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…

New Meishi

Finally I got around to ordering new meishi – business cards. So far, I have been using one with my company’s logo for everything. However, now that I’m starting to actively advertise What’s up in Kyoto to local businesses, I wanted meishi with the appropriate logo to make things easier.

my new business card for what's up in kyotoI just received my brand new business cards this morning, and here is the back side. I felt it was a good idea to include the QR-code leading to the website, to make it easy for people to go there and have a look. What do you think?

Pet Food?

It’s October! Meaning: We’re slowly drifting into autumn and it is getting much cooler. I still sleep with my window open though, but I’m using a warm blanket now.

We’re also drifting towards the end of the year. In the Western countries this means that ever so slowly, Christmas decorations are creeping into the stores, and Christmas cookies and advertisements for “the best gift for Christmas”. This is happening in Japan too, albeit on a much smaller level. After all, the big thing here is not Christmas, but oshogatsu – New Year.

However, in the big department stores and supermarkets, you can already order osechi – traditional bento boxes meant for New Year that are filled with food that is meant to bring good luck for the coming year. And although the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious event, there is some gift-giving and partying, especially among young people, who like to give each other Christmas cakes, which you can order together with your osechi already.

While I was browsing this year’s Christmas cake catalog for something with the most amount of chocolate, I came across these little gems:

cakes for dogs and catsYes, these are cakes especially for cats and dogs. Not pet food though, real sweet cakes that we could eat as well; the one on the left is a cheese souffle properly decorated with Christmas ornaments. It’s not as if I haven’t seen this before, people do feed their pets pretty much anything and to a point, I can understand that you want to celebrate with your pet – even though they couldn’t care less about Christmas or any other holiday.

But the price here is preposterous! 1958 YEN (after taxes) for a cheese souffle of 11 cm diameter? Really? The cheapest one for humans is 1728 YEN, and that one’s 15 cm in diameter. Are people really so much in love with their pets that they would buy something like that, something the cat would probably appreciate less than a can of tuna? Obviously, otherwise it wouldn’t be offered. Oh well… different strokes for different folks. And their pets.

Hobonichi Techo

Japanese people love notebooks and daily planners. Virtually everybody has a smart/mobile phone these days where you can list your appointments and other stuff. And yet, virtually everybody still owns a diary in book form too.

There are dozens of different types to choose from, from the simple monthly planners that fit into every pocket to the large daily ones that are not meant to leave an executive’s desk. Plus they often come with different covers as well, showing cute animals or famous Disney characters, or they are simply bound in real leather.

It is never too early to get your diary for the next year if you want to have the biggest selection, and in fact, my local book store has started displaying 2020 diaries already a couple of weeks ago. And, wouldn’t you believe it: I just bought a 2020 diary myself today…

Mostly, I am quite practically inclined: As long as the thing is doing what I want it to do, I don’t mind the design; function before form at any time. Also, if something works, I am a very faithful customer, and I will keep coming back to the same thing. For example, my diary for appointments is a small and lightweight affair that I (try to) take with me everywhere. Its simple weekly layout is straightforward and has just enough space for the few appointments I have.

However, I also need a larger planner for my daily and monthly to-do lists and long-term plans etc., and this one stays on my desk at all times. This year, I have been using two separate planners for this, plus another list to keep track of my spending, plus another notebook for random ideas plus a countless number of loose papers for all sorts of things I want to remember or note down for later. Like most of my nerdy friends, I love paper, but it’s a mess, really.

So, I have decided to find a single planner that can hold all my daily writings, from to-do-lists to interesting quotes I find online, from birthday reminders to weight tracking… I went to one of the larger stationery stores in town and spent about an hour looking through most of the planners on display and being slightly dissatisfied with each and every one of them. But just before I was ready to settle for something not-quite-right-but-almost-there, I took one more turn and found the thing:

The Hobonichi Techo. (*)

It’s a nerd’s dream of a daily planner, very simple, and yet with a huge amount of space to write in. It has lots of practical little features, and the smell of the fresh paper… heavenly, I tell you! It comes with a little manga (of course) to explain how to get the most out of it, and the company even has youtube videos to do the same, like this one for the 2020 version:

I haven’t even used the thing yet, and I’m already a fan (that smell alone!) And I’m not the only one, judging from the large amount of unboxing videos for the Hobonichi Techo on youtube. Check out the company website, it’s very interesting, especially the timeline of the last 19 years showing how the Techo started out with 12,000 copies in 2001 and has reached 850,000 copies this year. Fascinating! I can’t wait to use it – and it’s 3 months still to go!

(*) Hobonichi means something like “almost every day” and techo is the Japanese word for notebook or diary. Note that techo is pronounced with a cho like in… chocolate and not like in the English word tech.

Opportunities

What's up in Kyoto square logoI have been very busy with moving What’s up in Kyoto to the next level. So far, I did all of that work on that website for free, a very time-consuming hobby indeed. But now I am gearing up to allow advertising on the site, and a friend of mine has helped me draft some letters for various businesses that I’ll get translated into Japanese and then start sending off in the hope of getting some income.

Also, I have devised a cunning plan to drive more visitors to the website, but I’ll need to do a little bit more research on this one. Essentially it is involving all the international conferences that are organised locally by universities; scientists are curious and would appreciate a list of things to do in Kyoto, I’m sure.

On top of that, to bridge the money chasm while I’m waiting for all those advertisements to come in, I have applied for a writer’s position at a local English magazine geared towards foreign visitors. That was some two months ago, and: I received a no.

However, I still went there today for an interview. The people in charge were impressed with the What’s up in Kyoto website and all the other experience I have concerning social media and online publishing, so they are considering me as their new, actually: their very first webmistress!

Their current website and online presence has been quite neglected, and we were talking  how to put it on better feet for now. I left with a good feeling and quite some excitement about me getting to learn all sorts of new things. And I kinda sorta got invited to their next staff meeting. Does that mean that I’m hired already?

Giving Up

A Man presses a "reject" buttionEven though I kept trying many times, I had to realise this morning that I’m not a fashion expert. Not even a fashion person. And definitely not a fashion writer.

You may know that I regularly write articles for various online businesses. To name a few, I have written about smartphones, doctors, hotels… This is all managed by another company for whom I work freelance, and they keep sending me invitations for new projects.

The way this works is that you need to sign up, you get invitations for a project. If you like the project, you send a writing sample (usually according to a given brief), and if you are chosen to work on the project, you will get all the further details. And payment further down the line.

Several times now, I have tried to get work writing for fashion brands or retailers online. I do not know anything about fashion, but I did write very successfully about smartphones without owning one, so I thought this would be in the same category. Well, I never got picked, and this morning I finally understood why.

As the test, I had to write a 300-word article about a well-known fashion brand. And, being me, I took the nerdy approach: a bit of history, a bit of innovations, a bit of types of clothes and a bit about the big-name designers they currently work with. I wrote it last night and let it sit, which is always a good idea when it comes to this type of writing, at least in the beginning.

This morning, I went online to a link I was given, and all the way down, there was an introduction to the brand. (Before you ask why I need to write this when it’s already there, I guess they are regularly updating the writing on the pages to make it seem more dynamic?) And that intro took the fashionista approach, talking about shoes and hoodies and leggings and sportswear and bras and socks and caps and backpacks and accessories and of course that it will feel wonderful when you wear it.

Note that this was on the bottom of a page already showing photos of all these things (minus the wonderful feelings of course) plus: the writing brief stated explicitly not do get sales-y. There were two sentences unique about the brand (one of them talking about their latest designer), but everything else was completely interchangeable with any other brand out there.

I didn’t even bother sending in my sample. Obviously this type of writing is so far out of my natural habitat, that it is a complete waste of time to even consider learning the how-to. So: I am calling a strategic retreat and cut my losses. Best to stick to stuff that I know something about. Serious nerdy stuff. Like smartphones. 😉

Week Off

Yesterday morning, when checking my schedule for this week, I noticed that I don’t have a single work-related appointment this week. Even my Japanese teacher has called a holiday. This hasn’t happened since New Year! So, I decided to take the week off. I’m not going anywhere, and there are still a few things I need to do (because it’s the end of the month), but I have decided to take it extremely slowly this week.

It helps that it’s very hot as well right now. Summer has arrived with about 36 degrees for the rest of the week, so it’s not as if this is a good time to work anyway. I have a few personal projects I’d like to push forward and I’d like to go out with friends. Today I already visited one of my favourite cafes where I did some serious flirting with the cute waiter (who casully asked me to show him on google maps where in Austria I was from, and even more casually mentioned that he was married to the owner of the cafe. Talk about sending mixed signals?) And on Thursday I will be visiting the Tamayuran again to see off Kyoichiro. I’m curious how much he’s grown.

I’m not sure if I’ll be posting the rest of the week (it’s nice to have a break from posting too every now and then), but you can definitely expect a new post next Tuesday. Have a great week too!

Recognition

Last Sunday, I had a fun work-related experience that I just need to share! So, I went to my monthly soroban class for foreigners at the Int. Community House and sometimes there are new people other than the usual suspects. That’s because my teacher is taking part in a “cultural experience” that allows people to come and try a variety of Japanese traditions, like wearing a yukata, or learning about tea, or doing soroban.

This time, there were two students from Italy who are spending a month in Kyoto, and I asked how they knew about the soroban class and if it was because of the cultural experience thing.

What's up in Kyoto square logo“No, we found out about the class on the internet.”

“The internet is pretty big, you know…”

“Oh, there is this site, it’s called What’s up in Kyoto…”

*joyous squeal*

In that moment, I felt so good. Finally I could see that all that work has some benefit for somebody! And when she said that she loves the calendar because there are all those events where there are barely any tourists, and that she’s checking in “religiously”, I was over the moon. Totally.

So yes, it’s always nice to hear from a happy customer, especially from one you didn’t even know you had. More reasons to keep it up! I just found a few regular zazen classes that I entered into the calendar, and today I have written a small piece for the experiences page about sento and onsen that I’ll put online within the next days. And then, maybe and finally, I’ll get over my inertia and get the page on vegetarian/vegan restaurants up that I have been planning for ages already…

Kanji Island

I’m still engaged in studying Japanese, and slowly, oh so slowly I might be getting somewhere… Part of the problem is that while I’m getting better at understanding, speaking is still quite difficult. There are lots of interesting grammar constructs that I am learning, but it is not easy to get them from passive knowledge into active speaking… At least I am beginning to understand more, so that’s something.

I keep struggling with Kanji though, so I’m jumping at opportunities to learn those, the more painless, the better. Recently I found cute coloring sheets for Kanji, called “Treasure Island of Kanji”. It’s for elementary students and all the 1006 Kanji they learn during their six grades. Each sheet shows the appropriate shape of an island with squiggly “paths” drawn that actually contain all the needed Kanji. The idea is to find and paint the Kanji one by one in different colors, and in the end, every bit of path belongs to one and only one Kanji. Here’s the sheet for the first grade, containing 80 Kanji:

Treasure Island of Kanji

The difficulty lies in the fact that the lines have no real endings, and that Kanji may consist of several disconnected part. So you really have to know how the Kanji look like and what all their parts are. For example, in the lower left corner, I can see the Kanji for book, year, and eye very clearly, and there might be the ten Kanji in it, but I have no idea where the rest of the lines should go.

The biggest problem with this is that you really need to know the Kanji that are sought, and they are not given anywhere. So it’s a bit more difficult for non-Japanese who may study Kanji in a different order than elementary school kids.

It is a cute little game though, and the inventor, Yuji Baba, has made many more card games to study Kanji and other stuff. Check out his homepage. 

Some of those games are for sale on this page of the Okunakaruta Online Shop, but you’ll have to navigate the Japanese to begin with, and I’m not sure if they ship abroad at all.