You get assigned to the test site, and it can vary from year to year. This year I took the test at the Osaka Sangyou University in Daito in northeastern Osaka. I took it here last year as well. It seems perhaps this site is only for N1 level tests as I didn't see any signs or anything for lower levels. Perhaps they've started to divide test sites by level. dd
Two things hit me this year. First, I often seem to have luck with the weather. I can remember only one single time it rained; all other years it's been beautiful autumn/winter weather with clear, high skies, autumn leaves and that fresh bite of cold in the air. It's a good time of year here in Kansai.
Second, as far as I can remember I have always been assigned a seat on the left hand edge of a table. Never once in the middle (when there is a middle seat) and never on the right hand side. After eight tests (or is it nine now?), it's really fairly improbable — the odds are around 1 in 850 — to happen by chance¹.
Of course, the chance for it to happen to me is small, but with hundreds of thousands of test takers in a year and five levels to take, thousands of people take the test multiple times, so it's all but certain that it happens to someone. So it's unexpected, but not at all strange; there's no need to find an explanation other than random chance.
This one is taken with the Xperia Tablet Z, by the way; camera quality is not unimportant of course, but a good camera is not necessary (nor is it sufficient) for a decent picture.
The test itself? Well... The good news is that it did feel a bit easier than last year. The listening, especially, was fairly comprehensible to me; most of my problems were really more of the "which answer fits the situation better?", or "I lost focus and missed the beginning" kind, not "I don't understand what they're saying". I guess weekly meetings in Japanese, over a noisy low-fi internet connection, has really paid off.
The bad news: I got the ending time wrong by ten minutes for the first half, so I had to leave the last reading questions altogether, and just blindly mark something. The reading questions at the end account for a large part of the score so this is going to hurt me badly. I expect a score somewhere in the 80's point range, and I really need to have improved to manage a score in the mid-90's again.
On a positive note, I can see this as a build-up year, with more time to finish up the kanji and the N1 grammar, and I'll have an excuse for an autumn day-trip like this again next year.
#1 1 in 864, if I assume three sites had middle seats, and the other five had only end seats.