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    A support project for examinees at a shop at Hirosaki Station: selling chocolates and apples to pray for success

    A support project for examinees at a shop at Hirosaki Station: selling chocolates and apples to pray for success

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    The ``Tsugaru Shinkokai,'' a shop located in the east-west passageway ``Azumashirodo'' of JR Hirosaki Station, is currently running a program to support students taking entrance exams.

    This store sells Tsugaru bento boxes, apples, food and drinks, etc. It opened in 2012 (Heisei 24), and plans to support examinees began around 2015 (Heisei 27). The owner, Kano Mikami, says, ``Hirosaki Station is a place where many students taking entrance exams visit.I visited Hirosaki by myself, and when I saw students heading to take their entrance exams, I wanted to support them.''

    Initially, the support project was to hand out KitKat, a chocolate confectionery made by Nestlé Japan (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture), to test takers. The students affixed a ``prayer pass'' stamp on the package, which they had prayed for at Hirosaki Tenmangu Shrine, which is dedicated to the god of learning, Michizane Sugawara, and prayed for success.

    A sign saying ``Keppare Shoko,'' which means ``Do your best'' in the Tsugaru dialect, was installed to encourage examinees, and they also started selling ``Kokou,'' an apple developed by Hirosaki University. This apple variety has various meanings such as filial piety to one's parents and passing the exam in high school, and has been chosen as an apple variety to encourage students taking entrance exams.

    Kit Kats used to be distributed to test takers who purchased boxed lunches, but now they are also being distributed to the test takers' families and other people besides the test takers. ``Not only the students taking the exam, but also their families are working hard, so I wanted to support them.It's just a moment of handing out chocolates, but I'd be happy if I could be a little closer to the students' feelings,'' said Mikami.

    Hirosaki Station has also set up displays to coincide with the exam season, including a special board where people can put votive tablet stickers in front of a giant apple object, and a video showing messages of encouragement from station staff. This year, we also made a board on the wall of the waiting room. The installation will be open until February 29th.

    This year, I was approached by students who were accepted into Hirosaki University, and asked to shake my hand by prospective students. Mikami says, ``This year's Kit Kat distribution is scheduled to end this week, but I hope that all of the test takers will welcome spring with smiles.''

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