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Obligatory blog birthday post

I wrote my first post on Valentine's Day 2011. (I didn't do this birthday post on Valentine's Day, because I wrote about illegal sex instead. That means my birthday post is two days late, but never mind, let's pretend I'm on Africa time.)

I started my blog for three reasons. Firstly, I realized that various recipients weren't reading my emails about Japan. I don't blame them: they have zero interest in this country, and they probably got bored with my relentlessly cheerful missives. I suspect modern mankind regards happiness as naive, boring and irritating. We're supposed to be cynical, disillusioned and depressed. I'm not. Tough titties.

Secondly, I couldn't find much information about things that interest me: quirky shitamachi shrines, old forgotten traditions, mythology. You can find information on Japanese websites and in old out-of-print English books, but there isn't much on contemporary English websites. I thought maybe there might be three other odd individuals who might be interested in it too, and I could share what I unearthed with them.

Thirdly, I was tired to death of Japan-bashing and "Japan is wacky" blogs. There is one question that no foreign Japan-basher has ever been able to answer to my satisfaction: if Japan is so awful, why don't you go home? I enjoy balanced blogs that write about the good and the bad, but one year ago, so many had gone private or inactive. To mention only one: Mutant Frog Travelogue. (They might be back in business. Yay!) So I started writing a blog for myself.

A wider audience

I continued writing for an audience of one for several months. The Hero was generous in his criticism: you should find a specific topic, you're not sarcastic enough, you should write about everyday stuff.

Initially I made no attempt to promote my blog. Then I took a small step that changed things in a big way: I participated in Show Me Japan. It closed shortly afterwards, but it introduced me to bloggers like Lina of Urutora No Hi. She commented on my blog. I replied. I started commenting on other blogs where I'd been a lurker for a long time. I realized a) that it's fun to chat to other bloggers, and b) that if I checked out the followers/commenters on blogs I liked, I would often discover other bloggers who love Japan, books, words, travelling, gardens, museums, history. Nerds. Nomads. Poets. Bookworms. Eccentrics. Philosophers. Photographers. Parents. Loners. Marathon runners. Darn dinkum interesting folk. That's the best thing about blogging: it helps you to meet, virtually speaking, fascinating people all over the world.

I'm still shocked whenever a new person comments or starts following my blog. It makes me nervous, too, especially when that person is Japanese: now I have to research extra carefully and make absolutely sure I'm not writing rubbish.

Lessons

It's difficult to do a post every day, especially if it includes facts and photos. I try to do at least fifteen new stories every month. I suspect I won't be able to maintain this tempo. I wonder when I will run out of stories, but on the other hand, could you ever tell all there is to tell about Japan? Or just Tokyo? Or only my shitamachi? No.

Posts I think will be popular seldom are. I don't try to predict anymore.

I believe you either have to acknowledge comments on your blog, or you have to pay a courtesy call to that person's blog. The courtesy call often turns into a regular date.

Blogging is more fun but harder work than I thought it would be. I research my stories and check my facts, and that takes time.

Other Japan blogs

There is one type of blog I've started ignoring: bitterbekkers. "Bitterbek" is an Afrikaans word that means "bitter mouth" or more precisely "bitter maw". I love rants, especially about cyclists!, but neverending sarcasm is tedious. Such bloggers allege that they're portraying the "real" Japan, and I often get the impression that they're trying to outdo each other in cynicism, four-letter words and clever cutting comments. To them, life seems to be a neverending pissing contest.

Sorry that you got yourself a raw deal, Gaikokujin-sama, but that isn't my reality. It's not all Hello Kitty and cherry blossoms, but it isn't just racism, radiation and non-stop/weird/no sex either.

Quo vadis with this blog?

I don't know. I will continue writing about my beloved shitamachi, old stuff and books. I hope I can continue my conversations with individuals from all over. I look forward to meeting many more.

Thanks for our chats! Don't stop!

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