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What's up in Kyoto square logoI have been procrastinating for quite a while now on something that’s rather important for my What’s up in Kyoto website. Yes, I have been very busy with other ventures that actually are paying my bills, but ultimately, that’s an excuse.

What I need to do to drive my business forward is to get word about What’s up in Kyoto out there, to people who matter. Users, i.e., tourists, first and foremost, but also to local museums, galleries, bars, restaurants, hotels… you name it.

So, I need to write advertisement letters, preferably different ones depending on the recipient. And I’m so not good at writing those… By now I have learnt to talk about my accomplishments without feeling impostor syndrome. Some of the things I have done I’m actually really proud of. But these advertisements are different, they are more on a level: Look, I’m so great and you definitely need to work with me. That verges on bragging, and I’m so not good at doing that.

The fun thing is that with all the writing I have done lately, about smartphones and hotels and other stuff; if I have to write copy about other people or businesses, it’s actually not that difficult. But doing the same for me, it feels quite wrong, somehow. However, I’ll have to try to push through this obstacle. Wouldn’t be the first one where everything is much easier once you’re on the other side…

Experiences

What's up in Kyoto square logoIt’s finally live! I’ve been working on an experiences page for What’s up in Kyoto and just added it to the website. It’s about things to do in Kyoto beyond sightseeing, and I started a few basic things I could think of. There are more things I’d like to try myself first, like the river boat ride or the special train ride that you can take only in summer, both over in Arashiyama. It will be nice to make new experiences and share them on the website.

Actually, that’s already what I’m doing this year: making new experiences. Fun fact: When I was around 16, I wanted to become a journalist. Interviewing pop stars and such. Well, obviously my life turned out differently, but this year, I am learning how to do interviews! Every new museum highlight on What’s up in Kyoto has a section “Questions to the Curator” and I’m actually going there and having a chat with them (with my trusted friend Naoko, who is translating) instead of just doing it by email.

They do get the questions beforehand and they do get a say in the final version that is published on the website, so, strictly speaking, it’s not a classic, free form interview. Still, I am very proud of myself that I’m pulling this off and I’m learning a lot of how to let people talk and taking back my own view point for a while at least. I’m very curious about the other people I will meet through this – I cannot wait making more new experiences.

Intimidating

A new year brings new challenges, as usual. You may have noticed that over at What’s up in Kyoto, my monthly highlights for this year will be 12 of the many little museums in Kyoto. There are many serious museums (like this month’s Raku Museum and several others dedicated to one artist, one that focuses on netsuke, one for kimono…) and one or two that are more fun (there is a museum for the wigs Geisha are wearing, and one for nagajuban, traditional underkimono). I will have to go to all of them, introduce myself and try to convince them to let me feature them on my webpage.

neon sign spelling ARTAnd: This time I’m doing this on my own. Last year, with the shrines, I had help from a friend of mine, but she has been busy during Decemberand sent me off alone with a “you can do this!” I can definitely see what she’s doing here, and in a sense, I am grateful. She won’t keep doing me favours forever, and eventually I must be able to handle these sort of things myself.

Another reason for her keeping in the background is more Japan/Kyoto related: She thinks that with my foreigner bonus, I might have an easier time approaching these museums. Many of them are family-run or very small businesses, and they probably like to be approached in the proper, roundabout way by introduction through other people that is so common in Kyoto especially. My friend says that if she goes there, she will be expected to know how to do this, while foreign me can just barge in and say “Hi, here I am, and that’s what I want.” So far, it has worked out fine. I have approached two museums already and they were very forthcoming, and I will visit a third one tomorrow.

While I understand her reasoning, and while the first efforts have been encouraging, it is also hugely intimidating, mostly because I don’t know the proper way to do things. One of my life’s mottos is “Rules are there so that you think before you break them” (courtesy of Terry Pratchett), but an important part is knowing the rules first. And better Japanese would help too. We did prepare documents in both English and Japanese of course, but I still have to explain the procedures and what I’m expecting and everything. And while the Raku Museum had one person communicating in excellent English, I had to fumble my way through in Japanese at the first one I visited. I still believe that most Japanese do understand English better than they let on though.

Anyway, I’ll keep trying. My friend says it’s important to stay friendly and hopeful and make the best out of things. And now I have to think about the questions I will be asking the curator of the Raku Museum in my interview with her on Thursday…

Back again!

Hello there, remember me? 😉

Yes, I’m back, I’m back and healthy again, even though I still sound a bit scratchy, but that’s small details. As I said, I was not extremely sick, just “under the weather”, quite literally, but the weather has cleared up now. Thanks to all of you who have inquired about my wellbeing!

As I said, there were many things to do in the last couple of weeks, both for work and more private endeavours. For example, I went to a sake tasting in order to write about it, I visited some temple gardens I had never seen before (for future weekend posts here), and there was a free Noh performance I couldn’t pass up either (I hope I didn’t annoy people too much with my coughing). Also, I had to design mourning cards, write Christmas cards and buy New Year’s presents for my lawyer and accountant.

My standard workload has been crazy too. I am still writing about smartphones and there are texts about hotels as well, hotels that I could never afford, of course. Then I had visit the shrine and do the writeup for What’s up in Kyoto’s December highlight (for which I got the final ok only today), and decide about the new monthly highlights for next year (it will be something cute!). On top of that, I have been asked to make an audio version of a textbook in psychology, which I couldn’t work on for the last two weeks thanks to me sounding like a mountain ogre, so I need to catch up with this as well, and quickly too.

And all this on top of me being sick. I hope you can see why I had to drop a ball or two for a while. It’s gotten much cooler now, and although the days can be very nice and warm still, the nights are quite cold. Already in the beginning of November, I took the box with my winter clothing out of storage, but I didn’t have time (or energy) to make the final swap of summer/winter clothes, so I am literally clothing myself out of a box right now.

And, to add insult to injury, I must buy a new bicycle. The back wheel is bent beyond repair, and just today on my way to town, I lost my dynamo because a piece of plastic broke. Getting the bicycle repaired would be (almost) as expensive as buying a new one, so I have decided to ride the old one over winter (I promised to be very careful and not to ride too fast) and start spring with a nice and shiny bike. Or do you think I should make myself a Christmas present and buy the bicycle then? Actually, they have a very nice one at the shop there – in orange!

Underestimated

Always on the lookout for new opportunities, I have found a new (freelance) job as a writer. And just like the one where I wrote articles for facebook, this one is a bit out of my usual expertise as well: I’m writing articles about smartphones even though I don’t have any kind of mobile phone.

stack of papersAt least it’s not writing articles of how great smartphones are… well okay, maybe a little. We’re talking about product descriptions, like the ones on amazon for example. The idea is that the writer gets a factsheet about the thing that needs a description and then has to wrap up those facts into more pretty sentences with a more or less overt “pick me” idea. A kind of easy, low-level copywriting. Essentially it’s blah-blah with a lot of adjectives. Or so I thought.

I had to do 10 articles at 450 words each, plus 50 words each with extra blah-blah and extra adjectives like “This smartphone shows off its amazing design in clean lines and with extra technological oomph under the hood” or some such. The first 350 words were easy, that’s what the factsheet is for, but the last 100 words were rather painful to find. There are not that many different adjectives to describe a piece of metal and glass, and besides: I’m not used to waffling…

Honestly, I had no idea this would be that difficult. I completely underestimated the time one article would take – I mean, how long can it take to write 450 words? At most 30 minutes for sure! Well, the first article took me 4 hours. There was no sample as guideline, and these days you must keep SEO in mind and can’t just copy/paste from elsewhere and change a word or two. And then there’s the waffling… There were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears going into that first article. Thankfully, towards the end I was down to about 70 minutes for one article. I worked 12 hours yesterday and made the deadline by a mere 38 minutes. I’m pretty proud of myself! And I have garnered respect for people who do this every day, for a living – if there even are any who can handle that 😉

Expanding

a hamster running in a wheelSorry for not writing in the weekend, I’ve been pretty busy with the business… There are a lot of things to do at the moment: I need new web hosting for the What’s up in Kyoto site. While I have no technical issues with my current host, they do expect me to pay for every little thing extra, which I find annoying. In particular, SSL access (does the httpS thing in a web address) I would have to pay for – even though there are free programs out there. So, I have decided to change web hosting, and I have to do it now because I would have to renew by the end of the month. At least, transferring the website is not very difficult (since it’s only simple files and no database), and I have very few emails in the associated mailbox. I don’t expect major problems, but it is a hassle.

I am also trying to find out how to place ads on the website. I don’t want to go with things like Google Adsense, but rather sell ad space to individual, local companies. This is rather tricky: I have no idea as to the proper pricing, and I am not entirely sure how to place an ad that would be recognised by an Adblocker (yes, I do want to be nice to people using them). And that’s on top of my “let’s talk to people” issues… Oh well, I’ll figure it out. Sooner than later, I hope.

In the meanwhile, I visited the highlight shrine for next month. It’s much, much smaller than I had expected – it will end up being the smallest shrine featured as a highlight. I can only guess that they have a proper shrine office somewhere off the premises, there were also no priests or miko shrine maidens to be seen. I will present it to you this or maybe next weekend.

Finished!

Finally, I finished the revamp of the What’s Up in Kyoto website! There is now a new landing page instead of directly hitting the calendar, I have created two new pages on souvenirs and hotels, and I have fixed a few errors in the coding that I hadn’t noticed until now. Most obvious: the banner is new also, I showed it to you a few days ago already. I will use the logo with the phoenix on my business cards and letters as well, I’m glad I asked a professional for his input on this one. Your input on the new homepage is welcome too, of course!

what's up in Kyoto new logoStill, much left to do on the homepage itself: I need a privacy page (not that I really collect any of your data, but still), the archives need a new layout with pictures to make them more attractive for mobiles, and the calendar page needs space for advertisements (yes, the idea is to get some money out of this eventually). But essentially, these are minor things I can add piecemeal.

But for now, I’ll take today off. It’s the daimonji tonight after all (although it is raining again, just like last year…)

Revamp

Sorry for not writing in the weekend – I’m quite busy these days… I am planning a revamp for my What’s up in Kyoto page, but I’m running into more issues than I had thought possible, unfortunately. Part of it is also my hang towards perfectionism, I want it all and I want it now – even though I know deep down that that’s not possible… Hopefully, I can still roll out the new design (including a few new pages 😉 ) some time this week. For now, here’s the new logo a friend of mine made for me. What do you think?

what's up in Kyoto new logo

 

Stress

I have been working on an update for my What’s up in Kyoto website: A brand-new logo, special landing page, updated calendar page with a new gimmick or two… I had planned to roll it out by August first, at the same time with the new highlight, but there are a few other deadlines in my way that need to be taken care of as well.

And of course, nothing will happen if I have to spend half days at the hospital. Unfortunately, I have developed shingles (herpes zoster) on my back. At first I thought I had scratched myself somewhere, but when I noticed the blisters yesterday, I decided to see a doctor as quickly as possible. He confirmed my Wikipedia self-diagnosis and put me on medication for one week. I hope this will do the trick, apparently shingles can be very painful (in some cases even requiring opiates for pain management) and this is nothing I need to experience myself! For now, the affected area is about as big as my thumb and feels more itchy and irritated than truly painful.

I’m not entirely sure what caused this outbreak, it may be stress related, even though personally I wouldn’t say I feel overly stressed, and I had worse stress during the final days of my PhD, for example. Currently, I do have problems sleeping in this heat though, and in the afternoon, when I usually take a nap because it is too hot to work anyway, there is the noise from the nearby construction that doesn’t let me get much rest. I hope that the weather will cool down soon, so at least I can get enough sleep again.

Missed…

Today, I’m very tired again, I’ll go to bed soon! After my usual three appointments today, I had a fourth one: A Japanese friend’s Polish friend has an exhibition starting tomorrow, which means that the opening party was tonight. My Japanese friend wanted to introduce me to her Polish friend, so I got invited (the event seemed very low-key and laid back). Even though I didn’t really want to go, because I’m usually exhausted on Tuesday nights, I did visit the gallery anyway, business networking and so.

seiko alarm clockUnfortunately, I must have been too late, because my friend wasn’t there (anymore). And because I can’t really walk up to people and say “Hey are you the Polish friend of…”, I didn’t stay long after I took a look at the exhibits. I’m not a big fan of modern art but some of the pieces were quite interesting! Maybe I should give modern art a try after all?