Countdowns Until Important Events in My Life in Japan

Countdown until the first day of summer, 2018:
Countdown until I take the JLPT* N1, my first serious attempt:
Countdown until I can apply for eijūken (that is, if I decide to stay in Japan)**:

Time until I turn 30:

How much time do I estimate these things will take?

  • JLPT N1: 1,425 hours beyond N2, though it is impossible to do this by 10/24—though it is a goal for the farther future). However, despite this goal not being completed, I will point out that I have exceeded a JLPT N2 level of Japanese; not only have I passed JLPT N2, I have also passed Kanji Kentei 4-kyū, which is beyond N2-level, and took an optional extra course in Japanese history on Okinawa at Kadena Air Base. I will give myself the benefit of the doubt and call these an "acceptable substitution." :-)
  • DSST Introduction to World Religions: 100 hours (I have already done a great amount of study)—I will do this DSST (or an equivalent test) eventually, but have decided that this can be done after landing a decent computer job in my late 20s. I am going to substitute some sort of computer-related certification or achievement for this, instead, which will also be 100 hours.
  • 300 hours: Creating a commercial Android app, or if not that, 300 hours of something that is more aligned with getting an IT/programming position (such as another type of portfolio work or IT certifications)
  • Total: 400 hours of stuff remaining to be done in the above number of hours
    *What is the JLPT?
    The JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test, is a test of Japanese. There are levels N5 (beginner), N4 (basic), N3 (intermediate-low), N2 (intermediate-high), and N1 (advanced). The JLPT is extremely important for a foreigner living in Japan because passing a higher level means better job prospects, immigration benefits (such as possible access to five-year visa extensions), etc. Not to mention that preparing for it is a useful motivational tool and an objective measure of one's Japanese. I aim to pass JLPT N1 someday.

    **What is eijūken?
    Eijūken is permanent residency. Once a foreigner has eijūken, he or she has the legal right to stay in Japan indefinitely as long as he/she obeys the laws. Unlike a visa, eijūken is not contingent on an activity like work, study, or being married — it is a right that cannot be taken away even if said foreigner becomes a homeless bum! He or she never needs to go back to the immigration office for an extension, or worry about an extension request being denied. Eijūken permits employment in almost every job in Japan.

    Please note that it is possible that I might be able to apply for permanent status (either eijūken or shiminken) in just five years, but this is contingent on various scenarios that are not very certain at this point. For example, getting a high-status job, a Japanese wife, having the J-government enact more foreigner-friendly legislation, or taking a bullet for the Japanese prime minister (though if it were far-right-wing Shinzō Abe, I wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire) are all things that would likely get me permanent status in five years instead of ten. However, none of these shortcuts is very certain at this point in time, so until one of them takes effect, I will plan on "ten years to eijūken."

    Here is a note on how I calculate the time to being able to apply for eijūken: the amount of time until 11:55 AM (my original entry time) on the day ten years from my initial entry date (2021/3/7).

    ***What is the Kanji Kentei?
    The Kanji Kentei is a test of Chinese characters in Japanese (kanji) intended for Japanese people. However, foreigners are welcome to register for it, too. It is called the KanKen for short.

    So why take the KanKen? Because it's a test of writing kanji, not just being able to recognize them (like the JLPT), and reading kanji is so important to living in Japan, and this test certifies and provides motivation for kanji learners. There are twelve levels to this test:

    My Goals for These Things

  • I wanted to take and pass N3 of the JLPT on July 1, 2012, and did. Then I made it my goal to pass JLPT N2, which I eventually achieved, on December 6, 2015. As for JLPT N1, I am not really sure how long that will take. I will have to assess how important it is to have advanced-level Japanese and weigh it against the other factors in my life. If I keep getting one-year visa extensions, perhaps it would be better to pass the JLPT N1 sooner rather than later (in the hopes of securing a three- or five-year extension at the next renewal, which will likely take JLPT scores into account).

  • I have taken and passed Levels 7, 5, and 4 of the Kanji Kentei (1,322 characters). Passing Level 5 was extremely good considering that I had been in Japan less than 11 months when I took it. I could continue to improve my kanji, but I would rather focus on my listening and reading (sans kanji) skills, at the moment. I would eventually like to pass Level 2 of the Kanji Kentei.

    Once I have reached that level, I will probably call it a day on learning kanji, since Level Pre-1 and Level 1 are qualifications not held even by most Japanese. However, if I don't think it'll take too much effort and I believe the payoff might be big (like being able to write a book and sell it, similar to Heisig), then I might be convinced to go for Levels Pre-1 or 1. However, at present, I doubt the payoff from learning that many characters would be very big, and I have no definite plans to take Pre-1 or 1 at any time in the future.

  • I aim to eventually acquire eijūken (preferably) or shiminken (unlikely, because under the current laws, I would have to relinquish my American passport to get that). I want permanent status in Japan because I have lived in Asia for over a decade and consider it a home of sorts. However, at this time, it is not clear how the legislation on these things will change over the next few years (with the so-called "Liberal Democratic" Party in power, the likelihood of any positive changes is extremely low). Furthermore, how long it takes me to be granted either eijūken or shiminken is not entirely in my control (for example, they can make me wait longer than ten years by giving me a long string of one-year extensions, or by rejecting my eijūken application even if I meet all the requirements). Therefore, my plan is to apply for eijūken when I'm 34, though it may be possible to apply for eijūken/shiminken when I'm 29, under certain circumstances.

    Visual Progress Bars

    I have progressed this far towards eijūken:

    1. The solid bar indicates the amount of time I have actually accrued towards eijūken so far. It is a percentage out of 10 years, truncated to the nearest non-decimal number (integer).
    2. The bluish-red bar indicates how far along I am to eijūken, visa extensions-wise. Assuming there is some processing time for eijūken, it will actually take 11 years' worth of visa extensions, not just ten, to ensure I make it to the point where I can apply for, and receive, eijūken. At present:
      A. Extensions I have received: seven years' worth
      B. Extensions I will need to receive (both extensions already received and future extensions combined) to have a clear path to eijūken: 11 years' worth
      (A / B) * 100, truncated to the nearest integer = ~63%
    3. If either the solid bar or the bluish-red bar make it to 100%, I can rest easy, because if the eijūken application process goes as planned, I will not need to worry about getting another visa extension ever again.
    I have progressed this far towards JLPT N1, the ultimate Japanese language goal:
    ~62% (5,035 words certified via N2 / 8,009 total necessary for N1)
    ~83% (1,607 kanji certified via KanKen Level 3 / 1,926)
    Progress on IT Degrees:
    ~100%: AS in IT
    ~100%: BS in Computer & Information Science
    1. The AS in IT was done through Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC). Currently, I have 62 / 62 of the required credit hours.
    2. I graduated with a BS in Computer & Information Science through UMUC. I have 120 / 120 credit hours. However, if I go with another school, the number of credit hours required could be higher or lower.
    IT Certifications Progress:
    100%: Progress on the NVCC Application Programming Cert (11 / 11 credit hours)
    100%: Business IT Cert from NVCC (15 / 15 credit hours)