Busy

Work is keeping me busy – which is good, but also very tiring… Currently I am trying to find a nice and cheap way to attract people to my new website, and I also have to add more contents to the website as well to that said people are enticed to stay and/or return. There are also a few other things I need to do on top of that, which also take up a lot of extra time.

A few days ago I received an unexpected present: a DVD of the film “Koto” where I was an extra, there is one scene where I am featuring prominently in the middle of the screen, and another one where I can be seen in the background if you know to look for me. There were two more scenes where I was present in, but they did not make it into the final film. It’s a nice move I received the DVD though, certainly something to watch when my Japanese improves – there are no subtitles, of course.

In other news, it seems that finally the tsuyu – the rainy season – has arrived, about one month late. Up until now it was surprisingly cool and dry, but this week it started raining, and it became more humid. The coming weekend especially will be hot, it may be time to get out my fan again and remove the blanket from my bed.

Unfortunately these days, I don’t have much time to write decent posts for this blog. Because I am so busy, I am not doing much else than working, and I guess you are not really interested in reading about me and my adventures with Japanese advertising… So, I have decided to take a break next week where I can focus on other things and hopefully be back and write more interesting posts again. I do have a very nice picture planned for Sunday, but after that my next post will be on Tuesday, July 11th.

Business Update #2

I have been busy improving my business website whatsupinkyoto.com. Besides working in the back at stuff you cannot see (yet), I have added a page on getting around in Kyoto, which mainly means public transport, but also cycling and walking. I am not 100% happy with it since it is just a wall of text right now, which is never good. I am still looking for free photos to lighten the mood a little. Also, I want to replace the text links on top with the appropriate icons, which will probably happen some time in the weekend.

I am busy entering events into the calendar and I have started a whatsupinkyoto facebook page as well. It would be nice if you could like the page, hint*hint… There, I am posting a daily event chosen from those of the calendar. At the moment, it is quite heavy on exhibitions (I wish I had enough time and money to see them all!) but I hope that I get to know more different types of events in the future.

Speaking of which, I have also opened a whatsupinkyoto twitter page, but I haven’t started tweeting yet, meaning: you can follow if you like – please do – but there’s nothing going on right now. Interestingly, within Japan, twitter is more popular than facebook, so it is good to have a twitter page for a Japanese business like mine. Also here the idea is that I have one tweet per day with a selected event. Later on I may increase the volume of content sent to both twitter and facebook, but it is also a question of time, of course.

I am also thinking of starting to advertise the page. First of all to event providers in Kyoto, where I keep sending out an advertisement letter to museums, theatres, etc. So far, no bites, but I am patient. Second, I want to attract the Kyoto tourist crowd. Since I like buses and trains – and many tourists take them, not to speak of other Kyoto-ites – I was thinking of running simple ads in the Kyoto city bus. This is what I came up with, do you like it?

Advertisement for whatsupinkyoto.comAdvertisement for whatsupinkyoto.comadvertisement for whatsupinkyoto.comUnfortunately, advertising in a bus or subway is prohibitively expensive, at least for the time being: It costs about 6000 EUR for 2500 posters placed in buses and subways – for four (in numbers: 4) days only The number doesn’t sound that bad I admit, but I have to think in terms of overall budget, and this is about 1/4 of my whole business budget for a whole year… So, no bus ads for the moment. I still think that advertisement in public space is the best way to go, and on Monday I have an appointment with a Kyoto advertisement company. I hope they’ll have some ideas on what to do with somebody as tiny (and stingy) as me…

I’ll keep you posted.

Business Update #1

Whew, have I been busy the last week – sorry for not posting without notice… Anyway, I’m back with a few updates of my new whatsupinkyoto event site.

What's up in Kyoto LogoI’m not sure how many of you went to my new page 😉 but if you did you may have noticed that I switched to a new provider for the calendar part of the homepage. It has always been a third-party service, but this one is – or at least appears to be – much more professional than the first one, with which I had huge problems. It went like this:

Adding a single event is, as I could confirm last week, very time-consuming. So, from the beginning, the idea was that anyone may submit events to the calendar, and I would simply look over them and publish them if they were appropriate. This was one of the main parts of the functionality, and the old provider had that functionality built-in. However, with I needed a little personalisation, so I contacted them to ask if that was possible (their website stated it would be).

I received a quote, and the promise that it would take one to two weeks to implement the add-on, so I agreed to go forward with it. Three weeks and a 275$ payment later, I finally got the “did it!”. I checked the functionality, and there was a small thing that didn’t work as I wanted it to work – until another 2 weeks later. And then I found out that about half of what I expected them to do hadn’t happened still (I had always tested when I was logged in, my mistake) – and on top of that they wanted to be paid extra for that “additional” feature…

The whole email back-and-forth with that company was extremely slow on their side: whenever I complained, it took them at least 10 days to get back to me in the first place. I got so frustrated that I already thought I was dealing with a 17-year-old working out of his mum’s garage… (I didn’t, but the guy had a full-time job elsewhere, which is only a partial excuse). Cutting things and my losses short, I finally left them after two months of arguing, not without bitching about the tardiness and the fact that I had sunk my money into something that didn’t work and I couldn’t use (before you ask: no way of getting it back, I contacted a lawyer about it).

Anyway, I have now found greener pastures and a much nicer calendar to use; it has everything I need right out of the box (and then some), the handling is much easier, it looks much more professional, and on top of that, it’s cheaper too. I’m happy to give tockify.com a shoutout, if anyone’s interested (and I don’t do that very often!).

So the last week I was busy migrating to the new calendar and adding new events to it. I also made a new “submit events” page – just in case you’re in Kyoto and know about an exciting event, feel free to submit it! – and I started talking to friends about my new endeavour. One of them was so enthusiastic that she helped me compose an advertising email in proper Japanese that I will send out to places like theatres, museums, and galleries this week. Let’s see how this is going. Wish me luck!

Golden Week

In the last two days I had four meetings and just as many (unrelated) deadlines. I’m exhausted. At least, I don’t have any more meetings for the rest of this week: Japan celebrates Golden Week, a string of three national holidays in a row, and this year, it is topped off with the weekend. Some companies give their employees the whole week off, yet others – especially service oriented places or large shopping malls – run their business as usual.

For me, it will be a bit of both. As mentioned, my next business meeting will be next Tuesday, but I will see a couple of friends in the weekend. Also, I have to get my new website going, there are unexpected problems with the calendar I need to fix, one way or the other… And there are a few more personal things I need to take care of, spring cleaning my apartment for example and properly fixing the curtains in the livingroom. Let’s see how many of those I can tackle in the coming week.

In any case, when in Japan, do as the Japanese do. So: I’ll take the rest of the week off from blogging. You may expect my next post on Tuesday, May 9th – celebrating a double anniversary!

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!