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?

Square One

In the last few days, I’ve suffered a couple of setbacks, unfortunately. One private, one business; they are not seriously serious, but still things I’ll need to take care of and find a workaround for.

A Man presses a "reject" buttionPersonal first: As you know, most of the people who rent an apartment (or even a company office) need a guarantor to do so. The guarantor is required to pay for costs the tenant may not be able (or willing) to pay. This can be missed rents, damages to the property on moving out, etc. When I moved in here, a friend of mine was so kind to be the guarantor for my apartment. He made clear that this is the only one apartment he would ever be guaranteeing for, but since I wasn’t planning on moving anywhere else for the time being, I thought I was settled.

Well, about a month ago, I received an email from him where he told me that he had suffered some hardships, and that he cannot be a guarantor for anybody at this point. So, he asked me to release him from the contract. Obviously, I’m not happy about that, but then again, he’s a friend doing me a favour, so I agreed. I did ask him to talk to my landlord though, and I was hoping the landlord would agree not to have a guarantor for the rest of my lease.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen: I received an email today that he insists on my getting a new guarantor. Dang it. So, I’m back to square one: how to find a guarantor. Of course, after some three years more in Japan, I have a number of friends I might be able to ask for this favour. Still, a good guarantor is a person of “good standing” to which the landlord must agree, and somebody like this may be a bit more difficult to find. There are also companies who act as guarantors (chiefly for foreigners), but of course, they come with a fee attached. I have not yet spoken to anyone, but it’s something I need to start doing relatively quickly.

And then there is a business issue: I have tried to get a Japanese credit card associated with my business account. Usually, I don’t shop online, but there are always things you cannot pay for otherwise, for example web hosting for my What’s Up in Kyoto homepage. My accountant helped me filling out the application form, and last Friday I spent an hour at my bank to get the final kinks sorted out and my hanko at all the right places. I was promised a decision within a month.

They were much, much faster than that: Already yesterday I received a phone call (two, actually, the second girl did speak English) telling me that there’s no way I’m getting a credit card from them. Why? Because Japanese credit cards are reserved for Japanese and foreigners with permanent residency in Japan. Well, I’m not going to magically turn into the former, and the latter will take at least another 6 years, so it seems I’m out of luck for this one as well.

Not even the mention that the card was meant for the company and not for me did help because “the company is you, really”, which is true in a sense, but also bullshit in another sense. The infuriating part of the call was her tone of voice when she said “I’m so sorry” – if you are indeed that sorry, sweetheart, then try to find a way to make it happen after all. But it seems that the girl was too low in the hierarchy to make decisions like that, and unfortunately, my go-to guy in the bank who seemed to be a bit more flexible, must have a new job in another branch.

As you can see, I’m back to the starting point with two things. As I said above, neither of them is extremely bad (what would my landlord do if I cannot find a new guarantor – kick me out?) but both of them require efforts and possibly money that I wouldn’t have needed to spend. I hope life in general will go more smoothly again soon

Exciting!

In the beginning of this month, I have asked a friend of mine – a shin hanga woodblock printer – to help me design a new banner and logo for the What’s Up In Kyoto website. We spent about an hour chatting about my ideas, what ideas he has, what would look good and what wouldn’t, how many and what colors I’d like…

snippet of new whatsupinkyoto logoAnd just the other day I received a first draft, and: I love it! It’s quite different from what we thought we would try, but hey, he’s the artist here! There is one cute little detail which I didn’t even notice in the beginning, but it fits perfectly, and once you see it, it’s quite obvious why it is there.

I don’t want to reveal too much at this point, especially since it is not finished yet, but the above is a little snippet from the new logo. I’ll let you know once it is done and ready for the world at large.

Exasperation

As you know, I’m a staff writer over at Kyotogram,a facebook page showcasing the best of Kyoto. I enjoy the job, mostly because I do learn a lot about doing business in Japan, but it seems that there’s something driving me nuts every six months or so. No, it’s not the main job this time, nor is it the people. Work runs smoothly and rather predictably, I am happy with the atmosphere and the money is good still. But then there is the kyozutsumi… In the following “we” mostly refers to the main Kyotogram staff, I’m not involved in all the decisions.

It’s a new project that we’re trying to start, and the way it is run is just totally beyond me and drives me up the walls in the office (and at home too).Essentially it’s about selling things to the Kyotogram fans on facebook. So, we came up with the idea of the “kyozutsumi”, meaning a little package from Kyoto. It contains items that were made in or associated with Kyoto, and you buy the whole set that is only available (as this particular set) through us. So far the basic idea.

We started looking for a partner back in January, when the goodies for the first kyozutsumi were chosen: A set of three items made with the old Yuzen dyeing method by a small company hand-crafting them in Kyoto. They even agreed to do all the packing and shipping for us, which makes things much easier on our side.That was the easy part, things went downhill from there.

kyozutsumiFast forward to March, when we put out the first advertising on Facebook plus an article on the Kyotogram website (on a Friday). There was no easing into the idea: “That’s our kyozutsumi and here you can preorder”, that was all. If I see that on a site that has never done this before I go HUH? and move on. Of course, people were not eager to do anything, the post did not get much reach (meaning: views) either, and the preorders were in single digits.

On Tuesday the bombshell was dropped onto us writers: Somebody higher up we had never met before had finalised the contract with the craftsmen – and promised them 50 preorders until the end of March. Please believe me when I say: We started screaming! 50 preorders in such a short time are pretty much impossible and since then, all of us are in panic mode, trying to get more people to preorder. It’s not looking good – the main staff is trying to advertise to more people on facebook, going so far as to promise gifts for sharing our posts, trying to change the article on the Kyotogram website to make it more appealing…

Of course, with that bomb exploding just two weeks ago, the planned marketing campaign (whatever little plan there was) is now dead. First the slogan was “Show Your Love for Kyoto Culture”, and “Brand New Tradition”. Now it is “Preserve Yuzen Dyeing”. And of course, the copy that I’m writing for the article on the homepage is constantly being changed without my knowledge. I have lost count on how often I have already commented on it, and it still reads horribly. That’s the main thing that drives me nuts. A good marketing campaign doesn’t chase customers – the customers are made to chase you! Unfortunately, nobody in the group really knows how to write good copy and advertisements…

And then, I am also looking at this from a slightly detached position on the outside. There are so many things I don’t get: What’s with the preorder? Why not set up a shopping page immediately? It’s the internet, I want to shop now, not whenever the seller gets their ducks in a row, that’s not my problem. And what’s with the 50? It seems that the craftsman has only 50 in stock before he needs to start making new ones or something, but again: not our problem.

The worst part: It is very likely that, if this project is not taking off, this will be the end of Kyotogram, which means that I’ll need a new job. Which would be a pity, because I really enjoy what I’m doing.

So,if you’d like to keep me busy for the time being, have a look at the kyozutsumi page. The items are really nice – I held them in my hand – and especially the little wallet or pouch is of great quality. My favourite is the blue one with the rabbit. You may want to consider helping out with a preorder – all you need is your email address. And it’s okay if you don’t buy in the end, as far as I understand the system. I already preordered. Several times. Just sayin’… 😉

Tiring…

What's up in Kyoto LogoI’m tired today, but even so I have the impression, I didn’t accomplish much. That’s because I spent most of my day entering events into the What’s Up In Kyoto calendar. It’s a very boring and repetitive task, and still not quite as easy as it sounds.

Many of the events I enter have descriptions only in Japanese, and no homepage to go to for a quick copy/paste into google. That means that I have to literally paint the kanji into google translate, which is time-consuming, and sometimes, the translations are … let’s say: interesting. Often, I also need to scan the flyers and postcards, but that’s a minor issue. My “favourite” ones are those where it is not clear where the event is taking place. Just today I threw out three or so where I only found out after googling that the event was somewhere in Tokyo.

At least the calendar program keeps improving. Tockify continuously adds little features that make my life easier. Now I can save addresses that I often use which is a big time saver. So, in the best case I can add an exhibition, in, say a gallery I already have in the database, within 5 minutes (including the scanning of the postcards, which I do in bulk when I get them.) In the worst case, it can take up to 15 minutes when I need to find out what exactly that Kanji mean, which kind of Buddhist ceremony it is and where I have to go for it… No wonder I only managed some 25 events today.

It’s getting much better though. And I have very nice and relaxing plans for the upcoming weekend!

Business Update #6

What's up in Kyoto LogoIn order to avoid a rush job like last month, this time I have started way ahead of the game for the March highlight. I got a first draft of the text ready last week already, my friend translated it, and yesterday we had an appointment with the PR representative of the shrine, so we went there early in the morning.

This was the best experience with any of the shrines we had so far. We were invited inside into a wonderfully furnished (though slightly cool) meeting room. A miko shrine maiden served us green tea and senbei crackers. A few minutes later Mr. PR entered and it turned out to be one of the priests of the shrine! The meeting was great. First we talked about our mission in general and what we wanted from the shrine. And then, the conversation turned towards the shrine and towards shinto. I had so many questions, and he seemed very eager to answer them. My poor friend, she had to translate it all – and that’s not easy terminology…

I’ll just share one thing that the priest told us: He said that shinto wasn’t really hierarchical. Although Amaterasu, the sun goddess, is often seen at the top of all the other gods, she is more at the center of them all. And if you think about it, that makes sense: Nothing on earth would work without the sun… That means, that there is not really rivalry between the gods – which is why in many shinto shrines there is a main kami, but many lesser shrines as well, where you can pray to other gods. He also said that many people believed that you shouldn’t have too many omamori charms from different shrines, because the gods would fight with each other. He said that was not true – you can buy as many omamori as you like, he is obviously a great salesman too.

I could have spent all day there having my questions answered, but after some 90 minutes, my friend looked drained, so we left, not without leaving another pack of our Mannerschnitten, of course. This morning already we have received a thorough correction of our draft (in red, like in school. Very much red, actually…), and our request for photos was also granted: We got 18 lovely photos, taken by a professional photographer. One of them especially encapsulates the spirit of shinto, and I would love to post it here, were it not a bit unethical to assume permission when I don’t have any to do this. You’ll have to wait until March I’m afraid.