Each and every year students around Japan sit down to take important school entrance exams. In mid-January students across the country sat down for two days to take the all important university entrance exams. The importance of these tests cannot be understated. Getting into a good university can almost be like a great retirement plan for some. A great university leads to a great job, which leads to a great salary. At least that’s what test takers and their families are often betting on.
Serious entrance exams are not just for high school students alone. As an elementary school teacher at a private school I recently learned that many of the 6th grade students wrote some pretty serious Junior High School entrance exams. Many took the first few weeks of January off in order to go to cram schools and prepare for these private school tests.
With so much pressure on students to succeed obviously people look for any edge. Lucky charms and objects definitely play a role in exam time in Japan. Some people buy lucky charms at local shrines while others may paint the eye of a Daruma and once they succeed on their exam, paint the other eye in.
Years ago, the confectionary company Nestle noticed that every year around exam time in Japan, Kit Kat キットカット chocolate bar sales spiked.
Of course Japan is famous for it’s unique and often bizarre flavors of Kit Kat bars such a Green Tea, Pudding, Pumpkin, etc.
It seemed that people were snapping up Kit Kats to give as gifts to young test takers. It’s all about a play on words. Kitto Katto キットカット (Katakana English) sounds like “Kitto Katsu” in Japanese. “Katsu” means to “win” in Japanese. Basically it sounds like “You will win!”
Wanting to cash in on this of course, Nestle Japan made the special limited time Exam Kit Kats. They are available each year around this time (Fall-Winter) in milk chocolate as well as white chocolate. Each small package also has a place on the back to write a special lucky note to the test taker you know!
I saw a package for sale today at a local supermarket and bought it. There are still a few weeks left in the test-taking season. I won’t be writing any tests, but best of luck to those in Japan who are!
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