WUIK Newsletter

What's up in Kyoto square logoToday, a business announcement: I am about to start the What’s up in Kyoto newsletter. Once a month – in the last weekend to be precise – I will send out a newsletter showcasing selected Kyoto events for the coming month, including a preview for the next monthly highlight. (*)

Of course, I know that at the moment, travelling is out of the question for most people, so there will also be an additional second part introducing experiences unique to Kyoto, special souvenirs, reading material for people at home, and what I will call “Kyo Anaba”. The Japanese term anaba – literally “hole place” – means good places to visit that are nevertheless known to only very few people, either because they are out of the way or they don’t do any advertising…

To avoid the newsletter becoming too long (as you know, I am prone to rambling), I will only choose one these per month to keep things fresh. This means I can write more than a few sentences about the topic, and make it interesting for people who cannot visit at the moment.

Are you interested? Sign up here and receive volume one of the WUIK newsletter this weekend! 😉

(*) This year’s monthly highlight on What’s up in Kyoto are various event venues: live music spots, theaters… Not the best choice in hindsight. Many places are still closed or only open irregularly, so there is a certain reluctance at the moment to be featured. But I’ll be back. We Austrians usually are!

Slowing Down

Unfortunately, I have somewhat bad news for the blog…

Covid19/Corona has hit Kyoto pretty hard, and although things are getting better, I doubt we will go back to last year’s normal any time soon. Many fun events have been cancelled, and even now, people do stay home and are very restrained when/if going out. And I am busy trying to get as much new business as possible to somehow survive this year.

cogwheelsRecently, I don’t go out much beyond my trips to the supermarket and talking to (potential) business partners. Since this was meant as a private blog, I don’t want to bore you by talking shop all the time, although I’m working on something (hopefully) exciting to share. And there is not much point talking about the weather either, even though summer is coming and it’s very pleasant at the moment.

Long story short: I have decided to slow down posting here. From now on, I will post once a week – on Wednesdays – about things going on in my life, and I will try to keep the focus on the private parts of how to “go gaijin”. And I want to keep up posting in the weekends about all things Japanese. Even though I haven’t been doing much lately, I do have an enormous backlog of things to write about and literally thousands of photos to share that I hope will be interesting to a wider audience.

So, I hope that you’re not too disappointed about me taking it down a notch. After more than 7 years of regular posting, I am feeling very much in a rut and quite drained at the moment and as if I don’t have much interesting stuff to tell you. I’m still committed to keeping this blog alive though, and who knows, maybe in a few months my life will be full again with interesting things to share with you.

Until then – see you Wednesdays and Sundays!

New Rules

The other day, I had to go to the hospital for my quarterly checkup and medication refills. This means that first, I have to get a bloodtest before I can see the doctor a few days later. While I have a fixed appointment for the doctor’s visit, the bloodtest is simply walk-in, which means that it is impossible to predict how long it will take overall. The longest it took was close to two hours if I remember correctly.

However, last week, everything was said and done in 20 minutes, from the time I walked into the building to the moment I walked out again with a hole in my arm and the bill in my pocket. Never before, in all the 6 years I’ve been going there for the procedure have I been that fast!

So, when I saw the doctor three days later, I mentioned it. And he explained that the hospital is now giving out medication for long-term patients whose conditions are stable without them having to come to the hospital. All they need is to fill in a form, fax it to the hospital, and they receive the prescription and can go to their pharmacy without seeing a doctor.

Great. Why do I always hear of these things when it is too late already? This would have saved me 3000 yen this month. Anyway, I have one of these forms now, but I guess by the time my next appointment rolls around in September, the measure will have been scrapped again. We’re not going to live with the Corona crisis for another three months. Right?

Exhausted…

This is going to be very short, because I’m very tired. I had a business meeting this afternoon that took more than three hours, unexpectedly. It started out very business-like and then we veered off into other stuff and at the end it was closing time and we all looked a bit sheepishly at the clock.

It was a very pleasant day though, nice and warm without being humid, but that will come soon I fear. I can leave all my windows open 24/7, which is nice and hope that the tsuyu rainy season will take its time to arrive.

What has arrived today already is a letter from Kyoto City with a form to apply for my 100.000 yen from Shinzo Abe. Yay! I have time until September to think how I’d like to get the money and to fill out the form. Interestingly, while it seems that there is no English version of the form (I didn’t check online though), there is a help line in no less than 13 foreign languages. Work days and hours only. I guess I can manage.

Freedom!

Yesterday was a big day for Kyoto: The state of emergency was lifted – 10 days earlier than planned!

I’m wondering what will happen now. Some museums have already opened again, other places will remain closed, some even until the end of June or even later. Tourism as a whole will definitely not jump start until much later in the year, I guess any place can be lucky to have any foreign tourists by the end of the year. So, yes, I will try to pick up the pieces again and see how I deal with the fallout.

Yesterday, I have met with the owner of the Ran Theatre Kyoto which I want to highlight, but he is quite despondent. His whole business idea is geared towards foreign tourists – focusing on traditional Japanese music only – and he will probably not open up until the international travel bans are lifted, which may take until summer or even beyond. Many other places have similar problems, and as long as there is social distancing, things will not improve for any music venues or theaters.

Anyway, I can go out again and I have plans to visit a “Haunted House” tomorrow – strictly business, of course – and I also want to go to Arashiyama and Tenryu-ji while it’s still empty of tourists. That I want to do on Monday. We’ll see.

In other news, my kind friend has sent me yet another surprise parcel. This time, after bath salts and green tea sweets, we’re getting serious with a sixpack of sake… The red one was the most interesting, so I tried it already: it’s sparkling sake with some added taste I cannot pinpoint down. Anyway, it’s delicious!

6 bottles of sake

Corona Catches Kyoto

Sorry for being quiet, I’m fine, please don’t worry about me, but right now, everything is going downhill here, and pretty quickly too…

woman wearing a surgical maskLast Friday, the Kyoto city mayor as well as the Kyoto prefecture governor have urged the national government to include Kyoto prefecture into the state of emergency declaration. As of now, nothing has happened… It seems to be a typical Japanese response: If we ignore it, maybe it’ll go away!? Meanwhile, four more prefectures have declared their own state of emergency, which is not ordered by the national government, among them Gifu and Aichi (Nagoya). Kyoto’s governor is not ready to do that at this point, so we’re still in limbo. At the moment, there are 210 Corona infections in Kyoto prefecture as a whole.

Thus, the mayor of Kyoto has strongly urged people to stay at home and not go out unless absolutely necessary. Essentially all events have been cancelled, all four big department stores and most museums are closed, and even hotels will be shutting down in the next days. The Kyoto bus and subway systems had 70% fewer passengers last Sunday than usual and will shut down a number of lines that are geared towards tourists. I have seen photos of Shijo street taken last Sunday, where it’s essentially empty – Shijo dori between Yasaka shrine and Horikawa dori is one of the busiest shopping streets in Kyoto, usually.

So yeah… my business has essentially shut down too. Although some smaller events are still taking place, it’s a bit hard to tell people to go out at the moment… So, I have decided to ditch my usual daily event tips on facebook and take people on a “virtual tour” through Kyoto while everything is shut down. If you want to come along every day at 8, have a look here: https://www.facebook.com/whatsupinkyoto/

Other than this, I have given myself permission to take it extremely easy with respect to work. I have plenty of smaller things to do that keep falling by the wayside (both for work and privately), but honestly, it’s been hard to keep my motivation up the last weeks already. And it’s not going to get better… At least the prospect of writing for the “virtual tour” excites me, so that’s good.

Other than that… I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the blog here. Surely, you already have enough about people whining about Corona, so I don’t need to add to this. Maybe I should be taking it easy here too? I’m not sure… We’ll see how much writing motivation I can muster each day.

State of Emergency

Corona Virus and no end in sight… depending on the country you live in, of course. While Austria is set to slowly return to the “old normal” after Easter, other countries are upgrading their Antivirus measures. From today, the Japanese government has declared a state of emergency in six regions until the end of the Golden Week holidays: Tokyo and the surrounding regions of Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba, Fukuoka prefecture in Kyushu, as well as Osaka and the neighboring Hyogo prefecture. The last two are just south of Kyoto.

What that means is that the regional government can now “request” (meaning: demand) that people stay home as much as possible, that schools, shops, restaurants and other public venues close, and that companies “thoroughly implement infection control measures” whatever that means in detail. This rather drastic measure comes after a jump in the number of infected people, and if you ever went by train in Tokyo or Osaka, or even just watched a video about rush hour there, you understand why the government is getting more and more anxious about the whole thing.

Although Kyoto is less than an hour away from Osaka, the city/prefecture is not included in the state of emergency. But then again, schools and universities remain closed for the time being, many museums, especially the larger ones owned by city government, are closed (again), and lots of popular events like the lightups for hanami and even Aoi Matsuri in May have been cancelled.

While things are going more or less normal at my work, at the moment, I’m spending more time checking the status of old events in my calendar than actually adding new ones. Seeing all the bright red “cancelled” notices in the What’s up in Kyoto event calendar is rather depressing, honestly.

I guess Corona/Covid19 will remain topic #1 for quite a while. Best to stay vigilant, even though I know it’s hard and annoying. In case you need a reminder why all this is necessary, here is an excellent video about why and how Covid19 is different from the flu. Stay healthy!

Hanami 2020

It got pretty cold again last week, especially the evenings are rather chilly these days. Sadly, right now would be the best time to see the sakura… Yesterday it was pouring all day just like during the rainy season, so that was the end of the cherry blossoms nearby my home at least.

On top of that, the friend I wanted to do hanami with had to stay home and take care of her sick cat. Hime-chan was an elderly Siamese cat my friend had since autumn last year, and she had kidney problems from the very beginning, as many older cats have. Hime-chan passed away last night, but I am sure that my friend has given her many great months at the end of her life. 

pink cherry blossomsAnyway, I have hope to visit the Botanical Gardens a bit later in spring. Not all cherries bloom at the same time, and in the Botanical Gardens, especially along the Kamogawa river they have planted lots of late-blooming sakura. So, there may be an opportunity for a little hanami after all.

Yes…Noh

Not much has happened this week that is worth writing about unfortunately – or should I say: luckily, given the state the world is in right now? So, I’ll give a brief overview of my plans for the weekend.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a day off, mostly because I have physiotherapy for my hip in the morning, and I’m in more pain than usual for the rest of the day. I have been fairly good in keeping up with my exercises though, so overall the pain has reduced. It’s still not good if I walk too long or too far, but I’m doing better, thankfully.

In the afternoon, I want to go see a free Noh play/lecture about Noh. I still love Noh and I would love to go more often if it weren’t quite that expensive. So I’m grateful for any free or cheap possibilities to see a play. In this case, it will be just a short one-hour affair, so I guess it is just a short excerpt anyway. Plus, it is held in Murin-an, a lovely garden with beautiful villa that is wonderful in all seasons, but especially in autumn. A friend of mine will come along, even though Noh is not her thing, really. But since it is completely free for her (I have to pay entrance to the garden) and it’s nearby her house and it’s just an hour, and we wanted to meet anyway… she relented and will come with me.

Murin-an in summer

What I will do the rest of the weekend is not certain yet – except that I’ll probably work one day of it. The cherries are not yet at their peak, and besides, I already have a hanami appointment with a friend next Wednesday. Many fun events have been cancelled, but there’s the possibility of simply using my one-year ticket to the botanical gardens. and seeing how far the cherry blossoms are along there.

We’ll see… I shall report 😉

Facemasks

Thank you all who have sent me emails from your quarantine to enquire about me! Looking at what is happening in Europe at the moment, I have to say that here in Japan, things are much, much better!

Kids are on holidays, universities are closed, and many events have been cancelled or postponed, including the Olympic Games 2020. People are wearing masks if they still have any, and there’s no toilet paper on sale, still. If you talk to people, the main topic is the Corona virus.

But other than this, things are pretty normal: We can go out whenever we like as opposed to just when needed, many museums are now reopening their doors, and the supermarkets are full, both with goods and with shoppers. So yes, for me, things look pretty normal with small exceptions, but then again, I neither care for kids nor for the elderly, and I work from home where I don’t meet many people to begin with.

Every now and then I do go out though, and the Corona crisis has provided me with a new experience! At our last soroban class, our teacher asked everybody to wear a face mask. Who knows where he got that stash from, but I obliged and wore a face mask for the first time in my life. It was… well… At first, it felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. The standard face masks are made with some sort of thick paper-pulp and it is weird to feel your own breath on your face. It took me some time to get used to the mask, but after a while it was okay.

After the class we took a walk at Nanzen-ji temple which was not very busy, but it was also a bit early for the cherry blossoms. The mask felt more and more restrictive the faster we walked about, and when it was finally time to go home, I took it off completely. I have never seen anybody wearing a mask on a bicycle or while doing sports, it really makes breathing much harder.

In any case, there are still no face masks to be had anywhere. And while the situation is relatively relaxed right now, there might come a time when you have to wear a mask when going out. So, I thought I’d be prepared – and did a bit of sewing last weekend. I took the mask I received at the soroban class and made a cloth version of it with some scraps I happened to have at home. It’s nothing fancy and definitely not perfect, but for a first trial I think I did pretty well. The left one below is the sample, the right one my own creation.

face masks bought and made