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…

New Meishi

Finally I got around to ordering new meishi – business cards. So far, I have been using one with my company’s logo for everything. However, now that I’m starting to actively advertise What’s up in Kyoto to local businesses, I wanted meishi with the appropriate logo to make things easier.

my new business card for what's up in kyotoI just received my brand new business cards this morning, and here is the back side. I felt it was a good idea to include the QR-code leading to the website, to make it easy for people to go there and have a look. What do you think?

Pet Food?

It’s October! Meaning: We’re slowly drifting into autumn and it is getting much cooler. I still sleep with my window open though, but I’m using a warm blanket now.

We’re also drifting towards the end of the year. In the Western countries this means that ever so slowly, Christmas decorations are creeping into the stores, and Christmas cookies and advertisements for “the best gift for Christmas”. This is happening in Japan too, albeit on a much smaller level. After all, the big thing here is not Christmas, but oshogatsu – New Year.

However, in the big department stores and supermarkets, you can already order osechi – traditional bento boxes meant for New Year that are filled with food that is meant to bring good luck for the coming year. And although the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious event, there is some gift-giving and partying, especially among young people, who like to give each other Christmas cakes, which you can order together with your osechi already.

While I was browsing this year’s Christmas cake catalog for something with the most amount of chocolate, I came across these little gems:

cakes for dogs and catsYes, these are cakes especially for cats and dogs. Not pet food though, real sweet cakes that we could eat as well; the one on the left is a cheese souffle properly decorated with Christmas ornaments. It’s not as if I haven’t seen this before, people do feed their pets pretty much anything and to a point, I can understand that you want to celebrate with your pet – even though they couldn’t care less about Christmas or any other holiday.

But the price here is preposterous! 1958 YEN (after taxes) for a cheese souffle of 11 cm diameter? Really? The cheapest one for humans is 1728 YEN, and that one’s 15 cm in diameter. Are people really so much in love with their pets that they would buy something like that, something the cat would probably appreciate less than a can of tuna? Obviously, otherwise it wouldn’t be offered. Oh well… different strokes for different folks. And their pets.

Hobonichi Techo

Japanese people love notebooks and daily planners. Virtually everybody has a smart/mobile phone these days where you can list your appointments and other stuff. And yet, virtually everybody still owns a diary in book form too.

There are dozens of different types to choose from, from the simple monthly planners that fit into every pocket to the large daily ones that are not meant to leave an executive’s desk. Plus they often come with different covers as well, showing cute animals or famous Disney characters, or they are simply bound in real leather.

It is never too early to get your diary for the next year if you want to have the biggest selection, and in fact, my local book store has started displaying 2020 diaries already a couple of weeks ago. And, wouldn’t you believe it: I just bought a 2020 diary myself today…

Mostly, I am quite practically inclined: As long as the thing is doing what I want it to do, I don’t mind the design; function before form at any time. Also, if something works, I am a very faithful customer, and I will keep coming back to the same thing. For example, my diary for appointments is a small and lightweight affair that I (try to) take with me everywhere. Its simple weekly layout is straightforward and has just enough space for the few appointments I have.

However, I also need a larger planner for my daily and monthly to-do lists and long-term plans etc., and this one stays on my desk at all times. This year, I have been using two separate planners for this, plus another list to keep track of my spending, plus another notebook for random ideas plus a countless number of loose papers for all sorts of things I want to remember or note down for later. Like most of my nerdy friends, I love paper, but it’s a mess, really.

So, I have decided to find a single planner that can hold all my daily writings, from to-do-lists to interesting quotes I find online, from birthday reminders to weight tracking… I went to one of the larger stationery stores in town and spent about an hour looking through most of the planners on display and being slightly dissatisfied with each and every one of them. But just before I was ready to settle for something not-quite-right-but-almost-there, I took one more turn and found the thing:

The Hobonichi Techo. (*)

It’s a nerd’s dream of a daily planner, very simple, and yet with a huge amount of space to write in. It has lots of practical little features, and the smell of the fresh paper… heavenly, I tell you! It comes with a little manga (of course) to explain how to get the most out of it, and the company even has youtube videos to do the same, like this one for the 2020 version:

I haven’t even used the thing yet, and I’m already a fan (that smell alone!) And I’m not the only one, judging from the large amount of unboxing videos for the Hobonichi Techo on youtube. Check out the company website, it’s very interesting, especially the timeline of the last 19 years showing how the Techo started out with 12,000 copies in 2001 and has reached 850,000 copies this year. Fascinating! I can’t wait to use it – and it’s 3 months still to go!

(*) Hobonichi means something like “almost every day” and techo is the Japanese word for notebook or diary. Note that techo is pronounced with a cho like in… chocolate and not like in the English word tech.

Opportunities

What's up in Kyoto square logoI have been very busy with moving What’s up in Kyoto to the next level. So far, I did all of that work on that website for free, a very time-consuming hobby indeed. But now I am gearing up to allow advertising on the site, and a friend of mine has helped me draft some letters for various businesses that I’ll get translated into Japanese and then start sending off in the hope of getting some income.

Also, I have devised a cunning plan to drive more visitors to the website, but I’ll need to do a little bit more research on this one. Essentially it is involving all the international conferences that are organised locally by universities; scientists are curious and would appreciate a list of things to do in Kyoto, I’m sure.

On top of that, to bridge the money chasm while I’m waiting for all those advertisements to come in, I have applied for a writer’s position at a local English magazine geared towards foreign visitors. That was some two months ago, and: I received a no.

However, I still went there today for an interview. The people in charge were impressed with the What’s up in Kyoto website and all the other experience I have concerning social media and online publishing, so they are considering me as their new, actually: their very first webmistress!

Their current website and online presence has been quite neglected, and we were talking  how to put it on better feet for now. I left with a good feeling and quite some excitement about me getting to learn all sorts of new things. And I kinda sorta got invited to their next staff meeting. Does that mean that I’m hired already?