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One more moon

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This past week I passed the one-month-left mark, leaving just a matter of weeks now before I make the big leap across the pond for the who-knows-how-manyth time.  There are still a few people who have asked me about this, but yes this is a move rather than a trip.  I’m moving back to the US semi-permanently.  I don’t say “semi-” because I have any specific plans to come back to live in Japan again anytime soon, but at the same time I don’t have any plans to stay in the US for the rest of my life.  In short, I don’t have any idea what I’ll be doing even a few years from now so let’s just play it by ear and continue feeling around in the dark like I have been for the past 2.658 decades.  Things haven’t turned out too badly so far.

If moving is a pain in the butt then moving overseas is a machine gun loaded with pain bullets into the butt.  I’ve already sent a few big boxes of stuff back home via sea mail, which is the slowest and cheapest option.  Cheapest in this situation means it still costs an arm and a leg, and I probably should have actually thought about if the value of the stuff I’m sending back is worth the shipping costs.  (The answer is probably no.)  And slowest means that even the first box I sent back last month will probably arrive around the time my first-born child hits junior high school.  But again there’s not much that can be done about that.  I’ll likely send another box or two back and really figure out what will fit in my two suitcases for the plane ride(s) back.  Most of my furniture and appliances are going to be either sold on craigslist or trashed, and even that isn’t as easy as you’d think because the Japanese trash service actually charges you extra to haul off anything somewhat big.  I have to go to the convenience store to buy a special sticker, then register online to have the big stuff taken away.  It’s not really expensive though – only 370 yen for most big items or 750 for really big stuff.

I took the JLPT at the beginning of the month, level N1.  Not especially because I studied for it, but just since it’s easier to take it here than in the US.  It would be nice to have passed it but I don’t have my hopes up.  That being said, I think I did better than the previous time and passing is probably less impossible than before.  Test results aren’t being sent out until like September, and I have to have my results forwarded back to St. Louis so I really won’t know until long after I’ve forgotten about it.  My last time to take JLPT in Japan was also the best because my test site was at Chiba University, the next train stop over.  This was so much better than having to take a 1-2 hour train ride to Abiko like last December.  The week after that I also took a test you’ve probably never heard of called J-Test, which sounds stupid until you call it by its full title of the Test of Practical Japanese (実用日本語検定).  Figured that would be something to bang out before I leave the country.  It’s actually supposed to cover a wider range of levels than JLPT, and it’s pretty much the same test for everyone unlike JLPT which is sorted by level.  You can take J-Test once and get a level grade, as opposed to having to pass a test that is for a specific level.  It’s also cheaper and is offered several times a year in a bunch of locations.  I took it at some place like 10 minutes from my apartment.  I’ll know my score like right before I leave.  I don’t think I did as well as I should have, but again oh well.

I’m not really going to be having a going away party, but there will be two last Y’s parties before I leave.  Everyone should have already gotten the info.  We’ll be checking out “Bizzaro Y’s” in Shinjuku at the end of the month when NR7000 comes to visit.  Yes, there is another Y’s.  I’ve known about this place for some time and actually checked it from the outside back in 2006, but we’ve never actually set foot in it.  I’m picturing the manager there to be a Bizzaro Matsushita.  Maybe he’ll look the same but with a handlebar mustache.  Or maybe he’ll be Puerto Rican.  It will be even stranger if we run into the Bizzaro A-Team there.  You know they exist.  The following week we’ll be going back to the classic Y’s since I can’t leave without saying goodbye there.


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December is winding down to a close, taking down 2009 with it and ending the era of years that we call “oh-something” even though I’ll bet people will still be saying “oh-ten” next year which I suppose isn’t totally inaccurate. I’m still not really clear on what the shortened name for 2010 is going to be. “Ten?” “Oh ten?” “Twenty-ten?” “Steve?”

That’s not important for another few days though. More important is for me to actually get around to writing a blog that I’ve been putting off for weeks, to record the events of the last month of 2009, not really for any particular reason other than me feeling like I should blog more than I do, regardless of the fact that it doesn’t really matter if I write on here or not. But I’ve already started so I might as well finish this up.

The first part of this month was spent with the dreaded JLPT test, which I signed up for back in September knowing very well that I wouldn’t actually get around to studying, and thus have a very small chance of passing. And hey I was right about that! I actually studied for about a week, primarily sitting in “family restaurants” for long periods of time drinking coffee and checking my e-mail and Facebook on my phone while not actually looking at the small stack of books I had brought with me. The test came and went without much incidence. I had to travel up to Abiko city to take the test, which is located approximately 30 kilometers east of THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. As with last year’s failed attempt at passing JLPT level 1, the room was 99% Asians who probably actually bothered to study for more than a week. Oops. At the very least on the way back from the boonies I went to Kashiwa city for the first time where I stumbled upon a Kua’aina Burger shop, which is absolutely awesome and it made me forget that I had just spent more time taking (failing) a test than I had sleeping the night before.

The next part of December that’s worth writing about was the annual Bonenkai, written 忘年会 in Japanese meaning “party to forget the year” which I’m pretty sure sounds like a really depressing and sad reason to have a party. Or is it just me? Anyway contrary to the somewhat suicidal-sounding name, Bonenkais are a lot of fun every year and although it’s kind of a pain in the butt to organize a party with around 30 people at a restaurant where you have to worry about reservations and stuff, followed by a karaoke reservation where nearly everyone’s RSVP is “oh I don’t know yet,” it was totally worth it. I also kind of figured that since there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be leaving Japan before next December, this would be my last Bonenkai so I might as well live it up and make the most of it. Was able to organize everyone together for a good party, so I was satisfied. Thanks to everyone who made it out!

I’m kind of forgetting other events of December, but JLPT and Bonenkai were the most important before coming back home for the holidays. Will write more later.

2009 JLPT apps due Friday

2009年度 日本語能力試験

I bought the application packet like two weeks ago. Glad I finally opened it last night to see that the due date’s the end of this week. I’m giving Level 1 another shot even though I haven’t really studied Japanese since last year. Haha, oops!

JLPT 2008 Carnivale Extravaganza


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.

2008 JLPT App

2008日本語能力試験 受験案内 - Japanese Language Proficiency Test

I haven’t really decided (or thought too much about) whether or not I’m going to take the JLPT (日本語能力試験) this year, but I bought the application packet anyway. Instead of having a modern application system, like say, on the internet, you have to actually get this 500-yen packet at a bookstore, fill it out, and send in your complted documents via snail-mail.

Anyway, for anyone else taking it (I know a few of you are), here are some of the specifics for this year’s exam:

  • Test date: Sunday December 7, 2008
  • Application Period: Aug 1 (Fri) ~ Sep 12 (Fri) (SOON)
  • Cost: 5500 yen + 500 yen application packet = 6000 yen
  • Test results announced: Mid-Feb 2009

That only applies for people IN JAPAN. I don’t know about if you’re doing this in a different country. Here’s the official site.

If I end up taking it, I’m highly doubtful I would pass unless I seriously started studying ASAP. I passed Level 2 last year, but Level 1 (top level) is quite a jump up. Here’s the official description: The examinee has mastered grammar to a high level, knows around 2,000 Kanji and 10,000 words, and has an integrated command of the language sufficient for life in Japanese society. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 900 hours.

Yeowch. 2000 kanji!? 2-kyu only required 1000! That in itself will probably bone me. I’ll try and look at the sample exams from previous years sometime soon and see if it’s even worth applying. If it’s a total loss I’ll just sell my application packet to someone else. If it seems like it might be possible I’ll give it a shot, since they only offer the test once a year (for now).

Blogs I wrote about 2007’s JLPT: Part 1 and Part 2

JLPT Results


Finally got the results of the 日本語能力試験 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) that I took back in December. And whadda ya know, I passed it. So at least now I don’t have to worry about that anymore.


My best section was Listening, then Writing/Vocabulary, then Reading/Grammar. Pretty much exactly as I expected, and how I did on most of the practice tests. I’m not going to post my exact score, but I did a good deal better than just barely pass. Note, however, that pass was only 60% of the total 400 points.

No plans to study for and/or pass Level 1 in December 2008 when the test is administered next. I might take it, but I don’t plan on passing.

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