Some liken it to an event as pivotal as marriage. Others say it's a ticket to a super white-collar job, or even the ultimate test of one's being.

The motivations and goals may vary, but the race is heating up in Japan to get accepted into master's of business administration programs, and the application process for fall 2004 enrollment is now in high gear.

Officials from several world-renowned MBA programs were in Tokyo in the past few months to interview prospective students, an early batch of whom have already learned their fate. Several schools also set up booths at a global MBA fair, and even held individual seminars at premier hotels to woo the brightest few who might win multiple offers.