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 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!


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: 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.


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…


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…


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…


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…


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!


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!


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!