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This exam season, a statue of an important historical figure at Kyoto University has gotten a Kirby makeover as part of a now yearly tradition.

Hikoichi Orita (1849-1920): A Kyoto educator, Meiji period government official, and dead ringer for popular Nintendo video game character Kirby. Wait, whaa-?!

Let’s take a moment to rewind. Kyoto University, commonly known as “KyoDai,” is Japan’s second oldest university and ranks second in prestige only to the world-renowned Tokyo University. Before the university existed, however, a school known as the Third Higher School was established at the same location in 1886. This school soon moved across the street and its buildings were then used to house the newly formed Kyoto Imperial University in 1897. Kyoto University as we know it today was formed by merging the Imperial University and Third Higher School after World War II.

As the founding principal of the Third Higher School, Hikoichi Orita played an instrumental role in the establishment of Kyoto Imperial University at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, Third Higher School alumni collectively dedicated a statue in his likeness to the grounds of the university in 1940, which was dismantled only a year later for the war effort and replaced with a plaster bust. After the war, a new bronze statue of Orita-sensei was erected in 1950, and the educator once again greeted students to campus…or so he did, for a few decades.

▼ The Orita-sensei statue as it appeared in the mid-1950s

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During the early 1990s, in an unusual turn of events, Orita-sensei’s statue began to be vandalized with graffiti and paint. The university erected a sign with the following message near the statue to discourage the public from their pranks, but to no avail:

“As the principal of the Third Higher School, Hikoichi Orita largely contributed to the establishment of Kyoto University and made a great achievement in building a tradition of free academic thought here. Please do not defile this statue.

Faculty of Integrated Human Studies”

Eventually, the school got fed up and removed the statue and pedestal altogether from its outdoors location in 1997, leaving only the lonely stand behind.

But the story doesn’t end here. Sometime in the mid-2000s, alternate versions of the statue began popping up, especially during university entrance exam season in late February and early March. The trend has continued to this day, and is now an anticipated tradition at the school. Instead of Orita-sensei’s somewhat somber-looking gaze, passersby are now greeted by a variety of different characters, including Nausicaä, Brock from Pokémon, and this year, the plump, pink, and adorable Nintendo character Kirby:

Whoever erected the present Kirby version of Orita-sensei certainly took great pains with their art, as they even included a message “penned” by Kirby game character Meta Knight designed to mimic the university’s original PSA back in the 1990s:

“As a strong Star Warrior, Hikoichi Orita largely contributed to ‘copy and paste’ at Kyoto University and made a great achievement in building a tradition of ‘poyopayopuyo’ (Kirby talk) here. Please do not give him any more food.

Meta Knight”

Furthermore, Orita-sensei’s ever-changing statue isn’t the only odd sight to grace Kyoto University’s campus. Check out some of the other bizarre spectacles that are currently greeting students taking this year’s difficult entrance examination (and perhaps poking fun at those who failed it in the past!):

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▼ “Big brother, big sister, good luck!” (The picture is of Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino.)

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▼ “What have you been doing for the past three years!?”

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▼ “Going against me with this entrance exam is like challenging a shark to battle in the Pacific Ocean!”

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▼ “Good luck, exam students!”

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▼ “Private study room”

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Who knows what other crazy displays will pop up in Orita-sensei’s place next year? Just throwing it out there, but we certainly won’t be responsible for any monkey business if Orita-sensei suddenly transforms into “Sato-sensei”!

Sources: ITmedia Inc.Wikipedia (Japanese)
Top image: Twitter/@jumaean (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: Bulo Hujiang, Twitter/@zkzkzkzk1217 (1, 2), Twitter/@schnee075, Twitter/@solio_taka