Cheat Sheet

A long time ago, I was walking down the street in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and I came across a strange thing lying in the street. I found a pen with a label stuck on the side, bearing cryptic Asian writing. I had no idea what it was since I had not yet started studying Japanese at that time. I saved the pen, it’s been quite a few years since I have seen it, but I just ran across it today so I thought I’d scan it in and preserve an image of it.

Here’s a closer look at some of the writing on the pen. The text says “shinbun” (newspaper) in both kanji and hiragana.

It was many years later, after years of study of Japanese that I finally figured out what the pen was for. It’s a cheat sheet for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which is given annually in the location where I found the pen. But words like “shinbun” are very simple, even a beginner would know them, so this would be a cheat for the lowest level test. If you need to cheat on L4 on the JLPT, you might as well not even take the test. The funny thing about this pen is that both the kanji in ‘shinbun” are wrong. But there’s one more odd thing about this pen. You have to fill out the JLPT test with a number 2 pencil, so this cheat pen would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

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