After 13 years as a professional computer programmer, it’s time to try something else. So let’s pull the infamous cat out of the bag: I’ve taken a year of unpaid leave from work to try my luck as a professional blogger.
Leaving a steady income to venture into the unknown of advertisement driven internet writing isn’t something revolutionary. It’s been done before. One obvious example is Jason Kottke of Kottke.org – home of fine hypertext products. Jason started blogging back in 1998, roughly the same time as I did1, and he is probably best known for the Silkscreen font. In 2005, Jason quit his job to run his blog full-time, a project he abandoned a year later because he was unable to develop “a sufficient cult of personality” to stay afloat financially.
So what makes me think that can succeed when a well-known internet personality like Jason Kottke failed? First of all, the internet is a very different place today than it was in 2005. According to Internet World Stats, 46.4% of the world’s population has access to the internet as of 2015, a 832.5% growth since the year 2000. 46.4% of the population translates, in 2015-numbers, to roughly 3,366,261,156 people, which means that the potential audience is absolutely massive. Secondly, the time people are spending on the internet has increased since 2005: Ofcom’s Media Use and Attitudes 2015 report (PDF) shows that the average adult spends more than 20 hours online a week. For young people aged between 16 and 24, the number is even higher: They spend more than 27 hours a week on the internet, only a few hours shy of an average work week.
But how can I convince these three billion, three hundred and sixty six million, two hundred and sixty one thousand, one hundred and fifty six internet users to spend a little of their 20+ hours online on me?
With this summer’s trip to Japan, I managed to cross another item off The List:
#14. Visit Tokyo.
Here’s a time-lapse video of the intersection at Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station. It would have been great to set up camp at the Starbucks cafe this video was shot at for 24 hours, to get an entire day worth of footage. But for some reason Anniken didn’t want to spend 24 hours of her vacation looking at an intersection. So this is about 15 minutes compressed down to 18 seconds. Keep in mind that this is far from the busiest time of day, and you’ll find much better videos on YouTube.
The last city on our list was Hiroshima. As you probably know, the city played a significant role in the events towards the end of World War II: It was the first city in history to be targeted by a nuclear weapon when the United States dropped the atomic bomb Little Boy on it on August 6, 1945. The blast directly killing an estimated 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000–140,000. The population before the bombing was around 340,000 to 350,000.
Besides being part of history in this bizarre way, Hiroshima has little to offer for tourists. There is the Hiroshima Castle, but it’s just a reconstruction of the original castle, which was destroyed by the bomb. There’s also the Mazda Museum, if you’re interested in cars. But that’s about it. Still, you should visit Hiroshima, if nothing else just to see with your own two eyes how fucked up the human race really is. Wikipedia has an interesting article on debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that touches ethical, legal and military controversies.
After two nights in Hiroshima, we took the train back to Tokyo, we’re we spent another two nights before flying home.
If you are considering going to Japan yourself, stop considering it and just by the tickets. It’s a beautiful country and you’ll love it. You should know Japanese or English before going, though, because if you have no real means of communicating with people, you will probably end up feeling very lost at times, but literally and figuratively speaking. But with basic Japanese or English, you’re good to go. Also, I would probably recommend not going in July, it was unbelievably hot and humid. And do as much research as you can before you go, get an idea of what you want to see and why you want to see it. I recommend using japan-guide.com for this, it’s a fantastic site that contains everything you need to know about visiting Japan. Read as much as you can on japan-guide.com, they have a lot of essential information.
After Osaka, our next stop was Kyoto, Japan’s seventh largest city, with a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. Kyoto is only a 15 minutes Shinkansen ride from Osaka, which was convenient since we didn’t have to use a lot of time on traveling.
Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its historic value, the city was spared from air raids during World War II. It was also removed from the atomic bomb target list by the personal intervention of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, as Stimson wanted to save this cultural center which he knew from his honeymoon and later diplomatic visits. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today.
Kyoto is home to the Gion Matsuri festival, supposedly the most Japanese festival. The festival takes place over the entire month of July and there are many different events, but two are particularly renowned: the Yamaboko Junko, a procession of floats on July 17th; and Yoiyama, the festive evenings preceding the procession. We arrived on the 15th of July and had plenty of time to experience Gion Matsuri.
After four nights in Tokyo, we jumped on the Hikari Shinkansen and headed west to Osaka. If you’re living in a country where the train service isn’t exactly perfect and going long distances can be a pain – like Norway – I suggest you go to Japan and ride the Shinkansen to experience a super express service that just works. The trains depart and arrive on time, often down to the second, the cars are spacious with good leg room and there has yet to be a single fatal accident – which is more than can be said about European train services these days.
Osaka is, with its population of 2.5 million, Japan’s third largest city, and it has been the economic power house of the Kansai region for centuries. In the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a daimyo of the Sengoku period, chose Osaka as the location for his castle, and the city may have become Japan’s capital if Tokugawa Ieyasu had not terminated the Toyotomi lineage after Hideyoshi’s death and moved his government to distant Tokyo.
The city seemed a lot quieter than Tokyo, with far less people roaming the streets. After having experienced the constant buzz of the capital, it was good to kick back and relax a little. But don’t get me wrong, as soon as the night fell, Osaka became yet another melting pot of people, sounds, lights – and even more crazy food stuff.