One school hopes a simple motivational tool will help students get into their dream universities.  

When a traditional o-mamori charm or a good-luck Kit Kat just doesn’t cut it, what’s a stressed-out test-taker to do? The answer, according to one preparatory school in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, is to erase your chances of failure altogether.

Takamatsu Preparatory School was recently featured in the digital version of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s most prestigious national newspapers, for a little trinket that they give to their high school graduates who are currently studying for the dreaded university entrance exams. The item in question at first seems like an ordinary rubber eraser, but it actually contains a hidden message:

Readers who have studied kanji may recognize 合格 (gokaku/“pass”), a word which every test taker dreams of seeing, written on the eraser cover. But astute word sleuths may also recognize the common negative prefix  in front of the characters, which turns the expression into 不合格 (fugokaku/”fail”). So why the heck would a school give its paying students something that contains their most taboo word as a gift?

The answer is actually quite clever. Pay particular attention to the placement of the character 不:

Unlike 合格, which is on the eraser cover, 不 is printed onto the eraser itself. In other words, after many hours of studying and correcting answers, the 不 will eventually wear away, leaving nothing but 合格 behind in a symbolic gesture.

A local commercial for the prep school also encourages its students to study until the 不 has been erased. This short clip can be viewed on the school’s website (the video in the upper right), and is narrated by the words “Making a mistake again, again, and again…and passing. Now giving out fugokaku erasers.”

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the erasers are only offered to students enrolled in the school’s post-high school college prep course and are not on sale for the general public. Students are also said to receive a special “non-slipping notebook” to be placed on their desks, which is a nod to a Japanese expression not to ochiru, meaning either “slip” or “fail” in Japanese.

Japanese net users responded to the eraser buzz in a variety of ways: 

“Didn’t these already exist in the past?”
“I think this sounds like a super Japanese idea.”
“But what happens if the cover is ripped and 合格 is lost…?”
“You can change your destiny with your hand!”
“I can’t believe they’re using tuition money on something so ridiculous.”

By the way, Takamatsu Preparatory School assures the public that it does not distribute the erasers immediately before exam season in case any students are especially superstitious. Also, if the erasers don’t work and students still end up failing their exams, at least they have a juicy steak waiting to make them feel better.

Source: Asahi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@sakae0826