Male Student, 9 Times Rejected with a Deviation Value of 40, Perseveres in University Entrance Exams | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Male Student, 9 Times Rejected with a Deviation Value of 40, Perseveres in University Entrance Exams

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“Four hours on, five hours off.”

Anyone who has attempted a college entrance exam has probably heard this saying at least once: if you sleep four hours, you will pass the exam, but if you sleep five hours, you will fail. In 1990, when university entrance examinations were fierce, 395,000 out of 888,000 applicants were not accepted (Source: Basic School Survey, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). In the past, the ratio of current students and ronin students was usually about 50-50.

However, with the Reiwa era, universities have entered an era of full enrollment. Waseda University, one of the most difficult universities to get into, has a 75.5% ratio of active students who passed the entrance exam in 2023, with less than 30% of them being ronin. Amidst such a situation, there is a person who has become a topic of conversation after passing the entrance exam to Waseda University after nine failed attempts. That person is Shogo Hamai.


While working as an education writer, he also appears on YouTube, TV, and other media under the name “9-Nani Hamais”. Last year, he received the “Social Impact Award” at the “Toyo Keizai Online Award 2023” for his sharply articulated views on social issues that have sparked debate in the world. (All statements in parentheses below are by Mr. Hamai.)


Mr. Shogo Hamai, whom we interviewed this time

“Passing a prestigious university entrance exam might be the turning point in my life.” (same source)

Hamai’s decision to take the university entrance exams was motivated by the bullying he experienced during high school. However, even after enrolling in Osaka Sangyo University (hereinafter referred to as Sangyo University) through recommendation, the environment wasn’t much different from high school.

“Everyone smoked on campus, and throwing cigarette butts was a common occurrence. The teachers would say to the students, ‘This university is no good because there are monkeys like you here.’ It was also in a bad area in terms of public safety, and my bicycle was stolen twice.” (same source)

To break free from such circumstances, Hamai transferred to Ryukoku University. It was there that he encountered a life-changing event.

“At that time, I was doing my best to break free from the environment I was in. What surprised me when I transferred to university was that the students had black hair (laughs). Also, I realized that I was at a lower level compared to the students around me. There was a difference in vocabulary and thinking ability. When I wondered why that was the case, I realized that there was a difference between those who had studied for the entrance exams properly and those who entered through transfer exams. Because of such things, my catchphrase at that time was ‘Because I graduated from a high school with a deviation value of 40.’ I was very negative. I strongly felt that unless the basic academic skills were addressed, I couldn’t dispel my complexes even if I got a job.” (same source)


Hamai made a firm decision and started studying for a new university entrance exam while still in school. However, he admits that self-study for the entrance exam was a trial and error process.

“At that time, I started studying by looking at math textbooks and solving problems in a question-and-answer format. However, since I hadn’t studied properly in high school, there was no way I could understand it. I didn’t learn classical Japanese literature or Chinese literature in high school, and the level of math was such that the textbook only progressed about 20 pages in a year. Because of such circumstances, I didn’t know how to study for the entrance exam.” (same source)


Looking back on those days, he says, “I felt I had no allies.”

Hamai quit the company he joined after graduating from Ryukoku University after just 10 days. Was it because he still had lingering regrets about the university entrance exams?

“I joined a securities company, but I had to pass the securities representative exam to qualify. Since I hadn’t given up on taking the university entrance exams, I decided to quit the company because I thought studying for the qualification would take away time from my exam preparation. But because I was from the countryside, just having my car parked at home would make the neighbors realize that I wasn’t going to work. So, I submitted my resignation and 11 days later, I found a new job at a pharmaceutical company.” (same source)

Hamai’s initial goal was to attend a national university. Therefore, he had to study a wide range of subjects, from mathematics to history, to prepare for the exams.

“I wanted to go to a university that everyone knew. But since I hadn’t experienced taking the entrance exams, I didn’t understand how difficult it would be, and I didn’t know how much I needed to study to get into a certain level of university. My TOEIC score in my first year of university was 305. It took me until the third attempt to finally reach 535.” (same source)

From the age of 18 when I entered Daiichi University, I began my journey as a ronin student, and it took me nine years until I finally entered Waseda University. Why did I persist in taking the university entrance exams for nine years?


“The main reason is that I lacked confidence in myself up until then. When I applied to Ryukoku University, I said in the interview that ‘I want to become a journalist for the economic newspaper,’ and I got in. I think it was good that I had high aspirations, but just entering by luck like I did, the level is different from other students. To get back at the people who bullied me in high school, I thought I needed to go to a well-known university. Universities that appear on nationally broadcasted TV programs, like Todai, Waseda, and Keio. However, since there was a perception that Keio had many people from Tokyo, I, who was from Hyogo Prefecture, chose Waseda as my desired school.”

Due to a lack of knowledge about the entrance exams, I struggled with studying during my preparatory school days.

“I didn’t even know what was necessary to pass Waseda. Even though I entered the cram school that local students attended, there’s no way someone who couldn’t even satisfactorily complete the coursework of a high school freshman could keep up with advanced problems.”

For the university entrance exams, I continued to work as a salesperson while studying as a ronin student until the seventh year. At the same time, I saved up for tuition fees.

“My workday ended at 5:30 p.m., but I worked overtime until around 7:30 p.m. every day and then went to cram school. By October of my seventh year as a ronin, I had saved up about 3 million yen, so I quit my job. At that time, I didn’t spend any money on hobbies or anything like that. Earning tens of thousands of yen in a sales job is really tough. So, I took my classes seriously.”

Although it took much longer than those who passed in their first attempt, how much did the exam-related expenses amount to?

“I started going to prep school from my sixth year as a ronin, and it cost about 2.5 million yen for prep school fees alone. The 3 million yen I saved up while working as a company employee, including living expenses, was all used up. When I passed the university entrance exam, I didn’t have any money left, so I used my father’s retirement money as my tuition. My father passed away when I was 28, but before that, he said he wanted me to go to university.”

It was truly a life immersed in studying, but how much did I study every day?

“In my ninth year as a ronin, I studied the most for about 16 hours. Until autumn, I studied for about 15 hours, and in the end, I reduced it to 13 hours. If I didn’t get enough sleep, my performance would drop.”


After that, Mr. Hamai passed the entrance exam for Waseda University at the age of 27 and successfully graduated at the age of 31. When asked about the good things about entering Waseda after nine years of retrying, he said:

“When I spoke about this, there wasn’t anyone who opposed it. That was the biggest realization for me. Until then, many responses began with ‘But…’ and were filled with negations. Moreover, if I tried to convey ‘That’s not quite right,’ some people would suddenly switch to anger mode, yelling or throwing things (wry smile).” (same source)

“Kengo Inukai once said, ‘Talking can lead to understanding,’ but sometimes logic doesn’t get through,” reflects Mr. Hamai on the past. That’s probably his honest opinion, coming from having achieved university admission through his own efforts.

“I think people who lash out at others probably do so because they lack composure. I understand because I was a similar person until I was around 20 years old. Feeling like that kind of person was really embarrassing for me, and I wanted to change. With the current education system in Japan, your life path is somewhat predetermined by the time you enter high school. I feel like that’s an unfortunate thing. I thought I would regret the choices I made at that time for the rest of my life, so I studied to improve my academic abilities. If I hadn’t taken the entrance exams, I think I would have regretted it, and my life wouldn’t have been happy. So, I don’t regret even the nine years it took to get into university.” (same source)

He also appears in a comedy project on the YouTube channel “Bankaradio,” which has more than 900,000 channel subscribers (from YouTube channel @bankaradio).
An age-old reference book. He says that he desperately memorized the words in a way that only he could understand.
After graduating from Waseda University in 2022, which was his long-cherished dream, Hamai took the entrance exam for the graduate school of the University of Tokyo in the following fall.
  • Interview and text by Zene Ikemori

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