Almost Hanami!

Cherry blossom season is about to start, thanks to global warming much earlier than usual. The forecast is very accurate, it says that the first blossoms start flowering today; and in fact, I saw my first sakura just yesterday on my way to visit a friend! Next week, the sakura should be in full bloom.

hanami forecast 2020

I’m looking forward to doing some hanami! I will probably simply go down to the river for a quick onigiri rice ball, but it’ll be fun nevertheless.

More on the Corona Virus

People are getting more and more concerned about the Corona virus here in Japan. Here are a some news from my end – don’t worry, I myself am still fine and healthy!

The latest move of the government is to give prime minister Abe the ability to declare a state of emergency if needed. This means that the prefectural governors could then instruct residents to stay indoors and ask for schools to close and events to be canceled. Local governments could also demand that essentials like medicine and food be sold to them. They could temporarily take over private land and facilities to provide medical care. The difference to now (where schools are already closed) is that now the government does not have the legal power to force school closures etc. but they would have if a state of emergency was declared. Such a state of emergency could last for up to two  years, by the way.

woman wearing a surgical maskRight now it is virtually impossible to buy face masks anywhere. Of course, there are people who still have supplies and are selling them at exorbitant prices – a politician (!) from Shizuoka has just made 8.8 million yen this way. From next week on, it will be illegal to sell face masks at a profit, incurring a fine of 1 million yen and/or one year in prison.

This measure is only valid for face masks, but there are other things that are sold out or rationed as well: disinfectants for example, tissues and toilet paper, and, interestingly, female hygiene products (think panty liners). I don’t even want to know what people do with these… Just in case you want to be creative and make your own reusable face mask, here’s a how-to:
https://www.cottontimemagazine.com/page/10
It’s in Japanese, but thanks to the pictures, it’s pretty straightforward.

A number of delivery companies are taking measures to limit contact of their drivers with customers. You don’t need to sign when you receive a delivery for example, and it may even be that the driver will place your purchases not into your hand, but onto the floor in front of your apartment instead.

Hence the latest news from Japan. I’m still not worried, but then again, I’m not going out much anyway. My Japanese teacher has a serious knee injury and will not be able to come to our classes for a while, so that leaves at the moment only 3 appointments each week I have to go to, plus shopping of course. Also, sitting at home 24/7 is not good for my mental health, so people will still find me at my favourite cafe every once in a while.

Disappointment

What's up in Kyoto square logoFor my What’s up in Kyoto highlights this year, I have chosen event venues. There are a number of great places with live music as well as traditional theaters in Kyoto, and it’s a step away from the traditional events I usually do. As a bonus, I thought I would make a draw to win tickets for one of the events at the venue. I already had plans to do that last year with the museums, but the logistics is  much easier this time around I think.

So, I set everything up on my end, and I got this month’s event venue on my side to sponsor two tickets for their signature dance event. I advertised my “win 2 free tickets” from the beginning of the month and had the lines open so to speak until yesterday morning. And how many entries did I get? Want to guess? Not a single one… Let’s call this disappointing, shall we?

I am not entirely sure what the reasons for this utter failure are. Perhaps I
– didn’t advertise enough or not to the right people
– don’t have enough visitors to begin with so there are not enough interested people
– didn’t choose the right event (contemporary dance is not for everyone)
– made it too difficult to enter (too many clicks to get to the entry form)
– …

Oh well. I will try again. After all, how else am I going to improve?

Half Way…

I still haven’t upgraded my computer… Before starting this, I thought, it might be a good idea to do some cleaning so maybe the whole thing will go faster. By now, I’m not so sure anymore. Yesterday, I spent more than 3 hours getting rid of about 50 GB of old data. And I haven’t touched the big issues yet – my photos…

I guess my updating journey will take a bit longer than planned. *sigh*

Upgrading…

Just so that you know: I’ll have to do a software update for my laptop. If this were just my personal one, I wouldn’t care that much, but with my office machine I need to be a bit more careful, especially since I’m planning to keep using it for quite a while longer.

So, just in case I’ll go offline, it’s likely that the new software has sucked my laptop and me into a black hole…

Resolutions

cogwheelsJust as promised on Tuesday, here are the two most important of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2020. I do have more than these of course, but they are either very personal or too trivial/silly to share on the internet, so you’ll have to make do with these two.

  • Improve Work-Life Balance

This is my main work resolution, and I guess I’ll have to explain it in a bit more detail. As you know, I am self-employed and working from my home-office. It’s been 5 years now and over time I have fallen into the trap that is waiting for many people who work from home: a blurring of work and private life. It’s very easy to have work disrupted by tasks around the home: Oh, let me just throw in a load of laundry so it runs while I’m editing these pictures. Or: I’ll just quickly dust my desk (which then devolves into an office deep-clean). While it’s definitely nice to get some housework done, it’s not great having to work until late in the evening, even though I’m a professed night owl. In the end, it leads to a weird feeling of not getting anything done: During designated leisure time I’m thinking about all the work stuff I should have been doing and during work I’m procrastinating with household chores.

So, while my work-life balance as a whole is rather okay, I have decided to better separate my tasks. That means I have set myself a minimum of 5 hours of work every day (not counting any breaks) PLUS a set ending time for work at 18:00.

Clearly, there will be exceptions like when there’s a looming deadline, I have meetings during the day, or when I have a job that can only be done in the quiet time in the evenings. However, over time, I hope to get back to a similar routine I had when I was working in a “real” office: work during the day and do fun stuff or chores in the evenings.

  • Get out!

This one is for my private self. I have always been an introvert, and I could spend days, weeks, possibly months just reading on the couch without further human interaction. However, I already work from home, and I did notice that my social life here is essentially non-existent. So, my goal is to get out more often. Depending on work-load, I want to take at least one full day off each week, and then, I’d like to go out and do something new. There are many events in Kyoto I have never been to, and since I can choose which days to take off, I can always find something interesting to do.

I don’t think that I’ll ever overcome my introversion (mostly because I don’t see anything inherently wrong with it), but it’s nice to see new stuff and potentially meet new people. It’s always interesting what you can experience on a day in the city, and I have met my current friends at the most unexpected places and occasions.

So yes, those are my two main goals for 2020. Let’s hope I can stick to them!

Break…

Finally! Yesterday was the last day with appointments this year. For lunch, I went out with two of my friends / English students to a lovely Japanese restaurant that has a nice traditional lunch menu for very little money. Even though one of my friends warned us that it might not be enough, I felt quite satisfied afterwards. Still, she had already planned to visit  one of the best chocolate places in town so I wasn’t complaining…

At the Bel Amer Chocolaterie, I had a chocolate-berry parfait, one of my friends had a chocolate-citrus parfait and the other one had this smoked chocolate that you can see in the intro at the link above. I can say we were all very happy with our choices! I did manage to refrain from buying any chocolates to take home though, and I’m mighty proud of myself!

Instead, I took home a lesson in Japanese gift giving: My friend recently had a grandson, and so she had received a gift to celebrate the occasion. Now, she had to send a return gift back in this endless circling dance of Japanese gift giving… I’ll probably never going to learn this!

chocolate cakesIn the evening I had my final English class and we met in a very nice cafe because our usual haunt is closed for renovation until the end of the year. My student, ever the gentleman, insisted on paying for everything and even bought me two pieces of chocolate cake to take home. Now, isn’t that a nice ending to my work week?

Okay, it’s not really over, I still have a number of things to do, but at least I don’t have any work appointments in the next two weeks. I’m also planning on taking most of the time off and I have already made a list of fun things to do, the nerdy type of fun things at least.

Also, I have decided to take an official break from posting here, so unless something ground breaking happens in Kyoto in the next two weeks, you’re on your own. I’m sure you have fun stuff to do as well.

See you next year!

Advent

Time flies! Sunday is already December 1st and 1st Advent Sunday. And because of that, I have bought an Adventkalender, which makes me feel very nostalgic.

For all of you who don’t live in Europe and have never heard of an Adventkalender, it is a calendar for the December days up to Christmas Eve. Each day in the morning, you open one little door with the day’s number and there is some little surprise behind it to brighten your day. It dates back to 19th century Germany and is mostly meant for kids to ease the long waiting time for the Christkind, who brings presents on December 24th in the evening.

In Austria, pretty much every household with children has an Adventkalender, often one for each child. Behind each door there is a little piece of chocolate, a perfect start into the day in my opinion. So, when I saw a real German Adventkalender a few weeks back in a shop, I just had to buy it. It now hangs in my office (unopened) and awaits my prying hands on Sunday morning.

German AdventkalenderI may have been a little bit too hasty in buying it. Just two or three days later I received my seasonal catalogue from Royce featuring Christmas chocolates – and a Royce Advent calendar. With Royce chocolates. And for the same price as my German one… Oh well. It’s the thought that counts in this season!

Errands

I was very busy today, running all kinds of errands and I’m exhausted… But, I have accomplished almost everything I was planning to do, so I’m feeling pretty good about myself at the same time.

  • buying cards to send next month, Christmas and Birthdays and nengajo New Year Cards (altogether, that was around 10000 yen… letter writing IS expensive these days!)
  • buying oseibo end-of-year gifts for my accountant (my lawyer gets chocolates from another place)
  • got new event info to enter into the What’s up in Kyoto calendar
  • studied Japanese & taught English
  • bought a zipper to repair old pants, plus new pants on a whim (it’s hard to find bottoms that fit me here, so I had to jump at the opportunity)
  • found a repair shop for my sewing machine (so I can actually repair these old pants)
  • sent off a birthday card for a friend (it’ll be late, sorry…)

Japan - Austria 150 Year Friendship Stamps.While I was at the post office to buy a stamp for the birthday card, I noticed these special stamps in commemoration of “150 years Friendship Japan – Austria”, and I just had to buy them. These 10 stamps show things that are – not just to the Japanese mind, but to mine too – associated with Austria. I thought about listing them, but it might be more fun for you to find out for yourself what they are.

To be perfectly honest, it took me a while to recognise the image on the bottom left. I think I know now what it represents, but I (and probably many more Austrians) associate this event with theater rather than with concerts… Anyway, fun thing to have for this Austrian fan of Japan.

PS: I’m sorry to say, but I am still very busy these days. So, I have decided not to write any weekend posts for the time being. They take a lot of time to research and write, and I don’t have time for this at the moment, at least not regularly. I am planning to resume them when I’m less busy, probably by next year. Sorry for the weekend silence!

Busy…

cogwheelsSorry for missing yet another weekend post. It’s been quite hectic here and will probably stay so until at least December.

One of my oldest clients is back with a lot of work. With him, it always peaks from autumn to early spring, and then there is nothing at all going on in summer (well, it’s too hot to work then anyway). Another client also returned about a month ago, resuming a project I thought abandoned about 6 months before. It is significantly more work now, which is good because it boosts my income, but my stress level is boosted as well, and I didn’t really need that…

What I do need, on the other hand, are advertisers for What’s up in Kyoto. I have finally started to send out ad letters to event venues and hotels, for starters. Many people have told me that they love the calendar, so I guess it’s time to try get paid for it. Let’s see how this goes…

So, you can see that I am a bit pressed for time at the moment. The koyo autumn colors will start soon too, and I hope I won’t miss them this year. But, that’s what friends are for! Four of my European friends are in Kyoto right now, and two more who I’ve met during my PhD studies are planning to come in mid December (no, it’s not the best time to travel in Japan). I’m looking forward to meeting them and showing them around a little. Always nice to brag a bit about the town you live in…