditioning.

At around 10:15 a.m. on July 19, three male students and 22 female students complained of heatstroke symptoms at Oizumi Sakura High School.

Among these, 10 female students were transported to a hospital but none were reported in serious condition.

According to the school principal, Takahiko Kamezaki, most of the 700 students at the school were attending a lecture on avoiding becoming a victim of fraud in the gymnasium, cooled by only three fans, from 9 a.m. to around 10 a.m.

Students were told that they could leave the gym in the middle of the lecture if they needed to rest or to drink water, according to a school official.

Even so, many students started to complain of nausea and headache in succession, forcing the school to call the 119 emergency number for assistance when the lecture ended.

“We sincerely apologize for causing trouble,” Kamezaki said. “We realized that we had an overoptimistic view in our judgment.”

At Fukagawa High School, during conventional end-of-semester assemblies, about 1,000 students assemble in the school's gym, which has no air conditioning.

However, this year, students stayed at their own classrooms to counter the deadly heat wave that has continued to grip the country.

About 40 sophomores sitting in their chairs listened attentively to the principal's remarks amid the soothing whir of two classroom fans.

A teacher responsible for student safety outside of school explained about measures to prevent heatstroke and other dos and don'ts during the 15-minute "assembly." The ceremony usually takes about one hour, according to the school.

After it concluded, the unusual assembly was praised by students.

A 15-year-old female student said while it was “not like a general end-of-semester assembly” she was happy because “the sweltering heat in the gymnasium was outrageous.”

Another female student, aged 16, found the assembly more comfortable, saying, “It was great to sit in a classroom, which is much cooler than the gymnasium.”

Meanwhile, an elementary school in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, held its end-of-semester assembly in its gym as usual.

Since there was no air conditioning in the gym, school staff opened the windows from early morning to let fresh air into the venue. Five mobile fans were also installed around the gym.

“A teacher in charge of emceeing the assembly didn’t give unnecessary commands and just focused on the condition of children’s health to end the ceremony in a short period of time,” said a school vice principal.

School officials shortened the assembly to 10 minutes and ended it before 9 a.m.

According to the education ministry, only 1.2 percent of gymnasiums at elementary and junior high schools across Japan are equipped with air conditioning while 8.4 percent of the school gyms in Tokyo have such a unit, the highest percentage of its kind.

The Japan Meteorological Agency is forecasting the brutal heat to continue through at least the end of this month.

Most areas from Tohoku through the Kyushu regions are bracing for sunny days and little relief during the coming week as the stifling heat is expected to linger.