WUIK Newsletter

What's up in Kyoto square logoToday, a business announcement: I am about to start the What’s up in Kyoto newsletter. Once a month – in the last weekend to be precise – I will send out a newsletter showcasing selected Kyoto events for the coming month, including a preview for the next monthly highlight. (*)

Of course, I know that at the moment, travelling is out of the question for most people, so there will also be an additional second part introducing experiences unique to Kyoto, special souvenirs, reading material for people at home, and what I will call “Kyo Anaba”. The Japanese term anaba – literally “hole place” – means good places to visit that are nevertheless known to only very few people, either because they are out of the way or they don’t do any advertising…

To avoid the newsletter becoming too long (as you know, I am prone to rambling), I will only choose one these per month to keep things fresh. This means I can write more than a few sentences about the topic, and make it interesting for people who cannot visit at the moment.

Are you interested? Sign up here and receive volume one of the WUIK newsletter this weekend! šŸ˜‰

(*) This year’s monthly highlight on What’s up in Kyoto are various event venues: live music spots, theaters… Not the best choice in hindsight. Many places are still closed or only open irregularly, so there is a certain reluctance at the moment to be featured. But I’ll be back. We Austrians usually are!

Exhausted…

This is going to be very short, because I’m very tired. I had a business meeting this afternoon that took more than three hours, unexpectedly. It started out very business-like and then we veered off into other stuff and at the end it was closing time and we all looked a bit sheepishly at the clock.

It was a very pleasant day though, nice and warm without being humid, but that will come soon I fear. I can leave all my windows open 24/7, which is nice and hope that the tsuyu rainy season will take its time to arrive.

What has arrived today already is a letter from Kyoto City with a form to apply for my 100.000 yen from Shinzo Abe. Yay! I have time until September to think how I’d like to get the money and to fill out the form. Interestingly, while it seems that there is no English version of the form (I didn’t check online though), there is a help line in no less than 13 foreign languages. Work days and hours only. I guess I can manage.

Freedom!

Yesterday was a big day for Kyoto: The state of emergency was lifted – 10 days earlier than planned!

I’m wondering what will happen now. Some museums have already opened again, other places will remain closed, some even until the end of June or even later. Tourism as a whole will definitely not jump start until much later in the year, I guess any place can be lucky to have any foreign tourists by the end of the year. So, yes, I will try to pick up the pieces again and see how I deal with the fallout.

Yesterday, I have met with the owner of the Ran Theatre Kyoto which I want to highlight, but he is quite despondent. His whole business idea is geared towards foreign tourists – focusing on traditional Japanese music only – and he will probably not open up until the international travel bans are lifted, which may take until summer or even beyond. Many other places have similar problems, and as long as there is social distancing, things will not improve for any music venues or theaters.

Anyway, I can go out again and I have plans to visit a “Haunted House” tomorrow – strictly business, of course – and I also want to go to Arashiyama and Tenryu-ji while it’s still empty of tourists. That I want to do on Monday. We’ll see.

In other news, my kind friend has sent me yet another surprise parcel. This time, after bath salts and green tea sweets, we’re getting serious with a sixpack of sake… The red one was the most interesting, so I tried it already: it’s sparkling sake with some added taste I cannot pinpoint down. Anyway, it’s delicious!

6 bottles of sake

State of Emergency II

Yesterday, the Japanese government has finally stepped up and extended the state of emergency to the whole country until at least May 6. The number of Corona infections have been increasing steadily, in particular in “open” prefectures, mostly because of people travelling there.

woman wearing a surgical maskWhat does that mean for me? I am not sure, honestly. There is no official curfew, people are simply “asked” to stay at home. More and more places are closing for the time being, even some temples have closed for visitors. As it seems now, even the two main parades of Gion Matsuri have been cancelled, and those are in July! But then again, they attracted more than 120,000 visitors last year, so it’s probably a good idea.

I went to town yesterday to get my sewing machine fixed (giving me something to do in my isolation) and the difference to the Kyoto I know is striking. Bus and subway are deserted, the streets are very quiet, and the few people who do go out all wear face masks. Even I did, if only out of respect for those I meet. All kinds of stores are closed, from the big department stores to tiny ones, while at others it’s business as usual. This “we do what we think is right” feels rather haphazard.

Social distancing is obvious everywhere too: People spread out on the subway, except for that one creepy old guy I saw who absolutely HAD to seat himself between the two young girls instead of choosing any of the free seats elsewhere. My bank has removed the cushy sofas in their waiting area and replaced them with chairs set wide apart, but the staff still work very closely to one another. The Starbucks in the shopping mall near my home has removed half of their chairs and tables to create more space for their customers, and the mall itself closes now 2 hours early like many other venues.

With society so on edge at the moment, many people with small businesses like myself are suffering greatly and often have to go without any income at all. At least the Japanese government is considering aid for the citizens. For example, it has already been decided that every household will receive two (reusable) facemasks. I will keep you posted about that one.

And now, there are discussions about giving each and every citizen 100,000 yen in cash as financial aid, which is definitely a nice idea. However, I am not a citizen, so I will probably not see any of that money, even though my business has all but shut down, to put it politely.(*) Still, I am kind of optimistic: “This too shall pass!”

(*) If you’d like to help, please consider visiting the What’s up in Kyoto facebook page and liking the page and sharing the posts. It seems a little thing, but the more people I can reach, the better. Thanks!

Corona Catches Kyoto

Sorry for being quiet, I’m fine, please don’t worry about me, but right now, everything is going downhill here, and pretty quickly too…

woman wearing a surgical maskLast Friday, the Kyoto city mayor as well as the Kyoto prefecture governor have urged the national government to include Kyoto prefecture into the state of emergency declaration. As of now, nothing has happened… It seems to be a typical Japanese response: If we ignore it, maybe it’ll go away!? Meanwhile, four more prefectures have declared their own state of emergency, which is not ordered by the national government, among them Gifu and Aichi (Nagoya). Kyoto’s governor is not ready to do that at this point, so we’re still in limbo. At the moment, there are 210 Corona infections in Kyoto prefecture as a whole.

Thus, the mayor of Kyoto has strongly urged people to stay at home and not go out unless absolutely necessary. Essentially all events have been cancelled, all four big department stores and most museums are closed, and even hotels will be shutting down in the next days. The Kyoto bus and subway systems had 70% fewer passengers last Sunday than usual and will shut down a number of lines that are geared towards tourists. I have seen photos of Shijo street taken last Sunday, where it’s essentially empty – Shijo dori between Yasaka shrine and Horikawa dori is one of the busiest shopping streets in Kyoto, usually.

So yeah… my business has essentially shut down too. Although some smaller events are still taking place, it’s a bit hard to tell people to go out at the moment… So, I have decided to ditch my usual daily event tips on facebook and take people on a “virtual tour” through Kyoto while everything is shut down. If you want to come along every day at 8, have a look here: https://www.facebook.com/whatsupinkyoto/

Other than this, I have given myself permission to take it extremely easy with respect to work. I have plenty of smaller things to do that keep falling by the wayside (both for work and privately), but honestly, it’s been hard to keep my motivation up the last weeks already. And it’s not going to get better… At least the prospect of writing for the “virtual tour” excites me, so that’s good.

Other than that… I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the blog here. Surely, you already have enough about people whining about Corona, so I don’t need to add to this. Maybe I should be taking it easy here too? I’m not sure… We’ll see how much writing motivation I can muster each day.

Disappointment

What's up in Kyoto square logoFor my What’s up in Kyoto highlights this year, I have chosen event venues. There are a number of great places with live music as well as traditional theaters in Kyoto, and it’s a step away from the traditional events I usually do. As a bonus, I thought I would make a draw to win tickets for one of the events at the venue. I already had plans to do that last year with the museums, but the logistics isĀ  much easier this time around I think.

So, I set everything up on my end, and I got this month’s event venue on my side to sponsor two tickets for their signature dance event. I advertised my “win 2 free tickets” from the beginning of the month and had the lines open so to speak until yesterday morning. And how many entries did I get? Want to guess? Not a single one… Let’s call this disappointing, shall we?

I am not entirely sure what the reasons for this utter failure are. Perhaps I
– didn’t advertise enough or not to the right people
– don’t have enough visitors to begin with so there are not enough interested people
– didn’t choose the right event (contemporary dance is not for everyone)
– made it too difficult to enter (too many clicks to get to the entry form)
– …

Oh well. I will try again. After all, how else am I going to improve?

One More Week…

That’s what’s keeping me up right now: Just one more week! I’ve had a big deadline on Monday, the last one for this client this year (I hope). And tonight, I had a business meeting at a bar (seriously), for reasons that will become apparent next year. šŸ˜‰ Thursday will be my “English” day, where we’ll have a nice lunch as our traditional bonenkai and other meeting in the evening. And in between, I have to finish off some other things so that I can take a bit of time off over Christmas just as planned.

What's up in Kyoto square logoOne of those things is to prepare a newsletter for What’s up in Kyoto. I want to do it a bit like the facebook post I do on the first of each month, just a bit more elaborate and with a bit of bonus stuff. I have ideas but nothing concrete, other than it should be sent out just a few days before the end of the month, on the 28th or so. I hope that’s a good idea to reach more people? We’ll see…

Other than that, I’ve had some time for fun stuff too this weekend: We had our Soroban bonenkai on Saturday (we went to a Mexican place). And on Sunday I took half the day off to go to Arashiyama on the last day of the Doll Museum’s autumn opening. Nice to get out a bit, I should do it more often!

Formalities

Keigo is the Japanese word for polite or formal speech. Unfortunately, it has a lot of nuances that are very difficult to grasp for the foreigner. Besides the standard “mas”-form that should be used when speaking to strangers (and can be compared to the German “Sie” or the French “vous”), there is the sonkei honorific form and the kenjo humble form. Both of them come with special vocabulary for often used verbs like eat and drink, come and go, etc.

While the vocabulary can be learnt comparatively easily, it is rather difficult to figure out when to use these forms. The honorific is used when talking to (and sometimes even about) people of higher status than oneself. The humble form is used when referencing one’s own actions in the same circumstances. You could see it as a way to make a difference in status clear to everybody who is watching the interaction, or to make sure that the other person is aware that you understand your own (humbling) spot in life.

These nuances are extremely important when doing business in Japan, and it is vital to make the right first impression. Even Japanese who are not used to doing businessĀ  may have difficulties here. As a foreigner, I do have a certain amount of leeway, but that only works when I approach somebody in person. The moment I am writing business letters in Japanese, this breaks down, obviously.

For my recent ad letters, for example, it is very important to address the recipient in the correct manner. My friend and I spent about an hour just to get the very first sentence right, which is a simple:

To the General Manager

There are many different versions of general managers out there, from the simple tencho shop owner to the significantly more important daihyo torishimariyaku, the president and CEO. Of course, if you are addressing the general manager of a hotel, you’re speaking to the soshihainin no matter what.Ā 

You see, navigating business in Japanese is tricky. I hope I will swim – or at least stay afloat long enough until I learn to do it properly.

Errands

I was very busy today, running all kinds of errands and I’m exhausted… But, I have accomplished almost everything I was planning to do, so I’m feeling pretty good about myself at the same time.

  • buying cards to send next month, Christmas and Birthdays and nengajo New Year Cards (altogether, that was around 10000 yen… letter writing IS expensive these days!)
  • buying oseibo end-of-year gifts for my accountant (my lawyer gets chocolates from another place)
  • got new event info to enter into the What’s up in Kyoto calendar
  • studied Japanese & taught English
  • bought a zipper to repair old pants, plus new pants on a whim (it’s hard to find bottoms that fit me here, so I had to jump at the opportunity)
  • found a repair shop for my sewing machine (so I can actually repair these old pants)
  • sent off a birthday card for a friend (it’ll be late, sorry…)

Japan - Austria 150 Year Friendship Stamps.While I was at the post office to buy a stamp for the birthday card, I noticed these special stamps in commemoration of “150 years Friendship Japan – Austria”, and I just had to buy them. These 10 stamps show things that are – not just to the Japanese mind, but to mine too – associated with Austria. I thought about listing them, but it might be more fun for you to find out for yourself what they are.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a while to recognise the image on the bottom left. I think I know now what it represents, but I (and probably many more Austrians) associate this event with theater rather than with concerts… Anyway, fun thing to have for this Austrian fan of Japan.

PS: I’m sorry to say, but I am still very busy these days. So, I have decided not to write any weekend posts for the time being. They take a lot of time to research and write, and I don’t have time for this at the moment, at least not regularly. I am planning to resume them when I’m less busy, probably by next year. Sorry for the weekend silence!

Busy…

cogwheelsSorry for missing yet another weekend post. It’s been quite hectic here and will probably stay so until at least December.

One of my oldest clients is back with a lot of work. With him, it always peaks from autumn to early spring, and then there is nothing at all going on in summer (well, it’s too hot to work then anyway). Another client also returned about a month ago, resuming a project I thought abandoned about 6 months before. It is significantly more work now, which is good because it boosts my income, but my stress level is boosted as well, and I didn’t really need that…

What I do need, on the other hand, are advertisers for What’s up in Kyoto. I have finally started to send out ad letters to event venues and hotels, for starters. Many people have told me that they love the calendar, so I guess it’s time to try get paid for it. Let’s see how this goes…

So, you can see that I am a bit pressed for time at the moment. The koyo autumn colors will start soon too, and I hope I won’t miss them this year. But, that’s what friends are for! Four of my European friends are in Kyoto right now, and two more who I’ve met during my PhD studies are planning to come in mid December (no, it’s not the best time to travel in Japan). I’m looking forward to meeting them and showing them around a little. Always nice to brag a bit about the town you live in…