Thursday, September 17, 2015

Back In Japan, Five Years On - tadaima-tte!

Travelling in style
Usually, this would be around the time of year that I start talking about (or complaining about) the annual Japanese Language Proficiency Test. But this year, oh no, you're all off the hook! Since, by some miracle, I actually passed last year's test, I am giving myself a break and saving myself the $70. other words, there's no way I could possibly make N2 level with my remaining study time, so I'm not wasting my money this year. ;)

That's okay, there's plenty more to blog about, if I ever sat down and made the time for it! For example, I have 1500+ photos from my trip in February, and I've posted very few of them here. Every time I think about blogging, I can't quite decide what to write about...but maybe it's time I shared some stories of my trip, so that I'll have a diary of sorts to look back on, like the one I kept when I was actively living in Japan.

We tried to cram a lot into this trip. It was my first time back in 5 years, so I had a lot of catching up to do! I bought the ticket on a whim during an absolutely stunning $745-round-trip seat sale (via Delta, of all things), and got literally the last available dates on the sale so that I'd be able to save up. A few days later, my cousin Cassius was overcome with envy and bought a ticket of her own for the same time frame, minus a few days. I love showing people My Japan and also discovering new things about Japan, so we put together an itinerary that was a good mix of both, chock-full of train travel, Pokemon Centers, and the occasional onsen.

This is where Cass and I differ. Whereas I could go to Japan and literally just take a bath every single day, that is not her cup of tea. When she visited me in Japan 7 years ago, I morbidly embarrassed her by taking her to the onsen and being so excited that I didn't even notice her level of discomfort. So I tried to play nice this time, and also add in lots of things she likes. And she likes Pokemon, so I decided to take her to a Pokemon Center!

I decided to take her to every Pokemon Center in Japan!

That deserves a post all to itself, so I will come back to the Pokemon topic later.

He knows where you've been.
Anyway, in the months leading up to our trip I tried not to over-plan, but I also wanted to hit a lot of places. I had to go back to 〇〇 City; 〇〇 High School. I wanted to ride a bunch of blue trains before they went out of service forever. I wanted to go to Hokkaido, which I'd never been before, and revisit Kyushu to do research for a novel.

And if you haven't looked at a map of Japan, those places are literally on opposite ends of the country.

That's okay, though, because trains! In the end, the pre-departure itinerary looked something like this:

Date Start Point Travel
Day 1 - Wed Feb 18 Narita Narita > Tokyo (4 PM arr.)
Day 2 - Thu Feb 19 Tokyo Tokyo > 〇〇 City > Kyoto
Day 3 - Fri Feb 20 Kyoto Kyoto > Rinku Town > Namba > Kyoto
Day 4 - Sat Feb 21 Kyoto Kyoto > Haneda
Day 5 - Sun Feb 22 Tokyo Tokyo > Aomori
Day 6 - Mon Feb 23 Sapporo Sapporo > Jozankei
Day 7 - Tue Feb 24 Sapporo Jozankei > Sapporo
Day 8 - Wed Feb 25 Ueno Ueno > Nakano > Tokyo
Day 9 - Thu Feb 26 Osaka Himeji > Shinsekai > DenDen Town > Kyoto
Day 10 - Fri Feb 27 Kyoto Kyoto > Osaka > Fukuoka? > Beppu
Day 11 - Sat Feb 28 Beppu Beppu > Ajimu > Beppu
Day 12 - Sun Mar 1 Beppu Back to Kansai, via Shikoku
Day 13 - Mon Mar 2 Kyoto Kyoto > Otsu > Kyoto > Tokyo
Day 14 - Tue Mar 3 Tokyo Asakusa > Haneda > Odaiba
Day 15 - Wed Mar 4 Tokyo Odaiba > Shinjuku > Akasaka > Odaiba
Day 16 - Thu Mar 5 Tokyo Odaiba > Narita

Oh my! Well, if you glimpsed the map from Brother Google, you know we did all that and more. So stay tuned for the first days of our grand cross-Japan adventure!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

VHS Tape Bonanza

A box of tapes on their way out of the library
The Japan Foundation Toronto is moving, and though that means a lot of changes and adjustments for those of us who found Bloor and Avenue pretty convenient to get to, the upside is that the library is overhauling, which means clearing out old items, which means VHS TAPE GIVEAWAYS.

You might have guessed from my persistent interest in all things retro, that I have just a teensy bit of nostalgia for decades past, with the 80s/90s (my growing-up years) entrenched firmly at the top. That means I don't just treasure the memories of taping my favourite shows on the family VCR - I still own video tapes and VCRs. (I actually received a VCR-DVD combo unit for Christmas last year!) 99% of my tape collection is at my parents' house, so I left it there to begin the long project of dubbing dozens of old favourites onto DVD whenever I visit them.

So, when the Japan Foundation Toronto decided to get rid of most of its videotape collection...well, needless to say, the airport security guys probably got a kick out of my suitcase as it went through the scanner on my most recent trip back home. It was so hard to resist! I found some fabulous Tokyo-in-the-late-80s-early-90s snapshots with videos like Neighborhood Tokyo, Tokyo Date, NHK The News 1985 and Norimono Ippai. Lots of glamour shots of the pre-extension Yurikamome Line in that last one. I also got Tokyo Olympiad and four out of a set of Japanese recent-history programs covering events like the Hanshin earthquake, the marriage of the crown Prince (now Emperor), and the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123, which was actually just in the newspaper here as the 30th anniversary was yesterday.

All in all, a pretty impressive bounty of pre-millennial pop culture. I'm sad that these tapes can't be borrowed from the JFT library anymore, but on the other hand, it was good timing for me, because I watched and enjoyed them all and they won't end up in a landfill, either. I was happy to see how quickly the rest of the tapes (there were at least 500 given away over two days) were picked up by other patrons to take home. It makes me happy to know at least a few others out there still have VCRs!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ajimu Adventure

For my 2011 NaNoWriMo project, I decided to write a story about small-town Japan. I had written a story set in Tokyo for a previous year, and I wanted to go in a different direction, even though I had very little experience with small-town life. (〇〇 City is not exactly the size of Osaka, but it's very, very far from being inaka.)

I actually really enjoy research - I'm the sort of person who will get caught up for hours on strings of Wikipedia articles. I particularly like learning about urban development, and trains. (I probably have a massive article due in the near future about our train journey from Hokkaido to Kyushu taken in February.) So for me, not knowing much beyond the JET Journal perspective on inaka life was not a deterrent, but a challenge!

I decided to choose a place I was interested in, and then do the research to make the setting plausible. I was living in Osaka and I had written about Tokyo, so it was time to go further afield, and there was an obvious first choice. I'd had a great time in Kyushu in 2010, recently re-read Ash by Holly Thompson (set partially in Kumamoto), and also discovered the blog nipponDAZE, which chronicles JET life in Oita-ken in the 90s. Kyushu was right up my alley, and I was sure there had to be a town somewhere near Beppu that a disillusioned exchange student might find her calling in. A few Google searches of JET blogs in Oita turned up a match - the town of Ajimu, recently merged into the greater city of Usa, with a population short of 8,000 people and no train station of its own. At the time, it was not available on Google Street View. (It is now, if you want to have a look.) I made email contact with a JET alumni who had a fabulous website (many kudos to Joel, who likely never expected anyone would try to write a novel based only on his blog's descriptions of Ajimu) and started from there.

As with any NaNo project, of course, November ended and then I was slammed with the JLPT, prepping for Christmas, Nengajo, and the usual writer's burnout that comes when you devote 30,000 words to a topic and then realize you don't know where the story is going. So I never quite finished the tale, though I intend to go back and revisit it soon. 

Brother Google watches over our travels.
With that said, Ajimu was at the forefront of my mind when I planned my two weeks in Japan this past February. During NaNo 2011, I often daydreamed about quitting my office job and moving to Kyushu to write the great Japan-set YA novel, living at Khaosan Beppu and trading cleaning services for room and board. Or, if I had some savings, in a little one-room apartment with a tatami floor, because I'm still not over that. By 2015, though, I was at a different point in my life, and there wasn't much chance of getting a lot of time for creativity while travelling. I decided to somehow fit Ajimu - even though I had never driven a car in Japan, and our primary destination was Hokkaido - into the trip. My travelling companion had little interest in hot springs, but Kyushu was close to my heart now, and she obliged me, for whatever reason. I applied for an international drivers' license and booked us two nights in a ryokan, following our day in Kyoto. We worked an almost-nonstop pace from Sapporo to Beppu, via blue train and shinkansen, in three days. 

Alighting in Beppu, Cassie and I spent the night, and then rented a car the following morning for my "research trip." (She manned the camera and is responsible for most of the photos below.) We spent four hours wandering and driving in the area without any direction at all, just exploring. At first, I really thought I was imposing, because we could have been at the Hells in Beppu by that point, or - so I imagined Cass would prefer - way back in Nakano Broadway, working the gatchapon machines. Somehow, though, Ajimu became a grand adventure. The tiny, run-down shrine on the cliffs, the bronze turtle statues, the quest to find some restaurant - any restaurant - to eat at - we were soon laughing and snapping photos of everything, getting lost, running away from adults who we thought might be suspicious of gaijin taking pictures of the school, and slowly navigating hairpin curves in the road while the super-confident local drivers leaned on their horns behind us. Oh yeah, and going through the ETC toll lane by accident and bringing all toll operations to a halt while we tried to sort out what was going on. (The rental car had an ETC broadcaster, but no card in it.) We were actually very sad to leave Ajimu without seeing it all, but had another appointment to keep in Beppu that afternoon.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day and the highlight of the trip, particularly for Kyushu - the rain would start pouring that evening and chase us all the way back to Kansai. And a good memory. I hope if you've been to Ajimu town, you'll enjoy our photo memories of the day.

Arriving from the highway

Cassie mans the camera while I drive down what we think is the main road

Small-town feel

We're keeping an eye out for places characters might visit

These apartment buildings look like someplace a JET might live!

We asked the GPS to take us to the post office, and so we pulled in here to decide where next it turned out, we were RIGHT beside the school!

A peek inside the baseball clubhouse (?)

School view

School from the opposite side

Ajimu's famous for its wine, and turtle soup. Grapes are everywhere!

Street shots

I thought this was very striking

Great mansion name!

Decided to drive over this bridge and see what was on the other side

Turtles on the bridge

Neither of us can resist torii gates

Not the same gate. This one appeared on the other side of the tunnel you see above, and leads up the mountain. We decided to climb the stairs; see what we could find

I was not expecting to find a Peace Pole here

Had we come six weeks later, this place would undoubtedly be flush with sakura

Stone tablets at Sanjo shrine

Seems to be falling into disrepair. We didn't see anyone else at all, either

Strolling on the shrine grounds

Sanjo shrine grounds

A weathered path

This river borders the town in the northwest

Back in the car to continue adventuring
A winery? Or could it be something like the Town Hall?

We drove to the next town by accident

This was a fun-looking spot!

"Walking in Ajimu."

On the outskirts of town, now; ready to return to Beppu
But first, lunch at the Konoiwanoshō

I really wanted ice cream...
Plenty of the Ajimu special; turtle soup (I just had the dangojiru)

Thanks, Ajimu! See you again!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

So the JLPT

Someday I will know my results.
Another JLPT come and gone, and results came out this week. I always resolve to talk a little bit more about it after I take the test, because honestly, something seems to get lost in the shuffle every time...with National Novel Writing Month happening in November, I often end up not thinking about the JLPT at all between October 31 and December 1. Not a great habit, I know, but one of these years...

The JLPT in Toronto administered by York University is one of two locations where the test is given in Canada. (The other is in Edmonton, AB.) Now, as a person who lives in The Big Smoke, I have no right to complain about how "far away" York is. (I may have done a little bit of complaining prior to my move here from the Atlantic provinces, though.) I can't even complain about the distance from my house, seeing how I chose to move away from Downsview the year before last. That doesn't mean that on test day, getting to the JLPT is a picnic!

So here is my advice for next year's JLPT applicants; common sense, to be sure, but maybe they're more of a reminder to myself for next year...?

  • Aim to arrive midway through the registration period. The lineups taper off a bit towards the middle and end of the registration period. Of course, you don't want to cut it too close, and have the TTC or something else make you too late to write the test, but too early isn't great either, and you'll be lined up awhile before sitting around for an hour just waiting. And getting nervous. Not to mention that aiming to arrive for 8 AM on a day when the subways are not running (meaning leaving my house at 6:30, meaning rising at 6) is asking for you to open up that test book and be so glassy-eyed that you don't know where to start. Don't panic if something goes wrong and you're going to get there right at the end of registration time. You have a few minutes' leeway while the orientation is taking place!
  • Expect to hear from York not too long after you sign up for the test. I say "not too long" because I'm not positive when it is actually supposed to come; for the last two years, I didn't receive my email with my voucher at all, and I waited far too long expecting it to come before I reached out to them. You need the voucher to write the test. Perhaps even more importantly, if you don't receive the voucher, you should still show up. Last year (2013, that is) I thought about the fact that I didn't have a voucher yet about 2 weeks before, and I contacted JLPT support. I was able to get it. This year (2014) I remembered the night before the test, as I ran through the checklist of things I needed to bring the following morning. That's why I was awake at 2 AM Googling phrases like "forgot JLPT voucher" and "JLPT York reprint voucher" and the like. I weighed whether or not it was going to be necessary to rise at 6 and go to York only to be turned away at the door. Luckily, buried somewhere on the site, I read that vouchers could be reprinted at registration. And I wasn't the only one not to receive their email - the line to reprint vouchers was much longer than any other line that morning. In short: You should receive a voucher with your test number. If you don't receive it within a few weeks of registering, ask. 
  • Bring something to eat. This test is long and the breaks just barely give you enough time to inhale a small snack. Our group had technical difficulties and started late, which meant that our breaks were cut down. (For the final one, the time of the break's end even was shortened and changed after many of us had left the room.) It took much longer to finish the test than expected, by something like 45 minutes, and I was ravenous enough that after every section I was wolfing down Polish chocolate that I had won the night before as a prize at a Polish wedding reception. Not sure what I would have done without that Jezyki Kokos,  Delicje cookies and especially Katarzynki, chocolate-covered soft gingerbreads. I might not be alive right now, without Katarzynki.
As for the test itself, I don't actually know how I did on it. That's because you need the voucher to log in online to see your results, and of course, there's no voucher in my email for me to refer back to. I emailed York to get my voucher number, but the password I was provided (generated by them, not by myself) doesn't work in the login page. So did I pass? Hard to say. I guess I'll find out when the paper results are dispatched the month after next...?

Maybe next year I will be able to choose between the JLPT and NaNoWriMo as a focus. Fingers crossed for the July version making its way eastward someday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Old JLPT Feeling

I will never be an N1 Master
I have quite a few unfinished drafts hanging around in my posting queue...whoops! Things have been very very busy for me lately. I've been working a lot of overtime, ended a relationship, taken up long-distance running, gotten a cat, bought Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright. I'm pretty tired most days, so when I come home, I just want to sit at my kotatsu and space out while reading blogs. Except that a lot of the blogs I used to read daily have tapered off in post frequency or, like one of my favourites has, stopped posting entirely. While being frustrated that my daily reading content seems to be vanishing, I failed to consider that perhaps somebody out there actually likes reading my blog and was disappointed to see my posts dwindling. Well!

With that in mind, I decided today was the day for a quick post, though I suppose the topic is rather same old, same old. Last year I took a beating when I walked into the room, sat down, wrote the first section of the test, and then turned around to say to an acquaintance behind me, "Did we come to the N2 room by mistake??" It was a disaster.

This year, I tried to crack the books way back in July, with the intent to study relentlessly until October 31, and then leisurely review during November on days when I didn't have the energy for novel writing. (I don't think it's a coincidence that I have passed the JLPT and won the National Novel Writing Month challenge, but never in the same year.) Suffice to say that it's October 22 now and I'm still on Week 4 of the So-matome grammar book, with two weeks of grammar and six weeks of reading comprehension to go. I did read Chi's Sweet Home, volume 11, on the subway yesterday. That counts as study, right?

What I have been doing is kanji study, thanks to being frequently trapped on buses and trains with nothing to read and no cellphone games installed on my phone. (I was able to safely end my addiction to Hot Springs Story after beating the game for the third time.) Though there are a few apps that I've tried out before to help get daily study in, I think I've finally found "the" app for Android, and it's called KanjiSenpai. I had to turn off the drawing component pretty quickly, but otherwise I'm finding it to be really good. It uses the usual spaced repetition system (SRS) but it seems to be much better at coming back later and making sure I really know the answers to ones I guessed. Plus, it rotates between offering the meanings and the readings of compounds, as well as making you choose between several cards that are very similar, which is great for me. You can also remove cards that you're 100% certain you know - I took out number kanji, for example, and the cardinal directions, days of the week, and other kanji I use in everyday life - but the app is still going to check in with you 500 cards later and make sure you know them. If you've been looking for a good study app that will teach you the kanji rather just quizzing you on what you already learned from a textbook, this is it.

Another good one I had been using before finding KanjiSenpai was TenguGo, which cost me a dollar-something and had an interface I liked well enough. The quizzes came in small, easily-devourable packets (harder to put off studying when you can say "Meh, I'll just do one quiz,") and the tengu threw me a little on-screen party when I finished a certain number. However, it assumed you already knew all the kanji in the quiz. You can opt to "review" items (see the screenshot) but it packs just a bit too much info into its screen, and by the time I got to item #10 I had already forgotten #1. The SRS method is much better for me.

One other app I had been using before I switched to studying grammar via textbook is one called "N3 JLPT PREPARE" (yes, very descriptive) by V-Next software that does kanji, vocab and grammar quizzes. You can choose a quiz with 30 words, 50 words, 70 words, 90 words, 100 words or - not for the faint of heart - 200 words. The search function also seems good at a glance, though I never actually remember to use it. (Google Translate is always too close at hand.) My intent was to come back and use this app to quiz myself once I'd learned enough items to actually pass a quiz. Maybe it's time for a quiz right now!? I'm not getting any younger - and December 7 just gets closer and closer!

Anyone want to share their own recommendations for JLPT study apps?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Photo of the Day - Shinjuku, 1992

Today I was linked to this fantastic HD video on YouTube of Tokyo in 1992. It's so clear! I really dig urban history, so I snapped a few screenshots of my favourite moments. The video includes this nice shot of Shinjuku's Studio ALTA, a look at the Rainbow Bridge during construction (!), and a Shibuya scramble crossing that's so unrecognizable that I didn't even realize right away that I was looking at the entrance to Center Gai. Wow. Check out the video, and for extra credit, have a look at this blog post about Studio ALTA, featuring a photo of the lower half of the building, in 1989!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Japanese Music in Concert

T.M. Revolution performing at Otakon 2012
For a music fan, I'm not willing to expend a lot of energy or cash to go and see a band - in fact, I'm lucky to go to a concert every 3 years at the most, and usually only shell out for nosebleed seats. However, I've actually seen a few really good Japanese bands while living here in North America. I've seen bands that would be playing sold-out shows in Tokyo, and paid next to nothing for them.

The secret is...anime conventions.

Almost all of the big conventions feature a musical act. Here in Toronto, I hit up Anime North every couple of years when they have a particularly interesting guest. I'm also in Baltimore almost every summer, and been able to see some fantastic acts at Otakon. T.M. Revolution, L'Arc~en~Ciel, JAM Project (including Okui Masami and Kageyama Hironobu, for you anisong fans out there!), Home Made Kazoku...all free with the price of admission to the convention. How good is that? When friends in Japan heard that I'd seen L'Arc, live, they were completely bowled over. 

In Osaka and Tokyo, I saw ZARD and AiM and Wada Kouji - now, those last two are definitely a story for another day - but going to a see a big-name show was pretty unlikely. Unlike my friend Brynn, I just don't have that kind of interest in any one band - plus I've been lucky enough to see T.M.R. in the U.S. not once but twice!

Quite a lot of Japanese artists have come to Toronto to perform as well - Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was here a couple of weeks ago, and though someone offered to sell me their tickets at the last minute for cheap, it wasn't enough notice to actually go. Too bad! I also missed out on B'z the year before last, which was really unfortunate. These are fairly big-name artists, though, that it'd be tough to get good tickets for in Tokyo, and here they are performing at the Sound Academy in T.O.!

New York, L.A. and other bigger North American cities also have plenty of Japanese performers who slip under the radar, both at local venues and at cons. The next time you're looking to find some new J-artists, why not check out a convention? You might be surprised at who you can get to see, practically for free!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


But better late than never.

Hobonichi Techo Life

In 2008 while living in Japan, I was finally able to play MOTHER 3, a recent (at the time) sequel to a cult hit video game that I had loved as a teenager. My brothers and I owned a Super Nintendo and a copy of EarthBound, by far the house's "preferred game." Released in 1994, it was a role-playing game set in rural America, starring four "normal" kids (or as normal as spunky psychics, princes and genius teenagers can get, anyway). Years later, the sequel MOTHER 3 got a Japan-only release.

For me, it was perfect timing. Uncertain how to make Japanese-speaking friends, I had been hanging out mostly with fellow JETs and exchange students from the nearby university. I spent a lot of time in my apartment chatting online with people back home and listening to Internet radio. And as it happened, that was where I had the good fortune to meet my first real Japanese friends - not in Japan, but on the Internet.

it just wasn't Tokyo
without purikura
This could turn into a much longer story (and my social life isn't actually what the post is about!) so to keep it short, I'll just say that I got involved with a certain well-known EarthBound community and encountered a Japanese fan of the game within it, Mana. She was about my age and lived in Gunma-ken, a prefecture north of Tokyo. The two of us arranged a meeting during one of my visits to Tokyo and hit it off, and from then on, whenever I was in the area, I made an effort to see her and her friends that I had gotten to know. All were fans of the MOTHER series, so I went from a fairly small amount of fandom involvement to quite a lot, very quickly.

Japan was a good place to be at the time for fans of this 20-year-old series - aside from MOTHER 3's relatively recent release, there had actually been brand-new merchandise released in arcades (Game Centers), The King of Games was selling official t-shirts out of a shop in Kyoto's Teramachi, thirty minutes from my apartment, and you could still buy the special MOTHER 3 Game Boy Micro in stores - I still regret not owning one of these! I struggled through reading the blog of MOTHER creator and copywriter Itoi Shigesato, and I went to LOFT on not one but two separate Januarys to buy his well-known Hobonichi Techo, a day planner with customizable covers and thoughtful quotes. I did not make the purchase on either occasion - after all, every year CLAIR sent us a compact, designed-for-JETs planner in the mail that I was quite fond of, and I also received a small calendar book from my school. While I wanted a techo because of the Itoi connection, I couldn't validate the expense when CLAIR's version was smaller, printed in English, and had subway maps and unit conversions on the back pages. None of the covers interested me enough to drop ¥3,500 on one, so I settled for simply looking them over whenever I visited Kyoto. There were other ways to show my MOTHER love, like this fancy colour-changing Ultimate Chimera shirt that cost an absolutely astronomical amount of money at the time.

At one point Mana-chan and friends, myself included, attended a MOTHER event in Tokyo where I even ran into into two other English-speaking members of that community, one of whom was an expat JET like me - though a CIR, not an ALT - from a few prefectures away. We hadn't really known each other at the time, certainly not enough for me to recognize them offhand, but I was completely gobsmacked to spot someone in the subway station wearing a Ness t-shirt, and rushed up to them immediately to say hello.

It's been some years since that event, and though MOTHER influences my life to this day, my active involvement has waned pretty considerably since leaving Japan. Not so of the JET I met at the event in Tokyo, Lindsay - she now translates and localizes for the company belonging to the creator of the MOTHER series, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun!

I can't tell you how awesome it is to see a fan succeed not only at entering the industry professionally, but to have the incredible good fortune (not to mention the moxie to go after it in the first place!) to work with Itoi himself. So when word got out that Hobonichi was releasing an English version of the techo, translated and localized by Lindsay, I decided it was finally my year, despite having converted over pretty thoroughly to Android's convenient Google Calendar access.

Typically, I have never been great with keeping up planners. Not since high school have I used an agenda on a regular basis. But my techo's design and ease of use (can't bring my phone into company meetings!) and stylishness and POCKETS has driven it home.

(No, I don't always save my TTC transfers!)

I use it for writing fiction ideas, dates and times and details for stories, copying the office calendar down so I can see it at home, collecting movie and concert ticket stubs, noting what foods I liked at restaurants and how much I spent, and more recently tracking Bitcoin gains and losses. I also get to use stickers I brought home from Japan and my immense Muji pen collection, and imagine my surprise when I discovered that two of the other staff in my office also have Hobonichi techos!

It's been a bit tough carrying around a book all the time when I cart around plenty of heavy things in my purse, not to mention switching from digital back to analogue again, but I'm already dreaming about putting my techo on the shelf at the end of the year and having this record of 2014 to flip through again's much more personal than reading back through Twitter logs!

I guess I can't possibly be shocked that MOTHER continues to exert that subtle influence over my days. I might even have to pull out the big guns and use some of my carefully hoarded Mr. Saturn stickers.

What are you waiting for!? Start your techo life!