Taking a Test? Have a Pocky!

March 3, 2008 at 9:50 am 2 comments

Right now, millions of Japanese school kids are sharpening their pencils and putting their brains into gear for entrance exam season.

With the academic year beginning in April, students are preparing now for a seat in a good school. The competition is stiff so it’s common practice for parents to dish out part of their income for after-school test prep classes, called juku. In the U.S., we have Kaplan and Princeton Review, but those begin at the college level. In Japan, it starts as young as kindergarten.

Back in the day, I was a nervous wreck taking the SATs, which is the standardized college test in the U.S. No matter how hard I studied I never felt fully prepared. I even tried hypnosis and daily affirmations to boost my confidence. Any amount of encouragement was necessary to overcome that uphill battle.


In Japan, encouragement comes by way of candy. Walk down the aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see several of your favorite sweets – Kit Kats, Pocky and the like – printed with cheers like “You can do it!” and “We’re rooting for you!” They’re called gokaku (passing the exam) goods and though the price and content are the same, to the ambitious student these god-sent gems look like bona fide assurances of success. If I were a student I’d buy every box of gokaku candy I find and then slowly consume each one as I stay up all night studying.

Japanese consumers love matching their mood with their food. That’s why so many products change their look to fit the season. In the summer you’ll see bright yellow colors and a proliferation of thirst-quenching citrus. During fall and winter there’s shades of sweet-potato brown and milky white. Springtime adds cherry blossoms to both chocolate and potato chips.

So when entrance exam season comes around the only thing students are in the mood to know is that in a few months they’ll pass with flying colors. That’s why they have Pocky on their side. Just in case.


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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Entertainment, Japanese Foods. Tags: , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Get Your Good Luck Poop Today « Japanizmo Staff Blog  |  February 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    […] As I mentioned last year, students carry around all kinds of tokens of good luck to boost their confidence. And they eat up snacks like Pocky and Kit Kat inscribed with encouraging messages to study hard. But here’s a new product twist: bookmarks stuffed with Koala poop! A zoo in Nagoya has begun passing out these fragrant products for free to local students. Last year they handed out 300, but due to high demand they’ve increased their supply to 500. What the…?! […]

  • 2. Why Yes, That Comes in Green Tea Flavor « Staff Blog  |  March 28, 2008 at 7:35 am

    […] sells green tea pretzels (with “black honey syrup flavor”), green tea caramels, green tea Pocky and green tea Nestlé Kit Kats! You can read a not-so-favorable assessment of the Kit Kats at […]


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March 2008


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