New Year, New Blogging Goals

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Yesterday, I posted about my Blogging Goals. It’s easy once you stop posting regularly to stop posting altogether, and I like to blog so I’d like to post more often.

TL;DR: I want to post more.

Last year I tried different things to post more often (like participating in the A to Z Challenge), but at some point I stopped posting regularly. And then it became easier to post less frequently, and then not at all. Add in work, travel, and moving to a new city, and I was busy enough to put blogging at the very end of my list!

Tokyo Tower New Year's Decorations 2015

This year, I want to change that! My New Year’s resolution is to post 2-3 times a week. That way I can figure out what I want this blog to be, write about stuff I like, and maybe entertain someone along the way. However, I said the same thing last year, and I didn’t keep up with it to the end of the year. So, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall into the same rut again and stop posting by the end of this year.

How to avoid doing the same thing as last year? Make a calendar. After sifting through lots of pages about blogging, I found that making a blogging calendar kept coming up. This method seems like something that I can do to remind myself to blog, without taking a whole lot of extra time to do. The basic idea is to set up a road map that you follow for your blog, so that you can follow it even when you are very busy.

My personal calendar plan consists of setting aside days to blog that fit with my work schedule (because I definitely don’t want to write a blog when I get home after a long day). I will pick the topics ahead of time, then just write short posts about each topic. Then I can schedule the posts for later in the week and not have to worry about remembering to post them. Do you think I can keep up with this schedule? I hope so! Let’s see how this works!

Does anyone else have this same problem with blogging? Do you have any methods to help you blog more frequently? Please share in the comments!

New Year, New Me

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How many times have people made New Year’s resolutions only to break them soon after? The gym is full on January 1st, but empty by February. The salad-every-meal diet dissolves into the pizza-and-chocolate-cake diet. Let’s face it, resolutions can be hard to keep.

I’m just as guilty as most people of breaking New Year’s resolutions, but I try to prevent this by setting attainable goals. That doesn’t mean I always keep them, but I think it gives me a better chance!

I think that my 2017 resolutions will look a lot like my 2016 goals because I’m good at making long-term goals, but terrible at keeping on track unless there is a firm deadline. I think to have a chance of attaining my goals and keeping my resolutions this year, I will need to set some firm deadlines (like I did with my 2015 resolutions.

Kiyomizudera - Kyoto, Japan

Blogging Goals

I think that you, dear reader, will be most concerned with this goal. If you like my blog (thank you!) you might hope to hear more from me than you did last year (sorry!). Last year I resolved to post 2-3 times a week (which I didn’t, oops), but I think that this is a solid goal to try for again this year. If I can actually keep up with this goal, I think I can better shape my blog’s themes so that it isn’t as all-over-the-place as it typically has been.

Relationship Goals

In 2015, I moved to a new city and so my goal was to make new friends. At the end of 2016 I moved to another new city, and so now I find myself with the same goal to make new friends. Balancing work and personal life is important to me, but even though I have a lot of experience in moving to new places and starting over, I am going to have to get creative to meet some new people with similar interests! I am going to try to go to a social event at least once a month so I can meet new people.

Japanese Goals

In 2016, I thought I would study hard and take and pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but between work and the lack of a study schedule, I did not achieve this goal. If I were to take the JLPT this year, it would fall at the end of the year, which gives me nearly an entire year to prepare. I am not ready to commit to the actual JLPT at this point, but I plan to make a weekly study schedule and to prepare as if I were going to take the JLPT. If nothing else, my Japanese skill should improve.

I’ve also started using an app called HelloTalk, which pairs language partners based on the languages they know and want to learn. It seems convenient because you can use it at any time and chat like a social app, but still keep your privacy. Let’s see how it goes!

Travel Goals

I love to travel, especially to Japan. I would like to take at least one trip this year (that is not to my hometown). This depends on work and financial status, but if I start planning now it will be easier to make a trip! And while I’m at it, I would like to take more photos and maybe improve my photography ability along the way.

Jenny Lake - Grand Teton National Park

What are your 2017 resolutions or goals? What are your strategies for keeping your resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: It’s Not This Time of Year Without… Illumination

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Landmark Tower Yokohama Illumination

Photo Friday Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without… 

This week’s Photo Friday Challenge is perfect for the season – It’s not this time of year without… Illumination! Yesterday I talked about my Christmas wish list of things that remind me of winter in Japan, and today I have narrowed it down to the one thing that I miss most about Christmas in Japan. Illumination イルミネーション consists of Christmas light displays that range from local characters to famous Disney princesses.

Venetian Glass Museum

Santa’s escapades at the Venetian Glass Museum, Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture
– photo by kei

Crowds of people mill around the light displays, taking photos and enjoying the spectacle. Couples on a date, families with children, and spectators of all ages can enjoy the illumination. Despite the cold everyone enjoys the atmosphere of the season. While there are Christmas displays in major American cities too, Japan’s illuminations are a completely different event.

Tokyo Skytree Illumination

Tokyo Skytree Town Illumination – photo by kei

Visiting different illuminations in different cities gives you a small taste of the local culture, show off amazing creativity, and I love to try to visit as many as possible. For example, the Disney princesses are located throughout Tokyo in major shopping centers, etc. So if you visit each of the areas where the princesses are, you can take photos of all of them. I suppose it’s like collecting trading cards or Pokemon!

What completes your holiday season? What about holiday traditions from other countries that you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

My Japanese Christmas List

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Happy December!

It’s the first day of December, and that has me in the Christmas mood. I was thinking about what I want for Christmas today, and the top thing on my list is a trip to Japan… However, due to financial constraints and job obligations, it looks like two tickets to the island nation will not be under my Christmas tree this year 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。

So, instead of taking a trip to the land of the rising sun, I made a list of things that would make my Christmas in America a little more like the holidays in Japan.

Japanese University Christmas Trees

Kotatsu 炬燵 – a small square table with a heater underneath, usually accompanied by a futon 布団 or heavy blanket, used to keep warm in the cold winter months

Kotatsu

You can also put a PC on a kotatsu for hours of gaming under a warm futon ^^;

Mikan みかん – a small orange, in season in the winter, often eaten while seated at a kotatsu

Christmas cake クリスマスケーキ – a sponge cake with cream and strawberries, not too sweet and in a perfect portion for two people, eaten during Christmas in Japan

Illumination イルミネーション – Christmas lights, big and fancy, done in a style special for each different location – I love strolling through light displays everywhere, from the high fashion streets of Ginza to a rural town at the foot of Mt Fuji

Christmas Illumination in Ginza

Christmas Illumination in Ginza

How does your Christmas list compare to mine? Is there a Japanese Christmas tradition that you would add? What about your favorite Christmas tradition from your own country? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: Quest / Mt. Takao

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Mt. Takao

Photo Friday Challenge: Quest

In June, my husband and I hiked Mt. Takao 高尾山 in Hachioji 八王子市, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. Our quest was to make it to the top of Mt. Takao, and on a hot, humid day just before the official beginning of the rainy season or tsuyu 梅雨, we set off for the summit.

Mt. Takao Wooden Staircase

The humidity pressed down on us as we climbed a series of wooden staircases interspersed by regular hiking trails. We had taken the longest hiking course, which offered the best scenic stops between the walls of green of the forest on the way up. My husband is not as big a fan of hiking as I am, so I’m sure the quest seemed a lot longer to him than it did to me.

View from the Summit of Mt. Takao

When we finally made it to the summit, we found a cloudy view from the top. The humidity pressed down, even at the top, but the occasional cool breeze was very welcome. Even though the early rainy season humidity and clouds blocked most of the view, we had a sense of accomplishment from reaching the summit after all of our efforts. Our quest for the top done, we enjoyed drinks from the high-priced summit vending machines and watched the other people who had just finished their own personal quest.

Shops at Mt. Takao

Then, we headed back down the descent path and enjoyed the small shops at the foot of the mountain before heading back towards the bustle of Tokyo.

What kind of quest have you undertaken recently? What is your favorite part of the journey? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Friday: Transmogrify / Hoodoos

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Wyoming Hoodoos

Photo Friday Challenge: Transmogrify

Today’s Photo Friday Challenge is “Transmogrify,” which means “to change in appearance or form, especially strangely or grotesquely; transform.” Rocks known as hoodoos are a prime example of transmogrification. What is a hoodoo? In geology, it’s a column of rock that is weathered by the elements (rain, wind, etc.) into a usually top-heavy form.

View through the Hoodoos

View through the hoodoos in Wyoming, and some of the water that helps form the hoodoos – photo by kei

These hoodoos from the Wind River Basin in the US state of Wyoming are made of sandstone, and thus they have a soft look about them. You can see them throughout the northwest US and into Canada. The same structures appear throughout the world, and there some spectacular examples in places like Taiwan and New Zealand, which I unfortunately have been unable to visit.

Hoodoos form where rock that resists weathering lays on top of softer, more easily weathered rock. The softer rock weathers away faster, and the more resistant rock rests precariously on top. Sometimes it’s the same rock, like these sandstone hoodoos, and in other cases the two rocks are of different types. Usually, hoodoos are found in national parks and other desolate areas (like the ones I found in Wyoming), so you might have to hike to find them.

Have you ever seen a hoodoo? What is your favorite geology feature? Hot springs? Volcanoes? Let me know in the comments!