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Exam on Greenery and Flowers to Begin in Spring 2000

February 10, 2000

How much more fun life would be if you could give the names of trees and flowers you happen to see around town--many people must have thought this at some time in their lives. For most urbanites, however, the plants that dot the concrete landscape come across as just vegetation, plain and simple. This is true even in Japan, whose temperate and humid climate supports a rich flora that offers an ever-changing scenery from season to season. Since ancient times nature has played a major part in nearly every aspect of Japanese culture, from clothing, diet, and housing to prose, poetry, and painting. In an effort to revive popular intellectual interest in the flora of Japan as well as of the world, an exam to test people's knowledge on the subject will be held annually beginning in March 2000.

What's That Big Tree in The Little Prince?
The exam will consist of multiple-choice questions centering on the subject of plants and culture. Questions will relate to plant names, as well as the role plants play in such areas as science, the environment, cooking, language, art, music, and literature, some focusing on just one of these areas and others mixing two or more. Some of the questions will test one's knowledge of plants that appear in works of literature, like the following:

  • What is the name of the large tree, known to grow in savannas, that is mentioned in the novel Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery? (Answer: baobab)

Others will deal with the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals:

  • What is the Australian plant that koalas feed on? (Answer: eucalyptus)

It appears that, to achieve a high score, examinees will need to know not only their flora, but a wide range of other topics as well.

From Schoolchildren to Plant Specialists
There is no requisite for taking this exam. It has only one level with questions of varying difficulty, so that a broad range of people can try their hand at it, from elementary school pupils to plant specialists. Examinees will have an hour to answer the 80 questions and, depending on their score, will be placed in one of six ranks. The Parks and Recreation Foundation, which is administering the exam, plans to bestow a special title on repeat examinees who are certified in the top rank three times.

"Our ancestors maintained both a deep reverence and a fondness for nature," says Shumon Miura, a renowned author and the chairman of the foundation's certification committee for the exam. "Love for greenery and flowers lies at the very foundation of Japanese culture. I hope this exam will offer many people the opportunity to begin acquainting themselves with plants."

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.