On Sunday I went totally unprepared head-first into Level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam (日本語能力試験 1級), the same exam I took Level 2 0f a year ago and somehow miraculously passed. OK, that was a lie – I actually did study, but only for a week and a half so I might as well have not even tried. From the beginning I wasn’t planning to pass Level 1 this year, so it’s all good. It was at least a good thing to try it to see how much I can improve between now and next time. Starting in 2009 they’re offering the test in both summer and winter here in Japan, as opposed to only in the winter like they’ve done up to now. So now I have two chances to take it next year, and I think I can do it in ’09. But we’ll see. Just like last year, it was kind of fun getting back into studying. I’ve been living here so long but almost never actually study. Sure, you learn stuff by exposure, but sitting down with a textbook is definitely a better way to learn.

And now that I’ve (re)learned that lesson, I will forget about it until next test time.

Just like last year, being in a flood of other foreigners is always a painful experience. I’m pretty much always complaining about the other foreigners around here, but when you bring a whole bunch of them together in one place you really see the cream of the crop. I suppose I should instead say the cream of the crap, because wow. Since I don’t want this entry to be longer than necessary, let’s just do a quick summary of some of the many things that irked me between sessions of getting pounded by a ridiculously difficult Japanese exam:

  • On the train (yes, that early into the game) there was a group of about 6 foreigners on one side of the car. Just by a quick guess, I’d say there were a few Chinese, a South American, an Italian, and some other generic sleazy looking guy. They were calling their Japanese teacher on the phone attempting jokes and just being obnoxious. I’m sure their Japanese teacher is annoyed enough by having to teach these scabes in class (at some kind of language school?), let alone getting a phone call at 8AM on a Sunday.
  • The mass flood of foreigners (90% Asian) from the train station to the test site, which was about 15 minutes on foot this time. Also slow-walking women are always a pain when they block the entire sidewalk.
  • Several groups of foreigners “practicing” by “speaking” Japanese to each other during the breaks. I put “speaking” in quotes because they must have been Level 4 or so and thus can barely make sentences. Foreigners unnecessarily speaking Japanese to each other bothers me enough already.
  • In the test room: the chick next to me looked like a young, Korean version of Mimi from The Drew Carey Show. Gross.
  • In the test room: the middle-aged Chinese guy sitting directly in front of me smelled like an antique store. I don’t know how else to describe it. I think it was his puffy coat, which must have been stored in an ooooooold dresser for about 5000 years. And his back was less than a foot away from my nose.
  • Korean guy outside who started speaking to me in Korean. I replied in Japanese saying I wasn’t Korean, and that I was American. He kept going in Korean. I got my phone out to ignore him, and he reverted to staring at me as if waiting for me to finish so I could resume “conversation.”
  • On the way out, the Korean guy from before saw me and made eye contact, waiting for me to say something to him. I did not.

OK so the bullet points didn’t help shorten the length of this entry. But yeah just wanted to share those tidbits of complaint with you. This year saw a sharp decrease in the appearance of Asian chicks with emo glasses, but there was unfortunately a large influx of Asian chicks wearing Ugg Boots, which is by far worse.