The examination season have hit Japan again. As the university students take their end of semester exams, the high school students face a bigger exam, probably the biggest in their life;
The JYUKEN (pronounced as jew-can), The Japanese University Entrance Exam.
It’s a national phenomena. All high school student’s eyes will be focused on books, books and more books this couple of months. Well, at least if securing a good university afterward means anything to them.
And during this time, the self-proclaimed ‘I-don’t-believe-in-God’ Japanese teenagers will ironically visit a shrine, to ask God for help in the examination. Kamidanomi (Asking God’s help), they call it. Well, to me, that act alone just proves that, in spite their denial, deep in their hearts, they still believe of an entity that could help them during hardship!
Another interesting phenomena is the student’s food consumption. Parents will try their best during this period to give nutritious food for their jyuken candidates children. Fishes with high DHA content, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc are on the menu. Snacks and junk foods, on the other hand, are off.
Now, this is a great concern amongst the junk food companies. Here are their number one prized costumers, but due to this examination period, they realize that their sales would decrease significantly.
Something must be done to counter this phenomena. The question is, what?
Well, through my experience talking with friends and observing the surroundings, here are some of them, which I think was kinda creative:
1) From sugar to glucose.
As many of us know, chocolates or chocolate based junk foods are high in sugar content. Even though there are glucose present, it is not the main ingredient and existｓ in such a tiny portion. High sugar consumption is no good. Glucose on the other hand, helps to stimulate the brain.
So chocolate companies uses glucose (or ぶどう糖(budoutou) in Japanese) to promote their products. Some brands go as far as creating a totally different type of chocolate that really has a higher amount of glucose compared to sugar, where as some brands just ‘cheats’ the customers by promoting that they too have glucose in their products, but the portion still is very low compared to the no good sugar!
Here is one example of a product:
The left one is the normal product, where as the right is the ‘jyuken-mode’ one. Note the product character wears a graduation suit and that ‘Genius prayer with glucose’ in Japanese is written on the packet. (Don’t ask me what that means!) By the way, the quotation is written on a picture of a small wooden piece, which are available in shrines for people to buy and write down their wishes on it, and after wards hang it up near the praying place.
‘Genius prayer with glucose’?? Weird…
2) Packaging change
As some food companies here change their product’s packaging to celebrate the 4 seasons, the jyuken season is no exception! Not only the packaging, the commercials on the product racks and billboards also changes to jyuken-mode. Pictures of high school students, class environment, lucky charms, etc. You get the picture.
3) Change of brand name
This point is the most interesting. It relates to (2), that is, some product’s name even changes to jyuken-mode names! I believe this phenomena is not widely known amongst the foreign students here, because it is kind of subtle. But the japanese know it quite well. As the title on this entry suggests, one of the famous ‘name changing’ brand is Nestle’s Kit Kat.
Actually Kit Kat doesn’t really need to change much, since they are pronounced as Kitto Katto (キット・カット). This term is very close to Kitto Katsu (きっと勝つ), which literally means ‘Win, surely’, or roughly ‘Sure Win’! Upon hearing this fact, a Malaysian friend said, no wonder his teacher gave him a Kit Kat bar before an upcoming exam! Naruhodo! (So that’s it!)
This year, Kit Kat stepped up a gear by releasing a special Kit Kat box, which enables somebody to send the Kit Kat to an acquaintance who is taking the jyuken! Simply buy the special box (more expensive than the normal one, of course), buy a stamp, and on the outside of the small box, you can write the name of receiver, his/her address and a message for him/her. Just post the whole box afterwards.
(Written on the top: ‘Your feelings, delivered’. Written on the sakura petal: ‘Surely, sakura will bloom’. Written on envelope image: ‘Kit (Kat) mail’)
But Kit Kat is not alone in this strategy.
There is a product called Lotte Toppo (トッポ) which turns into ToppA (トッパ), which literally means ‘To exceed (in the exam)’, as shown below,
Note the existance of the pink sakuras/cherry blossoms (Japanese national flower) on the background, just like the Kit Kat one. The start of a new semester in universities here are in April, which is in spring. Sakura blossoms in spring, so it signifies that the students will look forward to the new university semester in spring, when the sakura blossoms! Kit Kat fully utilizes this concept in its commercials.
Another product which is called Kaaru (カ～ル) turns itself into Ukaaru (うか～る), which is near to the Japanese word of ‘Ukaru’(うかる/受かる), literally meaning ‘To pass (the exam)’!
It is fun to see how the Japanese play with words. These are just a fraction of their love of word play!
O Japan, thou creativity always make me smile!
All you guys taking exams out there, no matter where you are, GAMBATTE KUDASAI (all the best)!