The season for university entrance examination began in Tokyo on Sunday (2nd February) as thousands of aspiring students steeled their nerves for the most decisive test of their careers.
STUDENTS SHOW IDENTITY CARDS TO GUARDS AS THEY ENTER UNIVERSITY GROUNDS: INTO TOYO UNIVERSITY AND SEATED AT EXAMINATION DESKS IN HALL: 500 STUDENTS CHECK WATCHES AND WAIT FOR EXAM PAPERS: PAPERS HANDED OUT TO STUDENTS: EXAMINATION STARTS AND STUDENTS WRITING: STUDENTS AND FAMILIES PRAY AT TOKYO SHRINE FOR SUCCESS: GOOD LUCK TALISMEN WITH STUDENTS NAMES ON WALL: PRIEST BLESSING STUDENTS: EXAMINATION CONTINUES IN TOYO UNIVERSITY
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Background: The season for university entrance examination began in Tokyo on Sunday (2nd February) as thousands of aspiring students steeled their nerves for the most decisive test of their careers.
Many students -- not placing complete trust in their study abilities -- have over the last month decided to play it safe and ask for heavenly assistance in their endeavours. Despite complaints from the older generation that young Japanese have forgotten the faith of their forefathers, shrines and temples across Japan have reported a 20% increase this year in the numbers of examination-takers who have visited those places of worship specialising in educational problems.
One such shrine is the Kameido Temmangu Shrine in Tokyo, which houses the spirit of a famous medieval scholar and is popular with students of all ages. For one or two U.S. dollars the aspirants buy a talisman for god luck and leave with the priest their names, addresses and the name of the college they wish to enter. The shrine claims a high success-rate.
Although the university in Japan has a history of only 90 years, a university degree is essential for any kind of success in Japan's hierarchical and prestige-conscious business-world. It is almost impossible to get any kind of white-collar salaried job without a degree.
Despite rapidly-increasing costs of up to 50% and despite the multitude of places of higher education in Japan (400 universities and 500 junior colleges), competition is still very strong for entry. An estimated 800,000 applicants will take examinations for university this year -- only 500,000 will obtain places.
Taking into consideration the severity of the entrance examinations - and the amount of money the students have paid to sit for the exams - most japanese universities are careful to ensure that the student leaves with a degree. This not only maintains the good reputation of the place of higher learning, but ensures that the donations from former students that make up a large part of the universities' incomes will continue to come in.
Security precautions at examination-time are strict following threats by several student organisations to infiltrate exam-rooms and disrupt the proceedings in protest against the high fees. There have in the past been riots by students complaining of the 'over-acceptance' system. By this system the universities accept many more students than they have space for -- sometimes up to 60% or more. Guaranteed a degree by tradition, the extra 60% are happy to pay their fees and stay away, leaving room for, and in effect subsidising, the remaining 40% who actually go to lectures.