“I Studied on Location and in the Bathroom!” — Michiko Tanaka, A First-Class Registered Architect, Talks About Her Epic Year | FRIDAY DIGITAL

“I Studied on Location and in the Bathroom!” — Michiko Tanaka, A First-Class Registered Architect, Talks About Her Epic Year

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“I couldn’t believe it when I found my number among the successful applicants,” said Tanaka.

When I saw my number on ___ , I went blank, like I heard a ‘poof’ sound in my head. I read the acceptance announcement on my phone. But I couldn’t connect to the site. I looked on Twitter to see if anyone had seen it, and I found someone posting a picture of their number that had passed, and it was someone close to my number, but my number was not in the picture. I thought, ‘Wow, I must have failed.’ I checked the acceptance announcement site again, and there was my number in the corner, I don’t know how to describe how I felt at that time. Part of me was happy that I had been accepted in my first try, and part of me was relieved that I didn’t fail, since I had dreamed of failing so many times. Rather than a sense of accomplishment, I was more relieved.

Last December, actress Michiko Tanaka, 33, passed one of the most difficult national qualifications, first class certified architect. The passing rate for last year was only 9.9%, a “narrow gate” that nearly 90% of applicants fail to pass. The exam consists of a departmental examination covering a vast range of subjects, including regulations, structural calculations, knowledge of construction, and architectural history, as well as a six-and-a-half hour exam in which the candidate must complete design drawings in accordance with the assigned tasks. She told us about her days until she passed the exam, which she did in a single try while working as an actress.

Tanaka originally studied architecture at university, and before she was scouted by her current firm, she had already qualified as a second-class architect.

When I was a student, it was obvious among my friends and I that I would eventually become a first-class architect. I took the second class right after graduation, but to take the first class, you need two years of practice, and I gave up on that at the time because I entered the entertainment industry right after that. But when a state of emergency was declared in Corona and I had more time, I remembered that was in 2020, the qualifications for the first class exam were relaxed so that one could take the exam without practical experience. However, I was not sure how many years it would take to study, and I was gradually returning to work, so it took me about six months to make up my mind. It was July of 2021 when I began to focus on my studies.

I felt a sense of relief rather than a sense of accomplishment.

It is said that it takes about 1,000 hours of study to become a first-class architect, and if you consider it over a year, you need to study about 83 hours a month, or 21 hours a week, which is about 3 hours a day at least. Tanaka said she felt that if she put it off, she would never be able to do it, so she decided, “If I’m going to do it, it’s got to be done now.”

“I am the type of person who, once I decide to do something, I concentrate on it and devote myself to it,” she said. I quit drinking, which I liked, and turned down all invitations from friends to concentrate on my studies. However, it would be a mistake to neglect my work as an actress, so I had to work harder than ever. I thought I would have to cut back on my sleeping hours, but in these times of Corona, if I fell ill, I would cause trouble for those around me, so I had to make sure I had enough sleep. So, I had no choice but to spare even a minute in the bathroom to study (laughs).

For example, on days when she has to work, her schedule looks like this.

On days when we are recording a drama, we leave at 4:30 in the morning and are taken to a location site in the suburbs. Of course, during the travel time and free time, I studied with a textbook in hand. I would finish shooting before dark and return home, arriving home after 6:00 pm. When I first do the drafting problems, my hands start to cramp up and stop working, so I start by painting the watercolors I do for the variety show “Prevato” (TBS), in which I am a semi-regular participant, while I can still move my arms. After that, I would work on the drafting assignments, but it would take 6.5 hours to do all of them, the same amount of time as the exam, so I worked on them a little at a time. When I first started studying, I thought I would fail the exam, but gradually I began to think that if I was going to take the exam, I wanted to pass it anyway, so I really pushed myself. On my days off from work, I studied for about 12 hours. I think I studied for about 1,200 hours in total. Including days when I couldn’t study at all because of work, I managed to get an average of 3 to 4 hours a day to study. I went to school on weekends, but more often than not I couldn’t go. I often had to work on horse racing programs, and most events were held on Saturdays and Sundays, so I was often tied up all day, which made it difficult for me to attend school.

Holding up the drawings he made for the assignment, she said, “It was really hard work.”

She successfully passed the first round of the exam, held in July. However, the hardest part came after that: the second stage, the design and drafting exam, requires students to complete accurate and appropriate drawings on a given theme in six and a half hours. It was a difficult test, and no matter how good one’s performance was, one could not be sure whether he or she would pass or fail until the results came in.

Tanaka, in her first year, was overwhelmingly unprepared for the exam, and she was also extremely busy at work in September, one month before the second round of the exam. She had a stage performance to attend, and in addition to the heavy responsibility of playing the lead in his first stage role, she had to shoot a TV drama, create watercolors for “Prevato,” and appear on a horse race TV show all at once.

“I spent every day crying,” she said. In addition, three days before the performance, I submitted an assignment to ___ with a grade of C. C is the lowest grade, which means ‘go back to the drawing board.’ I realized that I lacked study time, ability, and everything else. After the performance, I concentrated on my studies and managed to get a passing grade in the assignment submission about 10 days later. During the three months leading up to the second examination, I managed to balance work and study, but I sacrificed a lot. My eating habits became irregular and my health and physical strength declined dramatically. I refused all invitations to meals from acquaintances, so I lost many friends (laughs). And all the video games and comic books I loved, I had to stay away from all and any contact with them.”

This is the notebook she used to write in her daily study. You can see a glimpse of her efforts.

Tanaka has devoted her entire personal life to her studies up to this point. And now, in October, the real test is about to begin, where the “demon of the test” lives, and even the best of the best can fail. Tanaka was probably very nervous and under a lot of pressure, but surprisingly, she was able to go into the exam calmly.

“If you make a mistake in the first 30 minutes of the six-and-a-half-hour exam, you can’t get it back, and even the most capable person can fail. In my case, I just happened to pull the safe one and was able to do it, which is honestly a miracle (laughs). But I decided to go to the restroom once to remember what my teacher at the certification school had told me, so even though I didn’t have much time, I went to the restroom once to refresh my mind and reconfirm things. I think that was a good thing too.”

With hard work, concentration, courage, and perhaps a little luck, Tanaka was able to do more than usual in her acting career while also passing her first-class architectural certification test. What will she do in the future?

Tanaka said, “Actually, after passing the exam, I need to practice for two years before I can register my license, but I am not bound by the two years. Since there is no time limit, I would like to take my time and work slowly to become officially certified. I would like to keep my main job as an actress, but I would like to do both at the same time. I would like to study more carefully and not rush into anything. I have received many messages of support this time, so there is a lot of pressure on me not to be half-hearted in my qualifications.”

First-class architect’s acceptance letter sent to the applicant

When we asked her what kind of buildings she would like to design in the future, she responded in a way we had not expected.

The seminar I took when I was a student combined education and urban design, and the class emphasized the importance of architecture in fostering children’s education, creativity, and sensitivity. When I was a child, I lived in a town where there were many works of art by the side of the road, and every day on my way to school I would walk around thinking that it was like the world of Ghibli, a town that I loved and was proud of. I am interested in designing townscapes that make you feel as if you have wandered into such a unique world. Of course, I also like to design buildings, so I would like to design schools and such.

Her dream of “working two jobs” continues to expand endlessly.

While working as an actress for a while, she would like to gradually start working in the field of architecture.
  • Taken by Yuri Adachi

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