This was the test which could earn me a spot in the most prestigious medical university in Japan. It would be an honour to enter this university to learn and to hone medical skills. The enter test was a major concern to all of us, nobody had ever divulge any information about it, so I had no clue about what was about to happen.
BEEP. BEEP. My phone was ringing, it was 3 in the morning, BEEP. BEEP. I picked up my phone just to see an unknown number, and it was days before the enter test, my finger slapped the pick up button, and I put it on my ear. “Dear candidate, please proceed to the medical building, Block C, in half an hour, this is an emergency, we are calling all candidates to head to the rendezvous point. Thank you…” the monotonous robotic voice message spoke in Japanese after then. I hesitated, but I knew it was a test, an ‘on-call’ test.
I scrambled out of my bed, slipped into my prepped attire, rushed out of the door without forgetting my keys, but slacked on my cleanliness. There was no train heading to the medical building at these hours, so I stopped a cab to take me there. “Good morning, can you take me Takeshi medical building?” in Japanese, the cab driver nodded, “Is it possible to reach there at half an hour?” the cab driver nodded calmly once again. I uttered my thank you and folded my thoughts in sheer anxiety.
A moment passed in a flare of my thoughts about the test. I got down off the cab, as I wanted to retrieve my wallet, there was nothing inside my pocket. “Sorry, I did not bring any cash, can I transfer the money through my phone?” I asked politely, in a rather bashful tone. The cab driver gave me a warm smile, the street lights brightened his warm and old complexion, he was a kind man. I transferred the credits to him in a flash, got down of the cab, took a bow to him as a sign of gratefulness. I rushed myself into the building, meeting thousands of candidates staring blankly into the pixelated screens.
I accessed the crowds to spot any familiarity, but no, unfortunately. The emergency call was akin to a fluke, maybe only 20 percent of us made it to this place. “Candidates, please remain silent as the first test is about to begin.” the monotonous robotic voice boomed the hall. Chatters were starting in the hall as the people looked away from their phone. “Please proceed to the point beyond this room, where each tables are assigned with your names.”
The candidates obeyed, when I got into place, the colossal room felt so hollow, as there were too many empty spaces, the nearest candidates to me were a few tables away from me. “Test one, make one rice grain sushi according to the given instructions.” A tray emerged from the table top, it had only 20 grains of rice in a bowl, and a few slices of normal piece sashimis. A screen emerged in front of us, illuminating the array of sushi that we needed to prepare, a whopping total of 20 sushi which is equivalent to the total given rice grains. shit.
There was just a small pair of chopsticks, and a miniature scalpels. The instructions were clear, follow exactly the size of the pictures of sushi, and make them, simple. My hands were shaking, and buttery due my sweaty palm. I picked up the first slice of sashimi, sliced it with the scalpel, compared the size with it on the screen, and laid it on top of one grain of rice. Repeat, the sashimi were of different textures, and some of the sushi required me to wrap it with seaweed, that was the part where I fumbled.
The meticulous level of doing this was of utmost importance. 05:00, the clock was ticking down, shit. I didn’t realise there was a time limit. I was not even half way there. Anxiety kicked in, my heart started pounding like a wild horse, beads of sweat started to roll down and dripped on the table. Slowly… Carefully… Grab the grain of rice with minimum force, try not to drop it… Walla, it’s on the tray… Now for the fish. Slice it thin enough to match the picture, scalpels in, mini sashimi out, smooth cut, place it on the grain of rice, gently dab on them to make them intact… Done. Seven done. Thirteen to go. I was careful not to breath on my desk.
03:31 I finished five sushi at a go. 00:10, ten more seconds, 3 more sushi to go. I kept my composure, and shoved everything in place of the tray. 00:03, 2, 1… the tray lowered back into the table without a moment’s notice, I still had two more sushi to go. My confidence level dropped drastically, I looked around, and saw a few candidates around me were covering their eyes to hide their tears and fears. Some even messed up the whole table with smudged grains of rice.
“Next test is an origami test. Read the instructions carefully. And your time starts now.” Another tray of objects sprung out of the table. I examined the materials given, a miniature scalpel, a ruler, a pair of scissors, and a piece of A4 paper. The screen flashed another set of 20 different origami, really not an origami person, but I would have to adhere to the instructions very carefully.
The folding instructions were clear, I was able to grasp the first 10 origami, but after that, shit just got real. I made sure my breath did not blow away the previous ten origami which I had made. Anxiety gripped me, but composure kept me up. I read the next one, I did not even know where to start, I skipped a few ones, and it was the same complicated jargon.
04:00 What? I rushed myself to be even faster, and making sure not to falter. Fold this, this goes here… and this goe… wait… this is not right. I was still stuck with the eleventh origami until the very last second. The tray shrugged back into position without my notice. My heart pounded really hard against my ribs. I wiped my palms on my shirt. “Thank you for your time, candidates. We will inform your result in a week’s time. Have a nice day!”
Everyone’s faces were filled with pangs of mixed fears, anxiety, nervousness. I walked out of this building, not hoping a place in this university, and guess what. “Sorry to inform you that you have failed this test. Thank you for your time and effort. Have a nice day!”