Twinkle and I wish all Mumblers a very Happy New Year of the Cow. xxx
Archive for December, 2008
We’re back at *Twinkle*s parents for New Years Eve, as is the tradition when in Japan. This year I won’t be drinking, following a disastrous incident last time when I, along with *Twinkle*s two sisters’ British partners devoured a whole crate of beer between us – most of it went down my throat.
I feel it’ll be a nice quiet affair this year, with lots of food and some typically silly Japanese TV.
*Twinkle* and I have had a good day relaxing together. Following an easy morning spent watching Indiana Jones and eating tangerines (whilst tucked under the kotastu – a heated table which sits atop a pit in the floor for putting your legs in), we headed out on the family bicycles to LakeTown, the biggest shopping mall I’ve ever seen in my entire life. This huge development is located in the middle of a bunch of rice paddies here in Saitama, and even has its own (brand new) railway station. It has about 500 shops, and thus a huge variety – on the ground floor after passing a load of fantastically original restaurants (Disneyland-style decor, but more authentic), you’ll then find a fleet of shiney Toyota family saloons. There’s a gardening section, tonnes of cutey kiddies clothing stores, two large department stores, a cinema, a gym, three Starbucks, and a row of solar panels perched on the edge of the roof (which also serves as a car park).
I usually loathe shopping centres, and only ever went to MeadowHall (MeadowHell) in Sheffield in desperation when I was in need of a Mac Genius. But LakeTown surprised me. They’ve done a great job of creating a ‘nice’ space. It’s actually fun to walk around the place, and it’s so big that you can walk around looking at your iPhone without bumping into people. It has sexy interactive floor guides, and Universal Design Toilets.
What more could you ask for?
We didn’t go there to shop though – in fact all we picked up was five pairs of slippers for the family feet (it’s blooming freezing at the mo). Instead, we spent several hours in a cafe making plans for the Tokyo Tame family’s next 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. We discussed moving house (and changed our minds once again), when the children are to be born (I guess that’ll be a guideline then), specific financial goals and more detailed goals regarding our careers. We also made promises and plans regarding use of free time.
For recharging your electric car
It’s really exciting to think that we can, to a certain extent, shape our own futures. The value of goal setting and future-life planning is something that we both heartely believe in, but don’t do as often as we could. This is the second year though that we’ve taken time out to make these ‘big plans’. Whilst we didn’t necessarily hit all of our targets for 2008, merely having them in mind throughout the year helped us make a lot of small decisions along the way (will this take us a little closer to our goals?).
Lucky bags on offer at LakeTown shops: Pay up to 15,000 yen (£60) for a bag, the contents of which are a mystery until after you’ve paid – hugely popular in Japan.
We’ll be printing our list out and hanging it somewhere where we often see it.
On the way home from LakeTown we were fortunate to get a great view of Mount Fuji, some 100+km to the South West of Koshigaya. It’s a shame we weren’t crossing that bridge a little earlier, but still, there was enough light remaining light to cause me to gasp and shout “Mount Fuji!” when I first looked to the West.
There’s been a lot of mentions of following your passion of late. On people’s blogs, on the inside cover of the magazine I bought today, on Twitter… red car syndrome perhaps.
Another good day today. Exercised in the morning, taught for a couple of hours at lunchtime, then MC’d a kind of variety show in Meguro organised by a group of friends collectively known as Hanpane.
It was great, although I did make a bit of an idiot of myself a couple of times due to not really knowing what was going on all the time.
Kicked off with Warusa-P31 [you tube], who were followed by Spanko-ru ‘Sexy dancers”, then an oriental dance routine by a couple of performers who I’m sure went to a Steiner school. There then followed a couple of singers (the first of which was our friend Ryo-kun, the second was a chap who runs a bar in Shibuya, and had the most incredibly powerful voice). The gig was wrapped up by Warusa-P31.
Went for pizza after that. There I met a young maths teacher who told me that she’d started paragliding this year, which reminded me that that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve decided I will do it before December 2010.
I’m teaching at my part time job tomorrow and Tuesday, 9 hours both days. Part of me is a bit upset that I agreed to do it as I very much want to work on my web-projects, but still, there’s no backing out now. I’m sure it will work out fine.
George and I at work
Just one more day of work at the office remains this year. Whilst I usually work alone on Saturdays, taking calls from those students of mine who are unable to call during the week, tomorrow the rest of the office crew will join me. They’ll be turning up in their casual clothes for the annual oosouji – cleanup – traditionally carried out at the end of the year in all homes and workplaces in Japan.
I’ve chosen to work much of my week off at a private school in order to scrape together the rest of the money needed for moving house – we’ve decided that we’ll definitely be leaving our apartment in February. With our current place being very old and not insulated in any way we’d rather not stay here. Had there been no costs involved in staying, we’d put up with it, but with a contract renewal fee of 180,000 yen (approximately £1000) it just doesn’t make sense. It’s an absolute con, and encourages us further in our mission to become property owners (to create a passive income, and provide a comfortable place for people to stay when visiting Tokyo / temporarily homeless. It’s partly inspired by dear John John who always had an open-door policy).
I’m really looking forward to my few days off work next week, as it means I can put some serious time and effort into working on the two web-based projects I’m feeling really fired up about. One is the online publishing company that we started last year, the other is a podcast which I’ve desperately wanted to create ever since I got back, but have been lacking in a podcast partner. I found the ideal person in the phone booth next to me at work. He’s crazy. Crazy George.
I’d also like to redesign The Daily Mumble – move it over to WordPress 2.7 – but that’s going to have to wait. I’m seriously considering using some paid holiday to work on this and the other projects.
Next month will see planning / work commence on a new website (and hopefully podcast) for the company – an idea long discussed but never acted upon, until myself and crazy George got all hyped up it a couple of days ago. I’m excited about that. Another great opportunity to be creative, learn a lot, and have something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.
It also happens to be exactly what I have long-envisioned doing.
I’m getting real excited about 2009. I feel it’s going to be a great year.
2008 has been a pretty spectacular though, personally speaking. I got married, graduated from uni, returned to Japan with a proper visa thus successfully completing a five year plan. I’ve started exercising regularly, I’ve got a fulfilling job, and earlier in the year I had some big successes in my work at the University of Sheffield.
I’ve continued to read, courtesy of Audible.co.uk.
I’ve also got my procrastination under control. This year, I learnt that procrastination can actually be used to increase one’s productivity. Realising this, I actively sought to make my procrastination the good sort. This not only resulted in me being able to get a lot more done in the limited time I had, but also relieved me of the feelings of guilt and stress that tended to accompany my procrastination sessions.
I think finishing uni helped too…!
Looking to the year ahead, I aim to make real progress in bringing the projects I mentioned above to fruition, in addition to working more to support *Twinkle* with the further growth of our Amway business. I will avoid doing overtime at the office, but instead be very productive in my allotted hours there. I will also work to be a less grumpy husband – when I’m tired I sometimes turn into a big baby. *Twinkle* is very patient, but she shouldn’t have to be.
I also plan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and run a quarter marathon, an ekiden and a half marathon too. I want to run the Honolulu marathon in 2010.
I don’t really have any goals in terms of ownership – it’s experiences and personal development that matter, not owning ‘things’. (Having said that, I would like a Macbook pro and a mid-range Nikon DSLR, but I think they’ll have to wait until 2010).
I see the year ahead as being pretty intense, quite tiring, but with little stress – and a lot of fun and satisfaction. I see myself growing in confidence, being less concerned by the opinions of others, and more understanding of ways of communicating in these parts. I’ll be continuing to work on living in alignment with what is ‘right’, and resisting attempted coups by my ego.
Hmmm, it’s all pretty exciting really!
Just a brief note to those of our friends and family who have not received a card from us – you are not alone, as we have not sent any this year.
We’re not really doing Christmas, as it’s just a normal work day here.
It doesn’t mean we love you any less, and we are very grateful for the all the love and support that has come our way this past year.
Needless to say, if there’s anything we can do for anyone at any time, please do just ask.
love, Joseph and *Twinkle*.
Ri-kun on the tatami
I finished reading Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” this evening. [Wikipedia] [official site]. The New York Times accurately described it as “much more of a political document. Portions of the volume read like outtakes from a stump speech, and the bulk of it is devoted to laying out Mr. Obama’s policy positions on a host of issues, from education to health care to the war in Iraq.”
Whilst it might sound like it would be a right yawn for someone like me who has little interest in politics, I liked it a lot (although admittedly, I did fast-forward through some chapters that in which he talked in detail about the US political process). It served to give me a feel for Obama as a person, and I must say, he seems to be a bloomin’ nice chap. I also found myself thinking that I’m like his wife, Michelle, in some ways.
I’m now listening to ‘Tribes’ by Seth Godin, which focuses upon marketing in the age of Twitter and Facebook. It’s received mixed reviews, with some people noting that it just reads like a load of blog posts, that there’s nothing new in it and that it lacks depth. All true perhaps, but that doesn’t bother me. As someone very much interested in the uses of social networking services in marketing / creating communities / building businesses, I find it fascinating – and inspiring too. There’s a fair amount of inspirational stuff in it that can be found in many other ‘You can do it’ books – but I need to hear this.
I am an ideas person, but I fear putting my ideas into action. Ideas for a publishing company. Ideas for a Penguin business. Every day, lots of ideas.
I think much of this fear stems from a fear of what others may think of me, a fear that is utterly ridiculous and serves no useful purpose in my life – it only holds me back. It kind of p*sses me off really.
I know I’ve come a long way, but I could do so much better. The fact is that those people who really know me know that I’m a good, trustworthy person – with flaws. Thus, they forgive me my errors in judgement and continue to support me, in return for my support and love of them. I don’t need to fear losing those who are precious to me (they include all of my friends).
But what of those who think I’m stupid, misguided or deceitful, and then treat me with contempt? I’m scared of being treated with contempt.
But that’s ridiculous. Looking back over the past 15 years or so, I can’t think of a single occasion when someone important to me has treated me with genuine contempt. Why do I even entertain these ideas? I’m a good person, I know I am, and I don’t need to have these fears.
These past few days I have begun mulling over my New Year’s resolutions for 2009. One that I’ve been considering is ‘Action without Fear’.
Crikey. That’s a bit scary.
The thing is, there’s no point in making such a resolution unless I act on it. That will require a conscious effort on a daily basis. I think if I do adopt it, it will need to be classed as an ‘experiment’ limited to a period of say, 3 months (long enough to see tangible results?), with regular progress reviews built in. You might think that overkill, but when it comes to things that are uncomfortable and require self-motivated/self-enforced persistence, I need to use all the tools available to me to succeed. (Look at me with my iPhone and Jogging schedule).
I also recognise that I need a tangible goal to aim for. It could be having my photos on public display, generating a certain amount of income from Amway, registering a certain number of artists with Three Seeds – it could include all three, and of course more.
I think ‘change’ will be the key word for 2009. I, like everyone else on Earth, am afforded the opportunity to change almost any aspect of my life every single day, yet I fail to appreciate that most of the time. I subjugate myself to the status quo – it’s easier that way.
But that’s not good enough! I have a responsibility to be the best that I can be.
No, I shouldn’t need a New Year to make changes, but I don’t feel strong enough to act alone at the moment. The calendar will be my ally.
Anyway, it’s time for bed. We’re having our Christmas Day tomorrow as it’s a national holiday (emperor’s birthday) – everyone is able to gather at the family home just north of Tokyo. Excited!
I arrived at Kudanshita a little early this morning, and was astonished to stumble across the legendary Salaryman Ninja Squad.
Managed to sneak a shot of them holding their Chou-rei (morning meeting) without getting my head sliced off by one of the razor-sharp computer keyboards they all carry under their coats.
Needless to say, Pepe was pretty interested in this phenomenon too, and using his penguin charm was able to attach gps trackers to the insides of their umbrellas.
Last week whilst in Kobe on Christmas Party business, we had the chance to see Kobe’s incredible Luminarie. They say that this is the last year they’ll be doing it …although they say that every year!
“Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ, Kobe Luminarie?) is a light festival held in Kobe, Japan every December. It began in 1995 and commemorates the Great Hanshin earthquake of that year. They were donated by the Italian Government. The lights are kept up for about two weeks and only turned on for a few hours each evening. Each light is individually hand-painted. Major streets in the vicinity are closed to auto traffic during these hours to allow pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights.”
At times it felt a bit like being on the train to work…
If travelling anwhere in japan by night bus, I thoroughly reccomend
Check out the sexy head gear – it means you can fall asleep without
your head falling off, and you can dribble in privacy.
Lots of legroom too – even I was able to sleep!
Willer travel ate bookable through Rakuten travel.
My sister Jessie (left) and I, age: quite young
Personally, I’m yet to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown. I’ve not been made redundant, my salary has not been cut, overtime is still allowed.
But I can feel it’s just around the corner. Local redundancies are being announced on a daily basis, and the thinking is that it’s just going to get worse. One of my private students was telling me how her company, once reluctant to fire anyone (something that is admittedly pretty difficult to do in Japan – the common method seems to be to bully and pressure people into quitting) has just announced 2000 cuts, with more to come in due course. Whilst the nature of the client base that the English & Chinese education company I work for means that we are not suffering so much from this initial phase of the slowdown, this past week there have been some hints that next year is going to be a tough one.
I’m very much a subscriber to Robert Kiyosaki’s idea of there being four main types of people when it comes to income, who together make up the ‘Cashflow Quadrant’. They are: E – employees, S – self-employed, B – business owners and I – investors.
(For more on the Cashflow Quadrant get hold of a copy of Kiyosaki’s incredibly easy to read bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad)
I’ve long had a gut feeling that I don’t belong in the ’employee’ quadrant, and in such economic conditions as these I find this gut feeling being exceptionally noisy. Seeing people in ‘secure’ jobs being left high and dry makes me question the sense of placing my future in the hands of an organisation that could let go of its staff at any time, for any number of reasons.
If I was working for the satisfaction that the day-to-day work brings, then it would be no big deal. Whilst I do feel real satisfaction in my day job (and before I go any further, I’d just like to state that as well as enjoying my day job a great deal, I see it as performing a very important and necessary role in my development, and I have no intention of leaving), I have a strong feeling that I’m heading towards a very different role in this world, of which I have only a vague picture at present) (this is aside from any purpose I have to become a better person in a spiritual sense, a journey that continues no matter what I do).
Whilst I am happy that I am able to make a positive impact upon the lives of my students and (to a certain extent) my colleagues, I can’t get away from the idea that ultimately, the main purpose of most companies is to provide a good return to the shareholders. These are shareholders of which I know nothing. Who knows what they might choose to invest the profits of my labour in.
Some people might think this is taking things a bit too far, but I don’t feel it is. I have a limited time on Earth this time around, and I want to make the most of it. I am happy to invest a few years in doing such things as working for my present company as I’m learning a lot, and teaching is a worthy cause, but I believe that I would feel that I had somehow wasted the precious gift of life were I to remain working for someone else for the rest of my life.
So then there’s the S quadrant – self-employed. One thing I’ve been fortunate to learn second-hand over the past few years is that being self-employed isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, there’s the fact that (for most one-man-show enterprises) if you stop working, your income stops. Then there’s the hours. I forget what the stats are, but self-employed people usually work a lot more hours than those in the E quadrant. Having said that, the chances are that the self-employed business owner will get a great deal more satisfaction out of their work than an E. Every hour of work they put in is an hour invested in their own enterprise – an idea which appeals to me a great deal. They are also more likely to be doing what they love (or they probably wouldn’t have started that business in the first place!). However, ultimately, the lack of time freedom in the S quadrant does not appeal to me.
Then we move across to the B quadrant – the business owners. These are people whose businesses continue to operate even when they are physically absent. This is where I want to be. This is where I feel I should be putting my energy …but find the ease with which I can invest in the E quadrant too seductive. Striking out is tough. It’s easier to just be told what to do.
The final quadrant – our ultimate financial goal, is the Investment quadrant, whereby the wealth we have created will continue to generate an income in perpetuity, for the causes that we choose. Being socially conditioned, I used to think that people in this quadrant had only got where they were by trampling on others. However, the more wealthy people I meet (here in Japan), the more this stereotype is revealed as being a load of crap. They are by far the most generous, caring and ‘normal’ people you could hope to meet, and don’t give a poop about keeping up appearances. They are generous with both their time and money, and in my book are worthy role models.
These past few weeks I’ve been making my way through The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, an updated version of the classic self-development book. It’s very good. Informative, and inspirational. Whilst there’s not much in it that you haven’t heard somewhere else, the scientific angle is refreshing and convincing.
…and it really gets you thinking – “If I could be the person I really wanted to be, would I be the person I am today?” If the answer is no (as it is with me), then there’s clearly a need for action.
It’s compelling. Real change doesn’t take months of years, it takes a split second – the split second it takes to make the decision to be that person. That person who is fit (or on the road to fitness), that person who owns their own successful business (or is in the process of setting it up), that person who has rich, loving and trusting relationships with all those around them (or is making a concerted effort to build such bonds).
I’m in an incredibly fertile environment that is brimming with opportunity. It’s called life, and it’s time I took the next step (even if it’s only a small step). I’ll write about it in due course.
Tremendous feeling of satisfaction tonight as, at the end of a long day at the office (8 hours + 7.5 hours overtime) I finally completed phase one of my project to digitise / automate as much of the teaching jobs admin process as possible.
For the past two months or so I’ve been working on my first ever MS Access database. It’s not especially complex – for someone who’s created databases before it would probably be very easy – it simply keeps a record of all our current jobs, and produces multiple reports detailing the status of the jobs in different ways for different staff.
For me it was a huge challenge. There’s been countless times when I’ve come up against a brick wall, unable to come up with the code that would make it do what I wanted it to do. In those situations I found the best thing to do was to think intensively about the different possibilities …then let go and sleep on it. I can recall several occasions whereby when I went back into the work the following day the answer was there, hanging in the air, waiting for me – PING! and it worked!
The past couple of weeks have been a little frustrating at times as other work has started to pile up, and I’ve been unable to put any time aside for making final tweaks to the database to get it from a sort-of-working state to a fully functional bugless thing worthy of putting real data into. Thus the overtime. It’s my own choosing – I could not do any overtime and continue along the gradual progression route, but it’s reached the stage now where I really want to make the switch.
For one thing, as of this week I’m responsible for managing certain aspects of jobs in progress. Thus, there’s a bit of self-imposed pressure to get this up and running asap so I don’t have to use the existing analogue recording techniques (paper and whiteboard). The switch has also necessitated the reorganising and renaming of a complex web of files too, something I started last week but was only able to finish tonight after a few hours on the job. ooooh you should see my hierarchical archives now, boy are they sexy!
So yes, tonight I feel good. Following a fair bit of testing I started using the database – and it works perfectly! I’ll continue to extend it over the next few months in order that it can help simplify tasks for more people in the office. The hope is that within a few months or so everyone is benefiting from it, being able to immediately obtain whatever data they need to get on with their jobs.
And now it’s time for bed.
Today, following a 9.3km run with Tom at 7am, I headed out to see Bibi and his wife (and cat), who live up in the mountains of Western Saitama.
One of the reasons for the visit was that I wanted to play with Bibi’s big chopper, which some mumblers may recall me talking about a year or so ago.
Here’s Bibi in action:
…and me looking, er, manly?
It was lovely to see them both, eat some delicious homemade food, breath in some fresh countryside air. Thank you, may the ankle-healing continue 🙂
The journey there had been a good one too – I played “spot mount Fuji” with the two oba-chans (grannies) sitting opposite me on the train, and had a long conversation with a third obachan about my patchwork jeans, which I spent much of the journey working on, patch, needle and thread in hand.
This evening our friends S&M came round for dinner. S&M are a great source of inspiration and encouragement for me, and it was lovely to be able to invite them into our home – although in the presence of such experienced hosts I started to realise just how much practice I need. Thank you both for coming.
Tomorrow morning I’m off again for a run around the palace at 7am, this time with the Tokyo Vegan Runners – a group I found on www.meetup.com. Two lessons in the evening, and hopefully some time to breathe during the day.
It’s been another of those non-stop weeks. Work has been dominant, with my learning more about what my role at the company really is, something which had been a little unclear. We also had our end of year party last night, at which I did the half-yearly drinking-way-too-much thing – I was still plastered this morning, but carried out a pretty thorough anti-hangover procedure the details of which I won’t share with you here for fear of making you feel sick. Still, it worked.
The feeling at the moment is very much one of making the most of every single precious day. Although there is little downtime, I’m feeling a lot of joy and satisfaction in what I’m doing, thus when we do finally get to bed we can rest in peace.
It’s a shame I don’t feel it’s appropriate to put blogging further up my list of regular activities to be done. Having said that, I’ve become a compulsive Twitterer as visitors to the web edition of The Daily Mumble will know (those reading via RSS miss out on my 140 character words of, er, stuff, although my tweets are available via this feed). I love posting tweets, gives me an enourmous sense of wellbeing… I love being able to embed links to photo too 🙂
Shibuya, the city that never sleeps. Well, actually, it’s quite sleepy at 4am. Note sea of people
Next thing you know I’ll be setting up iJoseph.TV…
Anyway, must tidy the house. Visitors tomorrow, after a jog in the park and a day spent with Bibi in the mountains 🙂
p.s. Good luck to all those around the world taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test tomorrow (#jlpt)
The other day I decided to get off the subway one stop early and walk the last bit to the office. I took a few photos along the way as I circumnavigated the north-west corner of the grounds of the Imperial Palace.
Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging