Early Autumn

raindrops on a windowI’m cold. Yes, I know it is autumn and it’s normal to be getting cool, but it is much colder this year than usual. We now have daily highs of 18 – 20 degrees, which sounds a lot for this time of the year, but it is windy and it has been raining the last two weeks almost continuously. It seems that we are now getting the rainy season that we missed earlier this year.

In fact, the whole summer already was cooler than usual. I know since I don’t have aircondition in my apartment. I am pretty hardy when it comes to heat, but when it is really hot – meaning, more than 35 degrees already at 8 in the morning – I flee to somewhere cool. It’s usually only a few days during early August I have to do this, but this year: not a single time! Summer was also often cloudy, and although the humidity was still unpleasant, it didn’t feel quite as unbearable as usual.

Anyway, I’m worried that we will get an early and really cold winter. Last year, I held out until the end of December before I consolidated and moved both my office and my futon to the livingroom. This year, I think I will spend more than three months in a single room of my apartment. My friends’ opinions on this are split, pretty much evenly. One of them fully agrees with me, another one says the current cold weather will only last for a couple of weeks… I wish I could be as optimistic as she is. In any case, time to get my winter clothes out of storage, I hate having cold feet…

Scheduling

A while ago, I didn’t feel well. I had the impression that What’s Up in Kyoto wasn’t moving forward fast enough, which was true because I was procrastinating a lot. The reason for this was a very odd feeling I had, something that held me back of getting stuff done. The word fear comes to mind, even though it’s not 100% accurate. After watching myself a long time not doing anything – and feeling very bad about it – I finally contacted a friend of mine with a degree in psychology and asked her for help. She came up with two ideas that sounded rather counterintuitive:

  1. Lessen your own pressure to perform.
  2. Make up for personal deficits wrt. social contacts, spare time activities, etc.

The second one was spot on! I was too much focused on work (even though there was not much moving forward), that I didn’t allow myself to have fun, so to speak. I hardly went out any more, only sat on my desk, and got worried that I didn’t succeed in business as much as I had wanted to. And being an introvert, I never had many friends around me, and I find it hard to chat up new people to begin with.

cogwheelsIt took me longer to understand what she meant with the first point, and I am still not sure I got it. Perfectionism is not really an issue, but yes, I do have a certain image in mind for the event calendar, and it is discouraging to see how far distant what I have now is from that. On the other hand, things do take time, and the older I get, the less willing I seem to be to invest all that time.

Anyway, my friend was right, and so I made a few changes to my life. First change: I now take one day off per week. No sitting in front of my computer all day (unless for personal stuff), but I try to do fun things like taking a walk in my neighborhood, meeting friends for lunch or coffee, going to a museum or some other event (it’s not that I don’t know of any of these…) The immediate effect was that I don’t feel guilty anymore when I’m taking time off. And my work days got more productive as well.

And recently, I have also drawn up a more formal work schedule. It’s nice to work when you like and what you like, but a bit more structure is a good idea for me. For example: Mondays I manage the What’s Up In Kyoto facebook and twitter accounts. Tuesdays I scheduled all my external meetings (including lunch or coffee with friends). Wednesday is my day off. Thursdays I meet my language students. Friday is the day where I contact (potential) clients. And in the weekends, where I usually don’t go anywhere, I planned all days for serious, uninterrupted work on the website or for external customers.

The schedule is flexible enough to allow for unexpected coffee meetings or a different day off if work demands it. Still, it is nice to have an overall plan what to do on any given day – and plenty of time for other activities in between. I’m still working on the social aspects though. It’s not that easy finding friends around here, and I’m not certain about taking up a new hobby at this point. We’ll see.

Claim 2 Fame

Finally all the hard work paid off – I’m famous! Of course, I had already garnered international fame when somebody posted a video featuring me on youtube… But this time it’s local fame, which is really more important!

So, last Saturday I went to the Nishijin Traditional Cultural Festival with a friend of mine. Nishijin is Kyoto’s silk producers and merchants district, and there are still a number of fantastic old houses in which craftsmen live and do their work after ancient traditions. I have been there three times now, but there are still new things to discover. This time, my friend and I found a maker of exquisite – and very expensive – silver tea pots. And a bit off the beaten track there was the maker of samurai armor, who explained that one single suit of armor would take him one year to complete…

Anyway, the festival started at 10, and my friend and I were early so we could scour the stalls for cheap silken goods. In a corner behind the very first one, there was this guy who constantly took pictures, something I found rather creepy because I don’t like pictures of myself. At some point he approached us, explained that he was a reporter for the Kyoto Shimbun and if he could do an interview. I would have said no, but my friend was faster than me… So we answered a few questions and exchanged name cards. And on Sunday, the oevre below was found in the local newspaper, fully equipped with my name, age, occupation, and photo. (I edited the article a little to cut out my last name and half of the photo).

my mention in the local newspaper.Kyoto Shimbun has a print run of 500.000 morning papers each day. My friend says there will be lots of people reading it, and it may be good for business. Well, people are indeed reading it (I got emails and calls from friends who did), but as for increasing business, I doubt that, since the information about me is too vague for anyone to find me. However, I will contact the reporter again and see if he would like to write about What’s Up In Kyoto. This might definitely drive some business… We’ll see.

Weekend Plans

The following few days will be very busy for me, and not all of the stress is work related, so I’m not sure I should be complaining at all.

Tomorrow morning I want to go to Nijo Castle. Besides Nijo Castle being one of my favourite places in Kyoto, this weekend there is a special exhibition of Bonsai trees commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Meiji restoration. Apparently, some of the trees exhibited there are 150 years or older – certainly something I cannot miss!

Saturday will be my day off (instead of the usual Wednesday). Together with a friend of mine, we will go to the Nishijin Traditional Cultural Festival. Nishijin is the name for both an area of Kyoto where, in the old times, the silk weavers and merchants had their (work-) shops, as well as the name of a weaving technique for cloth, that was used to make kimono in particular. My friend and I have been to the Hina Doll Festival there in March, but we are expecting even more exciting events this time around.

old soroban school, miniature version as toySunday morning I will go and try – again – to pass the soroban first dan test. I don’t think I will be passing this time either; in fact, I didn’t want to go at all, but when I told sensei, he had already registered me and it was too late to bow out. So, despite being very, very busy, I was training soroban for about an hour each day. Sensei said that I should focus on the “additional” exercises – dempyo, anzan, word problems, and roots – this time because those were relatively easy to pass. And if I could pass all of them now, I could focus on the “basic” exercises – multiplication, division, addition – for two times in a row. I am not convinced this will work, but I trust sensei’s judgement, so that’s what I’m doing now.

Between all this I will have to work, of course. And, as a bonus, I will have to choose whom to give my vote in the upcoming Austrian governmental elections. I received my absentee ballot letter today – probably the earliest I ever got it – and have about a week maximum to decide. Of course, some parties are out of the question, but other than this I never felt so unsure as to how to cast my vote. We’ll see if it makes a difference.

Business Update #3

logoWhew, I’ve been busy last week updating the What’s up in Kyoto homepage. I have added an archive for the monthly highlights I have done so far, and I am about to change the getting around page about Kyoto transport in a day or two. A page about shopping in Kyoto and Japan is in the works, and I am planning pages about Kyoto sights. The biggest change is that I made the main menu more friendly – meaning: smaller – for mobile phone users, it shouldn’t take up all screen anymore. I have never been a good programmer – I’m much better at designing algorithms on a somewhat higher level – so this took me a while. The sense of accomplishment I am feeling now was worth it though!

Also, I’m getting more active on social media: I started tweeting! For now, there’s only one tweet per week (please follow!), mostly because there are not enough events each day to not duplicate what I put on facebook. Or maybe I shouldn’t worry about that? Also, posting on social media takes up a big amount of time! I am slowly beginning to understand why bigger companies have their own social media manager. The facebook page is also doing well. Even though it doesn’t have many likes yet (please like!), there are about 20 times more people than that who see my posts each day. That’s a good start – now I have to lure them over to my website…

Unfortunately, at this point I am still spending money on What’s up in Kyoto, instead of earning anything with it. At this point, I am approaching mainly local galleries and museums, but there is not much coming back in return. Of course, I am in this for the long haul, but it would be nice to see the fruits growing, at least. Until that happens, I will have to do other, less fun jobs, to keep the company going, my accountant happy – and to secure my visa for the next year.

Affiliation

I have been very busy here. One problem with doing too many things at the same time is that there is the nagging feeling that you don’t really accomplish anything…

One thing I did accomplish is to finish a new “books” page for the blog here, see the new link in the menu on top. It simply lists all the books I have reviewed on here so far, and repeats the synopsis and my review. Every book includes a link to amazon in case you’d want to read it yourself, but: caveat emptor! The links are now running through my brand new amazon affiliate account, which means I’ll get a little percentage of every purchase you make through any of the links.

This is something I thought of doing for a while already, but I always held back. Mostly because amazon’s affiliate program is…. let’s say, not very friendly to anyone outside of the US. It must be a US thing, somehow, because quite clearly they have never heard of something called “international bank transfer” or, worse yet, “paypal”. If I ever manage to make enough money so they’ll pay me out, you know what’s going to happen? They’ll send me a check.

Yes. A piece of paper. Through the mail. Surface, for all I know. Which will cost me a fortune to cash on this continent, I’m sure. At least they are waiving the 15 $ fee they would charge, because without an American bank account, this is the only way to get paid. Except for an amazon gift card, which is not  optimal either. The main reason I signed up for the affiliate program after all is that many of my readers are from the EU, and there I can transfer the money to my account in Austria. That’s the reason why – if you click on a link – you should be redirected to whereever the “closest” amazon store is to your computer’s location.

Not that there will be any of that anytime soon. A book sale earns a commission of 4%. With a standard price of a paperback of say, 10 $ or EUR, one book sale will earn me 40 cents. And with the minimum payout per check of 100 $ or EUR, that makes a sales volume of 250 books. I guess I can expect that first check from the US by the time I’m retiring. Maybe I shouldn’t make big plans for the money just yet.

However, the main reason I thought so long about monetizing the blog in any way is that it is more of a private endeavour, and most of you who are reading this I know personally. And it’s just not fair to make money off your friends… So, don’t worry about it, this is not going to turn into one of those sites where you need an ad blocker to get rid of all the bouncy stuff running left and right. And there will be no google Adsense that will put a link under every second word I write and bring you to somewhere I cannot control. And no, I will not start writing posts about random stuff to buy – I’m sure if you need something, you can find amazon on your own.

However, I will keep posting my book reviews. I love books, and I have a long reading list for Japanese literature. And I guess if you’re here reading this blog you might be interested in that as well. From the beginning of writing here I wanted to post one book review per month; I didn’t quite get there (so many other exciting things going on in Kyoto), but with work keeping me behind my desk more than I like, I might just (have to) do that.

Half Dan!

I haven’t written about it for a while, but I am still pursuing the goal of getting a first dan grade in soroban. So far, I have made two attempts, one back in May, and the other last month, in July. In May I failed pretty clearly (you need at least 100 points in 6 of the 7 categories, and I passed only a single one), and I wasn’t very hopeful for the July test either.

Results of my last soroban testHowever, last Sunday, at our monthly soroban meeting, my Sensei presented me with a certificate for a “jun-shodan”, half a first dan grade. This you get for at least 80 points in 6 categories, and I was very surprised to receive this at all. But then I remembered that for the dan grades, not only the latest test results count, but also the results of the two previous tests. And since I had more than 80 points in 4 categories in May, and more than 80 points in 4 different ones in July, I passed this test in only two trials.

So, one more level to go. It won’t be easy of course, but with those new rules it might not be quite as tough as I had thought. Wish me luck!

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!