Apr 052007

My apologies for the lack of updates recently; I’ve been extremely busy these last few months, and (although I’d love to say otherwise) that’s not something likely to change anytime soon. While glancing back at some previous posts I realized it’s now been over 16 weeks since I’ve managed to write anything in the real time. Perhaps that’s just how it’ll have to be as long as I’m working in this long-hours Japanese company…

In any case, here comes yet another way overdue catch-up post!

After my action-packed trip to Tokyo for New Year’s, life pretty much went back to normal – working all week, partying on weekends, regular trips to the gym, and trying to keep up with a number of personal projects on the side. Project #1 was the code revamp of this site, followed by another website I’ve started building for Dean. As of about 1 month ago, I also decided to make a real effort to get back into studying Japanese on a daily basis. Although I’ve been in Japan for nearly six months, work has kept me so busy/tired that I’ve been completely neglecting one of the main reasons I’m here. But not anymore. From now on I’m setting my goal at around 20 new words a day, and so far it’s been going quite well. I found that getting started was all I needed to re-awaken that passion for learning that mysteriously faded away along with most of my free time ๐Ÿ˜›

I’ve also taken a few day trips on bike as training for an eventual ride to Tokyo, which have so far included an 80km trip around the Southern part of Lake Biwa and a 75km trip to a beautiful little town called Miyama in the mountains just North of here. My original intention was to make the big ride over Golden Week (a bunch of consecutive national holidays), but it’s looking more and more like I’ll be abandoning that date for a variety of reasons. Hopefully I can make it before the full force of Japan’s summer humidity sets in though. We’ll see how things pan out.

Oh yeah, and I finally have my very own internet connection setup at my apartment! After just three and a half months of waiting, I’m feeling the wonderful liberation of being able to call my friends and family (via Vonage) or watch American TV (via a Slingbox) without having pack up and ride to the public library or Starbuck’s.

…And without dangling a pile of electrical tape off my balcony, adjusting it to just the right spot…

…Because after about two months of waiting I finally got so sick of not being able to check my e-mail that I decided to build a temporary makeshift WiFi antenna – so I bought a USB receiver, several lengths of USB extension cable and a repeater, electrical tape, and saran wrap (for insulation). By hanging the contraption off my balcony and positioning it just perfectly I managed to grab a signal from a nearby building, which I then routed through a laptop and into a Vonage telephone. It worked well enough, but wasn’t particularly fast, and anytime a gust of wind came and shifted the cable I’d have to go outside and spend 20 minutes getting it back to that perfect spot. But hey, it still beats camping out on the roof in the cold of winter!

Of course, the major event in the last few months was my recent trip to LA and San Francisco for GDC, both of which were very refreshing and very enlightening. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about my job, life, where I’m at, where I want to be, and I think that the quick back-and-forth between countries did a lot to help clear things up.

But that’s a whole, long topic by itself which I’ll save for another post.

Back here in Kyoto springtime has finally come – and it rolled in shockingly fast, as always. At the start of last week the weather was snow and hail, but today I’m writing from under a cherry tree and a clear blue sky wearing a thin T-shirt and jeans. I celebrated the arrival on Wednesday (a national holiday – for the first day of Spring) with a leisurely bikeride up the Kamogawa riverfront where I ran into a group of acquaintances I’d met at a bar several weeks earlier. Because I was still getting over a pretty bad sickness I didn’t join their soccer game, but it was a very pleasant afternoon nevertheless.

And speaking of random run-ins, I’ve been realizing more and more how freakishly common they are here in Japan. Maybe it has something to do with being the world’s most densely populated country. But whatever the case may be, I can’t seem to go anywhere without running into someone I know these days! On the plus side, this makes it quite easy to develop a great social network in relatively little time; you meet someone at a bar, see them in a park a week later, go for a bite to eat, etc. I even made a new friend through this website, a reader who recognized my face at a club in Osaka almost exactly as I’d recognized SushiJeff just two weeks before. It was the same night that I ran into the ex-girlfriend of a Ritsumeikan roommate, and the same event through which I met the girl who interviewed me for Face of the Month on Why Not Japan. The world really is a much smaller place than it sometimes seems.

…And speaking of SushiJeff, he dropped by Kyoto this weekend, so we met up for a brief tour of some of Kyoto’s lesser-known destinations. This led to beer, of course, which in turn led to an all-nighter at Sam & Dave’s with a couple of friendly Australian tourists out for their last evening in Kyoto. It also led to lots of photography and photography-related discussions. And to my recent purchase of a Nikon D40 – my first step into the world of Digital SLR. My motivation to go out and take pictures has really been stagnating lately, and I’m hoping that this long-anticipated purchase will help to revive that stagnation.

Then on Sunday I finally reunited with Kusunoki Sensei, the awesomest teacher to ever exist, along with Dylan, Stuart, and Keir at a traditional wedding in an Arashiyama Shinto shrine. And just when I thought the weekend was over, the guys invited me to a Yoshida Brothers concert in Otsu. Obviously I went, and obviously it kicked ass.

Now I’ve just got one more work week to get through before my dad comes to visit on Friday, arriving right on time for the start of the cherry blossoms. He’s a tough guy for flying halfway around the world so soon after a total knee replacement, but even if we can’t be as active as usual it’ll still be really nice to see him.

So yeah, I’ve been pretty busy lately, and I’ll most likely be that way for awhile. But I’ll keep trying to keep you guys up-to-date. As I said I’ve really had a lot on my mind lately, much of which I’d like to share with you sooner or later, but if I’m gonna start waking up at 6am now that it’s warm enough to do so, I’ve got to start getting to sleep earlier!

P.S. This post took a week longer to get up than I expected, so the dates referred to were actually 2 weekends ago…and my dad’s already here!

Ja, until next time**

  9 Responses to “Q1, 2007”

  1. I saw where Sushijeff ran into Peter at Sam and Dave’s one night. Were you there that night? I will be there from May 1 to May 15. I would like to meet up. Let me know.

  2. Glad you’re back up and running. Missed the posts. Looking forward to the new photos. And by the way, at nine in the morning a joint looses it’s official designation as a “nightclub.” What it becomes however I do not know.

  3. Let the great Sakura/Castles/Shrines and toriis Photo Battle of 2007 COMMENCE!

  4. David – Nope, he actually ended up there the night after me, and coincidentally, I ran into Peter the night after THAT! It would’ve been pretty cool to run into him with a geisha at Sam & Dave though, I have to admit…

    As far as May 1st to May 15th, I’ll definitely be here during at least part of that time, although we have a work deadline shortly after so my schedule might be a bit hectic. Do you still have my cellphone info? If so, just shoot me a mail when you arrive and we can see where we’re at.

    Dan – Maybe 9am doesn’t mean “Nightclub” in the US, but for much of the world it simply means “time to move to the next venue!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. know your are busy but miss your posts! xxxxx

  6. Justin, I only have the old phone number you had the last time you were in Japan. I will try the last e-mail address I have for you. If that doesn’t work, you have my e-mail address. Let me know what you katai number is. I have a lot to update you on.

  7. there are some great photos here, I really like the tunnel vision one. How beautiful. Glad to hear you got internet….its amazing how dependent we are on it.

  8. Aunt V: I know…I miss posting too ๐Ÿ˜› I’m nearly done with another new site feature though, which I hope will keep things relatively interesting even when I don’t have time to post…!

    David: I e-mailed my new number over.

    Rachel: Thanx…yeah, it’s my lifeline…ya know, computer engineer and all ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. I was just working on another short article for WhyNotJapan, and realized that I should probably keep a local copy of my Face of the Month interview locally (since I have no idea how long they’ll maintain it on their site):

    Q1. What is your name?

    A. Justin Klein

    Q2. Where are you originally from?

    A. Los Angeles, California

    Q3. How long have you been in Japan?

    A. 18 months (14 as a student, 4 as an employee)

    Q4. What are you into at the moment?

    A. Traveling, weight training, biking, photography, studying Japanese, meeting new people, working on my website (www.justin-klein.com)

    Q5. What do you do in Japan?

    A. I program Nintendo DS games for a small Kyoto-based development company.

    Q6. How did you manage to get your job?

    A. Short answer: I sent them a resume, interviewed online, and got it!

    Long answer: Since I majored in Computer Engineering as an undergrad, I’ve been exposed to a number of different programming jobs over the years. I guess I always liked game programming because you get to work on something fun, and because the work environments tend to be pretty relaxed. So I followed the advice of a friend in the industry and made a few small game projects in college, to learn the basics and get a head start over the other graduates. Then after finishing my degree in 2004 I came to Japan to study for a year at Ritsumeikan. I fell in love with Kyoto, went home, Googled for Kyoto-based game companies, found one, applied, and a few months later was back on a plane to Kansai.

    Q7. Is it a big challenge for you to work at Japanese company? Tell me about it.

    A. YES. The work ethic is very, very different from that in the US. Basically, they pay half as much, give you half the freedom, and expect you to work twice as hard. Since I’ve always had an especially independent personality, this hasn’t been easy to adjust to. But I suppose the biggest challenge would have to be balancing work with my personal life – because it starts to feel weird leaving at the end of business hours when 99% of my Japanese coworkers stay until 10pm or later every single day!

    Q8. Any funny/horrible stories about working at Japanese company?

    A. The first thing that pops into my head occurred shortly after I arrived, during one of our morning progress meetings. Myself and 5 or 6 other programmers gather around a table and discuss any issues that we had on the previous day, or anything we might need help with on the next. They usually last no more than 1 or 2 minutes. So when this particular meeting was called, I headed over and took a seat. Here’s what happened:

    Supervisor: ใ€Œ็ซ‹ใฃใฆใใ ใ•ใ„ใ€ใ€€ ๏ผˆPlease stand up๏ผ‰

    Me:ใ€€ ใ€Œใธใ‡๏ผŸไฝ•ใ€‚ใ€‚ใ€‚๏ผŸใ€ใ€€๏ผˆUm, what?๏ผ‰

    Supervisor: ใ€Œใ“ใ‚Œใฏ็ซ‹ใคใƒŸใƒผใƒ†ใ‚ฃใƒณใ‚ฐใชใฎใงใ€็ซ‹ใฃใฆใใ ใ•ใ„ใ€‚ใใ‚Œใฏ่ฆๅ‰‡ใงใ™ใ€‚ใ€ ( This is a standing meeting, so please stand up. It’s the rules!)

    So I stood back up, listened to him talk for 30 seconds, the meeting ended, I walked over to my chair, and sat back down.

    A perfect example of cultural differences. Even in a 1 minute meeting, if the rules say to stand, you’d better make sure to stand!

    Q9. Do you have any advice for foreigners to get a job at a Japanese company?

    A. Honestly it’s difficult to say because different people have such different personalities. I know several foreigners who work at Japanese companies and love every minute of it, while others just can’t stand it. I guess the most important thing, other than the obvious “GET GOOD AT JAPANESE,” is to just be prepared for the unexpected. Things that you take for granted or find perfectly natural in your home country are likely to be quite different – if not the complete opposite – over here.

    Q10. What are your goals for future?

    A. Ideally, I’d like to land a well-paid contract programming job that lets me work from my laptop, giving me the freedom to travel and work around my own schedule while still being financially independent. But in the long run, I’m thinking of going back to grad school for my MBA because, well, I probably don’t want to be a programmer forever ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’d also like to pass the 1Q one of these days…

    Q11. What are your favorite Japanese words?

    Hmmm…kind of a dangerous question, hahaha. I guess I’ll go with a few safer ones:

    1) ไธ€็”Ÿๆ‡ธๅ‘ฝ Because that’s how I try to live pretty much every aspect of my life: studying, lifting, partying, whatever. If I decide to do something, I do it 100% or not at all.

    2) ใ‚ใ‚Œใค Because it’s awesome that there’s a word meaning “to be inarticulate in speech due to intoxication or excitement.”

    3) ใƒžใ‚ฏใ‚‹ Because Japan turned the name “McDonalds” into a verb…and that’s totally ridiculous!

    Q12. Message to WhyNot!? users!

    Whatever you do, kick ass at it and don’t settle for anything but the best. Don’t resign yourself to relying on English, or to taking a typical “gaijin job” if you’ve got the means to do otherwise. When I was here as a student I thought it would be impossible to simultaneously follow my career path as a game programmer and keep living in Kyoto. But here I am. So why not you too?

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