Six Years in Japan – A Look Back

SIX YEARS IN JAPAN!!!!!! <- and six exclamation points This post took me nearly 6 weeks to write as well... 5 and half of those procrastinating. What can I say? Another year in the books. Things that cross my immediate memory from this year include:
The birth of my 2nd daughter, Sheila! What a great day, to know that both mother and newborn were healthy and finally coming home.

I say finally, because Ayako had spent 60 days in the hospital — from December 25th until after Sheila’s birth! That was one really tough time for me. I felt what it was like to work a full time job and raise a child (Mia) by ones-self. Late nights, early mornings, weekends travelling to the hospital, and weekdays just trying to stay one-half step ahead of the dirty dishes, dirty clothes, and groceries.

Other more positive things that happened: My brother visited Japan; the kids, Ayako, and I visited Hawaii for the first time; we had several more rooftop BBQs; and I squeezed in a trip to San Francisco. All great memories.

But the real question, for me, is how have I changed, in what ways have I grown personally, professionally?


How I’ve Grown Professionally:

In my spare time I’ve worked on 2 startups in the past year, one of them still a part of my schedule (Teaching web development using Ruby on Rails at, the other exited through private sale (FullCourt acquired by MARIMORE INC.

As the years pass, I become more aware of the amount of time I’ve spent trying out different business ideas. 32 being my lucky number – and this year turning a modestly young 32 years of age – made it more front-and-center for me. In the last 8 years I’ve tried:

– Freelance web development as-a-business (doesn’t scale very well)

– Software-as-a-service for Medical Case Management companies (had a few customers in the USA, moved to Japan and couldn’t easily support them anymore, so 4-and-a-half years after first dollar of revenue and subsequent maintenance contracts – I sold the IP rights to the software)

– iPhone applications-as-a-business (jumped in when the App Store first opened, outsourced a lot of work – built a dozen or so apps [not all got accepted to the app store], made money but gradually lost interest and eventually closed the business about 5 years later when the long-tail revenue of those apps ran out)

– Private web-communities-as-a-business (think discussion forums and niche how-to sites with communities that are willing to pay for access to content. I’ve still got a few of these communities, but they’ve never generated enough revenue to consider working full time on, but I’m not ready to ditch them yet, either)

and most recently FullCourt and RailsMania.

So what? I guess I’m only sure of one thing. 6 years in Japan have flown by so fast. So many things ask for my time. But looking back I’d not change any of it – I’ve enjoyed the time spent here, with friends, family, and on business ideas.

Every new experience is an opportunity to discover.

Over the last 6 years I’ve discovered so much, but now that new experiences in Japan are fewer – I don’t have reason to document them. Instead I’m spending my time in new business experiences — not only startups, but also at Medidata, my day job. Eventually the sum of experiences will help me discover whatever it is that I’m truly passionate about professionally. At least the variety keeps me engaged :)

How I’ve Grown Personally

I’ve spent far less time this past year learning Japanese than I have in the 2 years previous. I chalk this up to a few things:

1) I no longer work in an environment that requires Japanese language ability
2) My daughters need to learn English, so at home I no longer speak to them or my wife in Japanese
3) I’ve reached a point where I can have conversations, deal with necessary situations (doctor, bank, post office etc)

So Japanese language ability isn’t a huge concern. I did, however, take the JLPT, just like previous years, to continue gauging my ability and force me to study enough to keep from forgetting things.

This past year I also intended to lose weight (I did), and get a driver’s license (I didn’t). I’m running 5km with coworkers regularly, in lieu of basketball – which has been increasingly difficult to attend due to the schedule with kids. As for the driver’s license, I’ve wavered on that a few times thinking “i need it” and then the next day “not worth my time.” More recently I’m convinced I should get it so I stop thinking about it. Hopefully I can update this blog in the near future with that checked off my todo list.

And that’s about it. 2014 was another great year, plenty more ups than downs, and lots of action even though this blog didn’t see much. And for 2015, much like the years prior, I’m going to keep the following in mind

Simple. Positive. Active.

JapanDay Update coming soon

I planned on writing a JapanDay update today. But, after reviewing my previous years’ posts, I decided to give myself a couple days to prepare this update. Year 6 in Japan has completed, and I think it deserves a special review. I’ll do that this week.

Until that time, I’ll reminisce while reading my previous “year-in-review” posts:

Japanese, License, Weight

Three big goals for this year:

1) Continue improving my Japanese. I’m taking the JLPT in July and am currently in a 90 minute lesson every week.

2) Get a driver’s license. I’ve got a few hurdles to jump for this. First I have to get proof that I had been driving for a couple years before I came to Japan (Department of Transportation will hear from me soon). Then I need to take the written test, which I’m studying for now. And finally I’ll need to pass the driving test on their special test course. The last of these seems to be the most difficult from what I’ve heard.

3) Lose weight. I’ve gained a significant amount of weight since this time last year. I’m now on a mission to lose it. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of spam onigiris from a nearby Okinawan bento place, and drinking only green tea (I had recently picked up that bad habit of drinking coca-cola and other high calorie, unhealthy beverages)

End of an Era

Not sure how often I’ll update this blog going forward. I’ve really enjoyed writing here, but it’s no longer as important to me as it once was.

I reached the goal I set out with: document my life in Japan, the strange things I saw, and things I learned so I could remember what those crazy first few years were like.

Going forward I might still update this blog with new experiences. Likely, though, I’ll be busy elsewhere finding meaning and enjoyment in other adventures so my once rigorous publishing schedule will be much tamer. Perhaps twice a month? Perhaps once a week? More, less? Who knows. But we’ll see how it plays out.

I’ll be getting a driver’s license this year — one of my goals. Still taking the JLPT to keep Japanese language learning in my sights (that’s not a goal that disappears simply because I pass that test). And I’m working on an updated version of my book and other projects. Life is going well.

Simple. Positive. Active.