Your Japanese is good
Today while visting Nara, I popped into a calligraphy shop and picked up all the necessary equipment to do some serious calligraphy. Japanese calligraphy, shodou in Japanese, is something I've been dabbling in since arriving in Japan. After a few months practice, I thought it was time to try the real deal.
It was a small shop in Naramachi, an old part of town, with an elderly gentleman selling his wares. I explained to him, in Japanese, that I like shodou, but that I'm not very good yet (mada jouzu ja arimasen). I've been using a basic brush pen, the Pentel Pocket Brush to be exact (a great pen all around), but I want to buy a beginners set.
Displaying his many years of experience, he proceeded to arrange all the materials I needed. He explained, in Japanese, that I'll need two brushes, one fat (futoi), to write the main characters, and one skinny (hosoi), to write your name. Also, a simple ink stone (suzuri) and a small ink block (sumi). Additionally, it turns out one also needs a writing mat (shitajiki) and a paper weight (bunchin).
I told him that I had been studying graphic design in Osaka and he threw in an extra brush. I thanked him politely (arigatou gozaimashita) and on my way out he complimented my Japanese. It was motivating to hear this. Being able to navigate through everyday situations and to have the ability to learn from and about other people is one of my greatest accomplishments.
It set me back 7000 yen, but it showed me that perhaps there are other ways of measuring ones proficiency in language rather than an exam and a pretty piece of paper. Although, when I get back to the States, I'll give the new JLPT 5 a try.