Calendar

What's up in Kyoto LogoIt is always hard to work on something that may or may not provide a benefit in the distant future, when there are other things to do which give instant gratification. But over the weekend, after what feels like an eternity of trial and error and small victories and big failures, I finally pushed the original plans for my business one step forward.

Surely, I mentioned my business website before: whatsupinkyoto.com is to become a one-stop-shop for everything Kyoto related, and at its heart, there is an event calendar. Things took much, much longer than expected (for various reasons), but today, the event calendar finally went online! At the moment, it is still pretty empty, but I will spend the next days, weeks, months… entering all the events I hear about. Eventually, the idea is that anyone who knows about an event in Kyoto may enter it themselves. Of course, submissions will be reviewed before going live, but I hope that in the long run this will cut down on the research and data entry I have to do myself.

For this week, I have my work cut out for me already: Mostly, it’s entering current and future events into the calendar, but i also want to start basic pages on both twitter and facebook, as an additional means of advertising the service. Also, I’ll have to gather addresses of relevant customers: museums, galleries, theatres, etc. and write them letters and emails. I hope a friend of mine will help me with translating them into decent Japanese.

That’s for now. Later I want to extend the page to include popular sights, things like walking tours, shops, restaurants,… Let’s hope this will take less time to build than the event calendar. I will add a link or button to the right of this page so you can check in with “what’s up in Kyoto” more regularly.

Pricey

schematic of a toothIt happened again, and sooner than I wanted it to happen: I had to go to the dentist… About a month ago, a tooth started aching, and in a truly heroic act I made an appointment after a mere 10 days of mild to moderate suffering. After another week of unheroic taking of painkillers, I finally had my appointment, where I was told that the culprit was the lower left molar #7. And that it needed a root canal treatment. You should have seen the gleam in the eyes of the dentist when he told me that…

So, we started the procedure two weeks ago – yes, I wanted ALL the anesthetics he could give me, and an extra pack of painkillers to take away, I do have experience with root canals done on a Friday afternoon… And last Monday, after the pain had finally subsided, the root canals and the rest of the tooth was filled in properly again; well, that was the plan at least. Because my dentist told me that due to the enormous cavity that was there with not much tooth left (really?), it would be much, much better to do a full crown, after all, that tooth is really heavily used when chewing, so…

Of course, if we have to do it at all, we do it properly. And since this is a lower tooth, I want a white ceramic crown. You should have seen the gleam in the eyes of the dentist when I told him that, because: ceramic crowns are really, really expensive. This particular one will amount to some 80.000 YEN. And my insurance will pay exactly: none of it, since it is an “invisible” molar and they are not concerned with my personal vanity. When I left on Monday, I received the bill for Monday’s work, plus an estimate of what I will have to bring next time when the crown will be placed. I seriously wonder why I am expected to pay that cash – dentists don’t write invoices in this country?

One fact to ease the pain of spending all this money is that a (ceramic) crown lasts some 10 – 15 years at least. If I assume 10 years only, that’s a rather feasible 22 YEN per day. And the other thing a friend of mine just told me: Apparently, any medical costs that go beyond 100.000 YEN in a year are tax deductible. I am sure with all the other pains and ills that seem to start creeping up on me in my age, the other 20.001 YEN will be no problem at all. I just hope I won’t forget filing a tax return next year…

Meetings

This is a very busy week for me – including today until next week Tuesday, there is at least one meeting every single day, and that on top of the usual work I have to do. I think I mentioned it before that I don’t like going out daily, but there’s not much I can do about it. At least, I get paid for it.

Tomorrow for example, I will go down to Kobe for a work related meeting. There is somebody I met who thinks my expertise in algorithms design might make me a good candidate for quality management. I have no idea what quality management actually entails, but I’m willing to listen and have it explained to me. If what I understand so far is true, a big part of the job is telling people what to do – something I have always enjoyed greatly… Besides, if he is to be believed, there is “money to be made” in that profession, and that’s certainly not a problem either.

I will stay over at a friend’s place in Kobe and return on Saturday right in time for my soroban class (yes, I’m still training!) and then there are dance performances to see and accountants and Japanese teachers… By the time I’m home on Tuesday evening, I’ll probably be totally exhausted – the joys of being self-employed. Well, I can stay in bed all Wednesday – the joys of being self-employed…

Unlimited

Do you realise that I have been living in this apartment for almost two years already? I did not, at least not until I received a letter from my fire insurance telling me that I had to renew their contract. They recommended me to visit the agency that set up the insurance contract in the first place, and get everything settled.

So, that’s what I did today, also because I thought something needed to be done with respect to my rental contract. I had to wait a bit for an agent that spoke English (the one I made the contract with is long gone) but then everything went smoothly. I was told that I could simply transfer the money for the next two years (15.000 YEN) to renew my insurance. Then the agent called my landlord to tell him that I wanted to extend my contract, and since my landlord agreed on the spot, that’s all that needed to be done. There are no contract renewal fees, there will be no raise in rent (for now at least), and since I will not even get a new contract with a new expiration date so to speak, it seems that I can stay in this apartment for an unlimited time – or at least until I move out on my own accord.

Celebrations are in order!

Bedside lamp made from bambooThe fun thing about this is that although I now have a permanent home, it’s far from finished. There are still lamps missing all over the place, and the non-tatami part of my livingroom is still empty, lacking all furniture. Honestly, I enjoy all that free space; and since I have always loved sitting on the floor, a few cushions on the tatami will do just fine. That’s one of the good things of living alone – you’re completely free to choose your environment.

Speaking of which, I have finally found a lamp for my bedside table… umm… futonside piece of tatami. It took me ages, but I gave myself a nice Christmas present, and I think it is perfect, exactly what I wanted. The base is black wood (hard to see in the picture), and the lamp shade is made from thin, twisted bamboo slats. It is wonderful, and now I can finally announce that: my bedroom is completely finished. Give or take a picture or two on the wall…

Consolidation

It has been a surprisingly mild winter so far, with up to 13 degrees during sunny days in December. Now it is getting cold in earnest though, and I need to use my space heater more extensively. Especially during the night it can get very cold now, and because I hate going to bed in an icy room, I have consolidated right after Christmas:

I have moved both my office (meaning: my laptop and some writing materials) and my futon into my guest room. Well, that’s the part of the living room with the 6 tatami, and as such it is a bit bigger than both my office and my bedroom. However, since it is facing south and the sun is low enough to shine into that room for a good part of the afternoon, it is comparatively warm and easy to heat. And when I go to bed and turn off the heater, it stays warm enough until I can fall asleep – no more cold toes!

So, it feels very much like my first home here in Kyoto: Again, I sit on the floor before my table and wrap myself in a blanket to stay warm. As such, it feels very authentic Japanese – and indeed, I have heard that many families here do the same and try to heat as few rooms as possible. I guess I will live like this for the next 10 weeks or so, during the worst of the winter. I hope it’s over soon…

Meetings…

Today I was very busy, I just got home about an hour ago, after three meetings that took all day… I’m very tired now, but such days also leave you with the feeling of having at least accomplished something. Okay, that depends on the meetings, but they were good, all of them.

And in between the meetings, I even found time to buy Christmas cards and Nengajo for New Year’s. I should start writing them soon, especially the Nengajo with the addresses in Kanji will take a lot of time. At least I know now that I must bring them to the post office before December 25th (or so). Only then Japan Post guarantees that they will be delivered on January 1st. This year I can do it!

Party!

Yesterday was National Holiday in Austria, which means that tomorrow there will be a party at the Austrian Embassy in Tokyo. And, since apparently there is a new embassador, I am invited too this year.

My plan is to go up to Tokyo tomorrow afternoon, then attend the party in the evening. I will stay overnight in a Toyoko Inn (since I am a member there and get a discount) and on Saturday I will visit the Science Museum near Tokyo station. Afterwards I’ll go to a nearby culture festival with a friend of mine, and in the evening I will go home again.

I was thinking of trying out the night bus for my return to Kyoto, but the last few days of each month are always very busy with work, so I cannot really afford to be sleepy and tired all Sunday. So, Shinkansen it is again. There is a discount ticket shop in my shopping mall nearby, and I finally dared to go there and buy the tickets instead of doing so at the station. The tickets were marginally cheaper than the original price, and they are valid for a return trip to Tokyo on any day before January 24th next year. I did not know you can buy tickets three months in advance, but now I finally understand why there are Shinkansen that are totally packed despite many seats coming with a reservation only.

It’s a pity that I have to leave Tokyo rather early – at 20:30 at the latest so I can catch the last bus to my place – but it’s okay. I have never been one to go to bars alone anyway, and my friend is not one of those girls either. Oh well, in any case I am expecting a nice weekend trip to Tokyo with lots of excellent (Austrian) food and I will report next week!

Celebrations

Today I have reason to celebrate: I have a new job! I mean, my company has signed a contract for work that – hopefully – will be long term. The whole thing went very fast: after I had received a request on Friday 14th, we had a meeting on Tuesday 18th, and today, at the first meeting with the whole group, I already signed the contract.

This is my first official Japanese contract, all other work I have done so far was either from clients abroad, or with a simple verbal agreement. My contract is a standard, straightforward one for this type of work, but since my Japanese is still lacking, especially in legalese, I asked my lawyer about it – just to be safe I won’t sign away either my soul or my firstborn. A quick online translation revealed a rather peculiar point – something that is very specific Japanese and totally normal here, according to my lawyer:

A whole paragraph of the contract – and not one of the shorter ones – deals with organised crime. My company is not allowed any kind of relationship whatsoever to whichever kind of organised crime – or the contract is void. Bugger. And here I was, dreaming of living a glorious life as gangster bride… But: no dating a yakuza! Well, it’s hard enough to find interested men around here anyway, I don’t think any local gangster would want to be involved with a foreigner who does not quite fit the Japanese beauty ideal, to put it politely.

Anyway, let’s talk about the job: Writing short articles (including photos) for foreigners about living in Kyoto. Well, since this is essentially what I have been doing here for free for the last three years, I guess I can just as well do it for money! Honestly, I am slightly worried that I will be repeating myself with respect to the blog here, but I hope this will not be too big of an issue. In any case, the articles will be much shorter than here, so if there’s a duplicate post, there will be much more detail here in the blog. And posts about shrines, temples, and matsuri will keep appearing here exclusively because work has a different focus.

logo of kyotogramThis is describing daily life in Kyoto (especially the typical Japanese things) for a crowd of American Millennials (18 – 34 years old) in more or less short sound (text?) bites of 50 to 100 words each. I will write 5 articles per week, and they will be published on the brand new facebook page Kyotogram. Yes, I know: facebook… For all of you who know my views on facebook: Feel free to laugh! For all of you who don’t know my views on facebook: Well, they are at least as strong as my views on mobile/smartphones…

Anyway, I am very much looking forward to doing this! The page is brand new and in the beginning the writers (we are three people) are pretty much free to do what we like. The page will be constantly evaluated to see how it is going, and to find a good direction where to take it. The first big review is planned for mid December and the goal is to have 10.000 followers until then. So, if you do care how I pay for my chocolate in the future and want to keep me employed beyond December, please visit the link above, and like and follow away!

More House Guests…

Tuesday was a very hot day – beyond 25 degrees, lots of sun and blue sky – in short, it was wonderful! Unfortunately, it did have some effect on those house guests of mine as well…

It seems that at least one of the three cockroaches I killed a few weeks ago has laid at least one egg somewhere in my office, and it seems that even though I had cleaned the room thoroughly (or I thought I had), I did not find and remove the egg(s) after all. The hot weather on Tuesday apparently brought the egg(s) to hatch, and I have since killed just under 10 baby cockroaches.

They are maybe 5 mm long, and from a distance they resemble ants. Only when you come closer will you notice that there’s a light stripe across their black back, and then you see that it’s indeed a bug and not an ant. At this point, they are still small enough so you can simply squish them with a kleenex or so, but since they mostly move at night when I am not around, I decided to try something else.

cockroach houseI am still not a big fan of dusting my apartment with poison, but I did buy a box of “cockroach houses”. (I always wanted to be a landlady…) Those are little cardboard boxes with a very sticky “floor” (even for humans the glue is very strong); you put some very stinky bait in the middle of that floor, and then you put the box together and place it wherever you suspect a cockroach nest to be. I have put one underneath the fridge where it is warm, and one into that corner of my office where I have seen and killed most of the cockroaches in the last two days.

The idea is that the insects smell the bait, literally walk up to it, and then stick to the floor where they die. I am now cleaning my kitchen even more thoroughly, so that the cockroaches will find the bait more enticing. So far, no catch, but who knows how many of those insects are still around in my apartment. To be honest, I am now carefully scanning my office floor every now and then, and I shudder whenever I detect something that looks like a black speck anywhere. I still like to think they don’t make it into my bedroom (which is not true of course); remember that I am sleeping on the floor…

The bad news is that it is getting colder now, and the cockroaches will start to hibernate. It is very likely that I won’t catch any more now, but that they will simply wake up again when it gets warmer again in spring. Well, as long as they don’t grow while sleeping…

Autumn Guests

It is turning autumn here in Japan. During my two-week holiday in Europe, the temperature has fallen considerably by almost 10 degrees. We now have highs of not more than 25 – 30 degrees during the day and around 20 in the night, and it is also raining quite a bit. This means that the humidity is down (unless it is raining), and it is quite nice to sit at the open window and work. Unfortunately, it also means something else: house guests.

Now that it is cooling down, all sorts of insects are trying to find their way inside. In the two weeks since my return, I have already found and dispatched of three cockroaches… I still find them extremely disgusting, and although I now know how to kill them quickly, I would prefer if I would not have to deal with them ever again…

So, I searched on the internet for tips on how to prevent those bugs. I have now thoroughly cleaned my kitchen (especially under the sink), and I have vowed to wash my dishes every day in order not to leave any food for them around (let’s see how this is working). I also bought smaller trash bags so I can use the lid of my trash can – another way of preventing access to food. Thankfully, I don’t have that much waste anyway, and even so, I can take the garbage out every day, which is a good thing.

Today, one of my friends showed me the top brands of insecticide to deal with roaches; the best thing is apparently boric acid. To be honest, I am a bit reluctant to use it around the house because it is toxic, but if I see another cockroach soon, I’ll get it anyway, they don’t deserve any better.

However, the cutest thing I have found on my search for cockroach prevention was this little “cockroach forecast” for Japan, telling you how likely an encounter is with them: cockroach forecast JapanThe map is interactive, just go there and click away: http://gokiten.varsan.jp/Maybe I should consider moving to Hokkaido? It is much cooler there in general, and they also get decent snow there in the winter…