The Japanese Language Proficiency Test

日本語で:

皆さん、こんにちは!

今年の七月三日、僕は日本語能力試験を受けるつもりです。実は、僕はちょっと緊張しているけど、毎日、日本語を勉強するようになった。

この試験会場は西城大学です。下松駅から西城駅まで電車で2時半ぐらいかかります。友達といっしょに電車で行きます。そして、 試験は難しそうなので、試験の前、友達といっしょにたくさん勉強をしたいです。

先月、大阪の本屋で日本語試験の練習教科書を買った。この教科書の名前は日本語チャレンジです。文法と読む連取だけだけど、とっても便利だと思います。教科書の中には、たくさんの絵があります。時々文法と読む練習はたいへんつまらないけど、がんばります。

In English:

Hello Everyone!

On July 3, I have plans to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. To tell you the truth, I am a little nervous, however, I have become accustomed to studying Japanese every day.

The test will take place at Saijyo University. From Kudamatsu Station, it is about 2.5 hours by train. I will travel there by train with some friends. The test seems difficult, so before the test I want to study a lot with my friends.

Last month, I bought a practice test textbook at a bookstore in Osaka. The name of the textbook is Japanese Challenge. It is a grammar and reading practice textbook, and I find it very convenient. Inside the textbook there are lots of pictures. Sometimes, grammar and reading practice can get a little boring, but I will do my best!

More information about the JLPT can be found here.

Paint the picture

In the middle of April, four friends set out to pepper the fairways and greens at what might be considered to be Yamaguchi’s finest medley of championship golf holes – 27 to be exact, they played 18.

The clubhouse personnel invites the group into the locker room, treated as if they were in the second to final grouping on a Sunday afternoon, three shots off the pace. A half-witted joke is made about how Tiger is probably looming around somewhere putting on his Sunday Red.

“Here’s your locker, sir. Care for a towel?”

“Where are we?”

To the first tee box on the “Out” course, they ride – excited, perhaps a tad confused – making that nervous pre-match chatter, the two newcomers noticing the subtle nuances of golf in the Japanese countryside along the way.

“Really? If I hit my first shot out of bounds, I am laying 4 off the tee?”

“Yeah, but you can play a drop by those yellow markers up by the 150 mark there. And you can tee it up again if you want.”

“Interesting, me thinks. All right. Game on!”

Two of the first four tee shots land in the much-dreaded OB. Those two tee shots are by the newcomers.

“Well, this is for par,” jokes one of the slightly disgruntled, yet remaining positive newcomer as he chunks his second (read: fourth) shot fat and over the bunker-guarded green.

“Local rules. Fair is fair.”

“Man, is it ever awesome to be playing golf again!

“Wait, we’re still in Japan, eh?”

“You read that book, right?!”

“You know it. What was it again?”

“See it. Feel it. Trust it.”

“Paint the picture.”

And so they do.

The foursome escapes the front nine with nothing but a morning filled of laughs, new idioms in shared tongues, and a scorecard littered with crooked numbers too high to publish. But, nine more brilliant holes await, preceded by an hour-long luncheon in the clubhouse.

After four hats are cordially placed on the racks in the dining hall’s foyer, the foursome sits down to discuss the morning’s shots, mostly rekindling moments of fine approaches and should-have-been-would-have-been-could-have-been pars. The conversation quickly fades from golf into that of typical lunchtime topicality.

The newcomers order the hamburger set, while the veterans take a moment to bask in the stereo-type-come-true-isms of such placed order. Laughter is shared around the round table.

“We do not tee off for another hour, so please relax.”

“Would you like beer?”

The food arrives in due time and more pleasant conversation ensues – nothing off topic, mostly about the newcomer’s experience playing golf back home and how they typically grab a hotdog and a beer at the turn and keep playing.

Hats in tow, the foursome returns to the “In” course, bellies full, and sights set on another nine holes of magic.

At the Par 4 14th, the round finds the steadiest of rhythms and the four players trade off one-liners, pars, and honors, as if they had been playing together for decades.

“That ball flew a long time!”

“Lucky. Paint the picture, I guess.”

“Man, I knew you would sink that putt. And you got up-and-down from the bunker, no less. A helluva par, my friend! Scrappy. Fun to watch.”

“See it. Feel it. Trust it!”

“Shoulda hit the P.”

On the green of the Par 5 18th, the foursome stops for a second to take in the beauty of the sakura petals that have quietly accumulated around the putting surface. One member loses his ball marker amidst the contrast.

The final putts drop into the hole, hands shake, and the foursome drives off to the clubhouse with a renewed feeling for the game.

Golf is golf, and will always be golf.

One smooth stroke at a time.

Sometimes they fall.

Sometimes they don’t.

Besides, it is only the good shots we remember – newcomers, veterans or not.

A golfing photo gallery is here.

We Hanami’d!

Saturday, April the Ninth was such a beautiful day.

Families, friends, and friends of families convene for an afternoon-turned-evening of cherry blossom viewing near Iwakuni’s infamous Kintai-kyo Bridge. The setting familiar to that of a fairytale, or that of an epic opening scene to an Oscar-triumphed film. The natural beauty never further than a quick glance to the left or to the right, an all-out alluring panorama, comparable to the top of Lake Louise’s highest summit on a February afternoon. Even the cameras are excited about all the beauty.

People come and people go, sharing in a beverage, a bite of a nabe, a story or two of recent and future travel, grad-school plans, Japanese study, and a smattering of introductions. An intense calm washes throughout the grounds, courtesy of the new petals that considerately hang from the previously winter-worn, naked trees. The sakura petals fall as gently from the trees as that of the previous season’s first snowfall, bringing with them the promise of life, warmth, and that everlasting sense of revival.

Spring has arrived in Japan. And there is no better way to welcome the new season.

A photo gallery can be viewed here.

Brandon’s take on Hanami here.

Nara: Between the Trees

A moment frozen in the reflection of time is captured in Nara, Japan. The day, month, year may matter to some, but not to us. We stand between the trees and gaze at our silhouettes, etched before us by way of some up-and-coming artist’s long ago vision – one that has been captured by the passerby countless times, just as s/he intended.

A camera click, click, clicks. The results: a photo of uncomplicated beauty and wonderment, much like the days, months, and years that lie ahead.

This is what is possible when you embrace the simplicity of it all – perhaps a romantic outlook on life, but is it all not too short to think otherwise?