Exam season in Japan
In Japan, to enter high school or university, students have to go through tough exams, and entrance exams are usually a very important life event for most Japanese people. The National Test Center for university admissions usually starts around the second half of January and lasts until early March. During this time, you’re not allowed to say ‘fail’ or ‘slip’, because students and their parents are superstitious about these words. You’ll commonly see snacks and sweets associated with entrance exams at convenience stores and super markets. The most famous one is the Kit Kat bar, because its pronunciation is similar to that of the Japanese word “kitto katsu,” which means, “you’ll surely win”. It has become common to give the Kit Kat bar to examinees, but they traditionally visit a shrine to pray for their success. Yushima Tenmangu Shrine is one of the most popular.
Yushima Tenmangu enshrines the god of wisdom
Yushima Tenmangu is also called “Yushima Tenjin”. It is located in the center of Tokyo in Yushima, Bunkyo ward, and can be accessed from the Yushima station in about 2 minutes by foot. Why do students rush to “Yushima Tenjin”? It’s because Sugawara-no-Michizane, the enshrined god at Yushima Tenjin, is a god of wisdom. He was a noble man between 845 and 903, and was also a famous poet and scholar. However, he was demoted to the rural area by the Imperial court. After his death, Japan experienced more turbulent weather and people believed that he cursed the Imperial Court. In 1355, people started to worship him as a god of wisdom.
A mountain of votive slates
The highlight of Yushima Tenjin are the large bundles of ‘ema’ plates hung on the Shrine! If your unfamiliar with ema, they are plates on which people write their wish. To learn more, take a look at our past article. In Yushima Tenmangu an ema costs 1000 yen. You can also get Daruma dolls and omamori (lucky charms) to pray for a successful exam. The ones in this shrine are said to work especially well.
3-30-1 Yushima, Bunkyo, Tokyo 〒113-0034