How I took the JLPT without studying

So a little while back, before I enrolled into language school, I was learning Japanese on my own using this great resource called the internet. I felt that I was ready to take the first, real life hurdle, so I mustered up the willpower to sign up for the Japanese Language Proficiency test, or more commonly known as the JLPT. For the JLPT, there are 5 levels: 5 being the easiest and 1 being the hardest, with 1 indicating near fluency and having a reputation of being notoriously hard, even for some native Japanese.

Upon taking some quick sample test questions, I assessed that my level fell somewhere between 4 and 5, so I signed up for the JLPT5, which was the easiest test, and assumed that there would be no way that I would fail it. I figured this would be an easy test that only confirmed that I knew the basics, so I didn’t study much outside of watching subtitled anime and casually reading all of my foreign food packages. If coming back from a run around Tokyo with a small amount of Japanese finesse could made me feel like a bilingual superstar, then taking the JLPT5 without much studying definitely taught me a valuable lesson as I scooped up a hot double helping of humble pie off the buffet line.

Here’s what I learned from failing miserably at the only test I ever volunteered to take and even paid money to take, just for fun:

  1. Anticipate Travel:

    There are 16 major cities in the U.S. that you can enroll to take the test in.  There are also 3 in Canada, 6 in Australia, and many more in various other parts of the world. You can find your city here on the official JLPT site if you are considering signing up.  I had to sign up sometime in August for the December test, so be sure to pay attention to deadlines for your selected area! Also, research maps for your destination since many take place on large college campuses, you will need extra time to sign in as well and you aren’t allowed to take the test if you are late. Thankfully we found arriving an hour early gave us adequate time to find where we were going and rest before the test began.

  2. Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format
    This is something I looked over, but did not fully understand the importance enough to commit to memory.  You have a time limit for your test and if you are taking longer than about a minute/minute and a half for each question, you will run out of time.  There are two or three portions of the test (depending on which one you take), and after each portion is finished, you aren’t allowed to go back.  So if you struggle with grammar but breeze through vocabulary, you can’t go back and finish other sections. I ended up with a lot of blanks because of this and if I would have been watching the time I could have probably guessed instead of leaving them blank. Here’s the sections and time breakdown for each test.
  3. Be Prepared to Wait for Everything
    I discovered that this entire experience was not only a test of Japanese, but also a test of patience… Which is pretty Japanese as it stands. There seemed to be endless waiting, before, during, and after the test. Not only do you sign up for the test months before you take it, it also takes about a month or two to see your results.  I received my results in the mail sometime in late January/early February after I took the test in early December.  It was pretty rough! The Japanese are very formal so everything came in very neatly sealed, well packaged envelopes. It’s something I kind of love about Japan, actually!


So what was the consensus of taking the JLPT without studying? Not a wise choice.  I got about 50%, which is not enough to pass. The scoring goes by points, and you can check out what you need to pass here.  Overall I learned a lot from the experience, and I hope if you are thinking about taking the test I could prevent others from making the same mistakes as me.  Ganbatte, and study hard!!




Tokyo’s Love Hotels: Posh or Kink?

Since Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I find it only fitting to write about the time Colton and I booked a hotel room for 3 hours by punching buttons on the wall…

so we could sing karaoke… and watch anime… in various discreet, couples only hotels in Japan.

“So here we get a choice between 90’s floral bedsheets room and grandma’s knitting den. Let’s move on to the next hotel.”

We knew we wanted to try to stay at a love hotel since we discovered they existence online. It seemed like a no-brainer, a best bang for buck (or yell for your yen) in luxury. These rooms are often times larger, nicer, and cheaper than regular Tokyo hotels and often come with a surplus of amenities such as fancy hair products and facial masks. My favorite part is that they frequently come with jet tubs and some of them even have televisions in the bath! They can be rented in 3 hour intervals or for an overnight stay (usually only after ~9-10pm) for whatever reasons a couple might need to kill 3 hours (or an evening). On our first week in Tokyo we had a long day of moseying about Shibuya and so we turned onto the famous Love Hotel Hill for a rest. Love Hotel Hill is a strip of love hotels nestled together competing for the yen of Tokyo’s doe-eyed lovers. A similar area can be found in Shinjuku, between Kabukicho and Shin Okubo. Usually you can just find them peppered around the city, as these places are extremely common and represent a big part of Japan’s culture. Most only allow MxF couples but some places apparently allow female couples and female friends will often go to hang out and sing karaoke for a few hours on the cheap. From my research, male couples are less commonly allowed, and some places even turn down foreigners. This is unfortunate, but I’ve seen some places bend the rules if you know Japanese. I’m sure these rules are starting to change in a lot of urban areas so it can never hurt to ask if you or your partner understands Japanese.  In most cases, rates and hotel photos can be found outside the building so communication is kept to a minimum. The entrance and check-in procedures are often discreet for the few pursuing an afternoon fling, some with multiple winding walled entrances in case you don’t want to be seen entering or leaving together with your forbidden one. You just walk in, select a room on the screen inside, and then an attendant from behind a partition will take your fees and give you a key. Easy.

Colton and I walked up and down the hill for about an hour here before we decided to settle down at the most interesting hotel we could find, which was called Hotel R-25.  R-25 had neon themed rooms, including a blue neon Sea World kind of set up with mirrors around almost every inch of the room, one with a neon casino theme (we stayed in both of these), and a few more basic rooms for the less adventurous. It was the only one on the street that didn’t look like the usual, albeit fancier, hotel lodgings. We came looking for a party, and by gosh, this one was a party.

Neon Casino theme!! 

Colton sampling the “thick” futon mattress

We booked ourselves in for the night, as some of these hotels don’t offer in-and-out privileges. This hotel had less in the way of amenities, but it had a neon shower room with a deep ofuro tub and some fancy soaps and conditioners. We laid out some snacks we bought from Family Mart and scored some Kirin Ichiban singles out of a small vending machine under the television. We watched anime while we stumbled around the digital setup and then we belted out some nice pop classics on the karaoke entertainment system. It was awesome. There were a stunning amount of English songs. I don’t remember what we sang but I think there was a Prince song in there. The only problems we had were about the phones, and we sang for till about 11-12 p.m. before our hotel phone started ringing.  At the time I panicked because I didn’t know how to dispute my actions over the phone in Japanese, so we hushed up, turned everything off and went to sleep. It was probably a good call, because there was never a second call, but just keep that in mind before you party too hard… I think most of these hotels are built to be noise resistant, but our room was a bit stuffy and we had our window open… we didn’t think about it bothering other patrons. Also, a lot of places will call you about 15-30 minutes to remind you that your time is up, because Japan is just that courteous.

Since I didn’t take pictures of the neon sea room, Here’s a whale I hastily animated at a Starbucks in the mall. Doing this hump… back.. thing. Aahhh..

We loved staying at Love Hotels while we were in Japan, so much so that we spent 4 nights out of our 3 week trip to Tokyo here. We stayed at R-25 twice, in the Casino room and Sea room, one in Yokosuka called Hotel Goddess, and another in Shinjuku, called Hotel Venus. I didn’t think at the time I would be blogging about my experiences, so this is the only photo of Hotel Goddess.

Those beds really need to get a new hobby. Also wondering about the cleanliness of this wall now that I look at this picture… 

Back to the good one, Hotel Venus was the luxe answer to many of the Japanese needs: Tons of amenities, including herbal bath teas, lotions, hair serums, toothbrushes, hair brushes, face masks, a beverage vending machine, karaoke setup, a spa tub with a television and rainbow lights and more…. all for ¥10000 (~$90 USD) a night. This is in the middle of Shinjuku!

Look at how fancy we messed the hell out of this room

This has rainbow lights that I didn’t photograph. Here’s a T.V., It’s mostly adult entertainment and Japanese programming.

traditional bathing/shower areakaraoke microphones!

Hotel Venus was by far my favorite hotel we stayed at in terms of luxury, it was also where we stayed on our last day in Japan, after we went to the 8bit Cafe. It was an awesome way to spend our last night in the city of lights. The beds were exceptionally fluffy, too. Honest. Here’s an embarrassing shot of my husband for proof:

Colton, I just have to show the world how comfortable you are.

I can’t wait to visit more of these once we’re back in Japan.  I already have booked a place for our first night in Osaka.  If you want to check out some of the places you can stay, here’s an English friendly booking site called  Love in Japan.  At the time of this writing it’s currently in Beta, but you can still browse and it says you can book as soon as Spring 2017. Happy hotel hunting!