The expression “what a bummer!” hit me the other day when I got ripped off for ¥11,700. Since I left school, I’ve been one of the knuckleheads unable to pass the 60-percent grade threshold, sitting every summer for the tour-interpreter test. The once-a-year fee has jumped about 40 percent from last year!

Why is it so exorbitant? Monopoly in action: pure and simple. There used to be an “interpreter exam” several years ago, but the poor organization went belly up the moment a government ministry started exhibiting nomenclature — “interpreter” — jettisoning the used-until-then “tour guide.”

It costs a lot of dough to feed ex-bureaucrats in “independent” agencies. South Korean people have a better word for those parachute-jumpers, namely bureaucratic mafia. Don’t be misled by salary alone: Their retirements knock our coffers several times the amount of their typical ¥20 million salary.

Still missing the animal spirit of competition, I am one of many who must grin and bear it. After all, it is a national exam, no matter what this “national” means.

To candidates for other national tests: Be prepared this summer for bummers ready to mug you.

fumio sakuragi

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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