Day of Reckoning: The University of Tokyo Announces Its Entrance Exam Results

Entrance Exam Results, University of Tokyo

On my way to renew my library books today, I unwittingly stumbled onto a mass of activity the likes of which I’d never seen on the University of Tokyo campus. I’m generally struck by how quiet the portion of the campus near the Akamon seems, so today was an utter shock. Prospective undergraduates piled into see if their exam numbers were on the list of those who passed. The anticipation and excitement of the crowd was palpable as they made their way forward to see if they’d been accepted to the “Harvard of Japan.” School tradition mandates that successful candidates be tossed into the air, as shown below:

Entrance Exam Results, University of Tokyo
This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.

If you’re not familiar with the Japanese system, it’s hard to explain just how much these exams mean to students and how hard they have to work to pass them—and college is such an important factor in a young person’s future job prospects that the entrance exam is often seen as one of the most important events in a person’s life. Those who fail often spend another year focusing on exam preparation as rōnin (literally, “masterless samurai”), often in conjunction with special schools called yobikō.

For the lucky ones, however, this was truly a joyous occasion. Many of them took the opportunity to buy merchandise from the campus co-op—in between taking numerous pictures, of course. And representatives of the school’s many sports teams and clubs were present, actively congratulating new admits and perhaps trying to recruit new members. I never really thought about the University of Tokyo having cheerleaders or a football team or a pep band, but it really does:

University of Tokyo Cheerleaders & Band

I particularly liked their drum major, who made conducting look like a martial art:

University of Tokyo Cheerleaders & Band

I took a video of it, it was so amusing:

Because I’m a fan of this sort of thing, I took one more video of the cheerleaders and the band, which you can check out if you’re interested. Another highlight was a group of student musicians dressed in southwest style and playing a style of folk music that I usually associate with Native Americans:

Student Music Group, University of Tokyo

There was also a fellow mysteriously dressed as a fairly creepy rendition of Ronald McDonald. I’m not sure what he was recruiting for—perhaps offering the not-so-lucky jobs in the fast food industry?

Exam Results Day, University of Tokyo

In any case, since I spent most of my time hidden in an office in a quiet building full of professors and visiting researchers, it was fun to actually get a glimpse of undergraduate life. For some, this is the beginning of an exciting journey. For others, it’s time to buckle down and try again. The entrance exams have been in the news lately, since a student managed to post questions online while the exam for Kyoto University was actually in progress—he posted on Yahoo Japan’s Chiebukuro and solicited correct answers from other Internet users. It was later revealed that he cheated in a similar manner on the exams for Waseda, Doshisha, and Rikkyo universities earlier in the month, and the 19-year-old was actually arrested, which is an indication of how important these exams are to Japanese society. The incident has outraged other students and shaken universities around the country. With stakes so high, it seems inevitable that students will find ways to cheat, but universities will have to take action to make sure that these exams maintain their integrity in the future.

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