Today I filled in an application form for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. These range from N5 (basic) to N1 (almost fluent), and I plan on taking N3 in July, mainly because it will be good practice before I take the N2 in December (a condition of my scholarship), and also because I felt like a bit of metaphorical flagellation. Filling in the form it soon became apparent that the people who run the test enjoy putting people into numbered pigeonholes. Thus, my nationality, reasons for applying, and even total study time, was all represented in a digital fashion. What rather disturbed me regarding the study time was that one of the options was ‘less than 100 hours’. Given that after 100 hours of study I could basically say ‘Hello, good morning, please pass the mechanical pencil’, I found this utterly depressing. To paraphrase Patrick McGoohan in ‘The Prisoner’: I am not a free man; I am a number, and not even a very impressive one at that.
In the afternoon I headed to the train station to renew my commuter pass. I thought that I had brought along all of the required documentation, but alas this is Japan, and so of course there was a form that I had failed to fill out. Not to worry though, as the very helpful women behind the counter helped me in a patient and diligent fashion. I do wonder what she thought to herself when I asked for a translation of the word ‘zero’ (for any scholars reading this the answer was, surprisingly, ‘zero’), but she obviously took me for a simpleton. I decided that she definitely did not need to know that I was in fact already a number 6 on the ‘Japanese Study Time Code’.