9 Amazing Facts about Taking the JLPT in Japan

  1. Buying a (simple) wristwatch is surprisingly difficult in the year 2014. Quite like pocket calculators and rotary phones, wristwatches have become the province of obsolete Forbes-reading execs… and people with a test to take. If you are between 25 and 60 and still own a wristwatch, you have a serious hoarding problem. Amazingly, even 100en stores do not sell these any more.
  2. The wristwatch is not really optional for the JLPT. Since I knew I would be short on time anyway, I figured I could wing it without one, and just go through as many questions as fast as I could. As it turns out, not only aren’t there any clock in the exam room, but the proctors make a point not to give any 5-minute warning before the time runs out (it’s in the test instructions). The first you hear of their voice, is to tell you to drop your pencil right this second (under penalty of elimination). This is how one ends up with over a dozen blank answers in their final sheet (where filling at random would have guaranteed at least a couple points).
  3. One can always make oneself feel better by telling oneself that they are not there to get the JLPT through cheap tricks and strategising. I’m still getting a wristwatch for next time.
  4. The vast majority of (N2) JLPT test-takers (in Tokyo) are Asian. At least 9 out of 10. Yea, I’d be all over it too if I had grown up reading Hanzi.
  5. The ridiculous level drop between the written and listening sections, tells me the JLPT organisers are keenly aware of their target demographics (see point above).
  6. Similarly, girls outnumber guys about 5 to 1. I was perhaps one out of 3 white boys in the entire 80-some exam room. I wonder if that gender make-up holds up for lower levels.
  7. How to spot the true (male) Western otakus during exam break: they are the ones with the Naruto plushies hanging from their clamshell keitai (note for business idea: set-up a booth in Akihabara to resell obsolete 1990s clamshell phones to FOB Japan nerds looking for the true Japanese experience).
  8. There is apparently no automatic JLPT exemption for “years spent in Japan”. Believe me, I asked.
  9. In conclusion, I’d be very surprised if I passed, but it did actually motivate me to go back and study a bit more seriously, so it wasn’t all such a waste (let’s see how long this mood lasts).