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.


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!


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!


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.


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…