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Airports Nationwide Support Test-Takers with Player Plaques and "No-Slip Sand"

Airport building operators and airlines ferrying students on flights prior to school test-taking season in Japan are showing their support for the young men and women. One way they are doing so is by putting up one- to two-meter tall wooden plaques. These plaques, typically measuring around 10 centimeters or so across, are called "ema," on which Japanese people write prayers. Ema quite often feature a hand-drawn or printed illustration, and once completed they are offered to a Shinto shrine where they are hung up in plain sight to deliver the prayers to Shinto gods. Japanese airports and airlines have allowed the many students and their friends and family to hang up hand-written wishes to help them pass their tests. To facilitate the delivery of their prayers, airport officials and airline staff have offered the ema to the "god of learning" at the actual Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine in Fukuoka before nationwide testing commences.

The ema displays are set up at Japanese airports including New Chitose, Toyama, Tottori, Yonago, Hagi Iwami, Yamaguchi Ube, Kochi Ryoma, Fukuoka and Saga. Many of the airports promote the ema as a "seasonal event" which they have been organizing for many years now.

Every year Haneda and other airports distribute "academic achievement charms" filled with "no-slip sand," slipping being equated to making a mistake or failure in the Japanese language. The sand is placed on the ends of tools such as screwdrivers so that they will turn screws accurately during aircraft maintenance. An employee from All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (ANA) suggested using the sand in 2009 because it "makes an auspicious sound for test-taking." The charms are now given out at other Japanese airports. Even some rail operators hand test-takers charms with similar sand used to perform maintenance on trains.

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