Freelance Announcer Aika Kanda Discusses Unusual Stimulus Brought by Junior High School Entrance Exams | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Freelance Announcer Aika Kanda Discusses Unusual Stimulus Brought by Junior High School Entrance Exams

No.45] Me, Pink, and Sometimes New York

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Illustration drawn by Mr. Kanda

Even in this winter, many students aimed for a bright future by taking entrance exams. I have experienced entrance exams three times, for elementary school, junior high school, and university. Each of them holds many memories, but this time, I want to talk about the junior high school entrance exam.


I failed the elementary school entrance exam and ended up attending a local public school that I didn’t want to go to. Therefore, the junior high school entrance exam was an important test for me, a six-year-long-awaited revenge.

I went to a cram school with the “N” mark, called Nihon Nōken. I was attracted to the system where seats for the following week were determined based on test scores held every weekend. If your grades were good, you got a seat at the front, if bad, at the back. Determined with a different level of tenacity from those around me, I went to cram school thinking, “I’ll sit in the front seat no matter what!”

But it was actually complicated. If you got good grades on all four tests held over a month, you would move up to a higher class the following month. It’s supposed to be a “congratulations!” moment, but for me, it wasn’t. I often found myself in the second-highest class out of seven. The difficulty of the classes and the information I received from those around me were just right for me. Moving up a class meant facing significantly higher class difficulty and the levels of the schools students aimed for were too different, rendering the information around me meaningless. On top of that, there was the fear of possibly being demoted to a lower class the following month… I didn’t want any of that.

So, I was required to achieve scores that would allow me to sit in the front seat without moving up to the higher class.

It was like playing a game, and it was fun. Moreover, there were shocking events happening one after another, which I never experienced in elementary school.

One day, a boy who was a mood maker suggested, “Let’s throw chalk at the teacher.” I was scared and just watched, but as chalk flew past my head and hit the teacher in front of me with a thud, it was an incredibly stimulating moment engraved in my mind. The teacher tried to catch those kids, but they climbed onto the desks and bounced around, escaping. The head of the cram school, confirmed it through the security camera, scolded them over the announcement system, “Stop it!”

Another day, an advertisement for “Dial Q2” circulated. According to the mood maker, “If you call here, you’ll hear a strange woman’s voice!” (I shouldn’t touch the paper that shouldn’t be touched) I got scared, but even in sixth grade, I had a journalistic spirit. In order to verify the truth, I went to the nearest station with the mood maker and made a call. Then, I heard the lascivious voice of a woman saying, “Oh, yeah~ ♡ Uh-huh~ ♡” (No, this is forbidden territory!!), so I was startled and quickly took the receiver away from my ear. Then, a voice saying, “Please insert money to continue” snapped me back to reality, and I hurriedly hung up. Naturally, I couldn’t tell my parents, and I felt guilty for the first time for keeping such a big secret, so I couldn’t sleep that night.

The whereabouts of comrades.

The day after being stimulated at cram school like that, I was fed up with conversations at elementary school like, “Did you watch that anime yesterday?” or “This stationery is cute, isn’t it?” It was boring. Before I knew it, I hardly talked to my elementary school friends anymore. Because I graduated in that state, I never contacted anyone later or was invited to a class reunion.

And now it’s finally time for junior high school entrance exams. Including me, all the kids from cram school passed their desired schools. Unlike elementary school, there are no graduation albums or contact lists. We probably won’t meet again in the future, but we were comrades who studied hard together while causing trouble. After achieving our goals, we disbanded, wearing different uniforms and attending schools in unfamiliar places. And then, six years later, thinking that we could compete as rivals in university entrance exams and continue to study hard, they seemed cool. Even without knowing each other’s contact information, I couldn’t help but feel connected in my heart.

Thus, I’ve lived a life with zero connections after elementary school friends and cram school friends. Even now, I often wonder how they’re doing, especially my cram school friends. Rumor has it that the class clown ended up with bad behavior after entering a prestigious junior high school. I heard he got expelled from the school he worked so hard to get into because he got involved with drugs, maybe marijuana or methamphetamine.

If there was a kid with such disruptive potential nearby, it’s no wonder they’d find regular elementary school stuff boring.

©Kazuki Shimomura

Kanda Aika / Born in 1980 in Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Gakushuin University, she joined NHK as an announcer in 2003. She retired from NHK in 2012 and became a freelance announcer. Since then, she has been active mainly in variety shows and currently appears as the main MC on the daytime program “Pokapoka” (Fuji TV).

From the March 29, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Text and illustrations by Aika Kanda

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