Report from quest to become licensed Japanese “Vegetable Sommelier”

Okay! I am back from the taking the Japanese Vegetable Sommelier exam.

(If you are curious to learn more about the exam or are wondering why I am taking this exam, check out my About page.)

This is my 3rd time taking the exam. And this is the first time that I felt like I might actually have a chance of passing the test!

In the bathroom, ready to take the exam!

Structure of the Test

Length: 2 hours

Number of Questions: 250 multiple choice questions

Total Points: 500

The points are divided across 4 content sections: Vegetable Communication (100 points), Vegetable Science (100 points), Vegetable Cooking (100 points), and Vegetable “Theory” (200 points). Material on the exam comes from the official textbook.


Previous Exam Attempts

  • Summer 2015 1st Try – I had no clue about anything. I just went with the goal of figuring out the structure of the exam. I could barely sort out the answer sheet. I used up a lot of precious exam time just reading the directions for each section. For over 75% of the exam, I just bubbled answers in randomly.
  • January 2016 2nd Try – I studied a little better this time. I focused my energy on the “Vegetable Theory” section. This is the part of the exam worth the most points. I wanted to see if I could at least pass the “Theory” section.

Current Attempt – August 2016 3rd Try

This is the first time that I actually read through the whole textbook!


Reading through the entire textbook is no minor feat for me, since the textbook has a lot of unfamiliar kanji characters. I mean…”high cholesterol” is not really a kanji that you learn in your average Japanese language class.


Report from Exam Try #3

I headed to Osaka to take the exam. It is about 40 minutes by train to Osaka from here. This exam center is the same place I went in January 2016 (for attempt #2). It was nice that I already knew how to get to the building and find the right room.

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 1.14.54 PM.png

Braving a typhoon to get to the exam

It was pouring rain the morning of the exam thanks to a typhoon bearing down on Japan.


Fortunately the skies were only cloudy in Osaka!


Getting to the exam room




This is the door that I went through to take the exam.

There were 14 people taking the exam. No pictures are allowed inside, so unfortunately I cannot show you the room. It was a standard Japanese-style classroom – 2 person tables lined up in a grid facing the front of the room.

I sat at a table with a guy about my age. He finished after just an hour and a half, and left the exam. I stayed until the end to check my answers.

Now just waiting for the results!

Results should be out in about 1 month. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my remaining time in Japan!

Feeling good about the exam! And even if I don’t pass, there’s attempt #4 next year!!

6 thoughts on “Report from quest to become licensed Japanese “Vegetable Sommelier”

  1. Bonsai says:

    I think you will make it! I had to study a lot of speciality kanji for each industry in which I worked and I did it by reading actual industry texts and painstakingly looking up the kanji one by one. It was the best way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J LeClair says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! I totally agree about learning kanji. Before when I was just trying to memorize the kanji, I was really struggling. Now that I am learning the kanji in the context of the vegetable content I can remember much better! (Plus it is more fun.)


    1. J LeClair says:

      Thanks for your interest! Other sommelier types in Japan include sake and music. These exams are just part of Japan’s culture of emphasizing formal qualifications. In Japan there are exams to certify skill levels in all kinds of areas. For example, the “penji certification” tests the ability to write Japanese kanji with a ballpoint pen! In terms of content, the vegetable sommelier exam is pretty unique to Japan. It might have some crossover with Master Gardener programs. If you are interested more in the content, I’m thinking of posting more detailed excerpts from the exam and some sample questions. Should be up soon!


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