Tagged: blog

What Has Japan Taught Me About England?

This is my last minute entry into November’s Japan Blog Matsuri. I was going to skip it this month, as the question, “What has Japan taught you about yourself?”, would require me to take a deep look inside and pull out something wise and intelligent. Instead, here are a few things Japan has taught me about England…

Ascending the throne

When I first came to Japan, people would say “Give my regards to the queen!”, but soon after, David Beckham became the name that most Japanese associated with my home country and I couldn’t get through a single introduction without someone mentioning him. What did this teach me about England? It taught me that it doesn’t take much to impress the Japanese.

English food is crap

While I still have a fondness for English food, the general consensus is English food is bland and overpriced. What has this overwhelmingly popular opinion taught me? I love bland and overpriced food.

Englishmen are gentlemen

This is a good example of a lie told again and again becomes the truth. Despite exports such as rule-breaking Harry Potter, foul-mouthed Wayne Rooney, and gun-toting Prince Harry, the Japanese population still believe Englishmen are gentlemen. I think they’ve been watching too much Mary Poppins, but this has taught me that no matter how rude and unsophisticated British society becomes, we will always be gentlemen to the Japanese.

English is really hard

I’ve learned that the English language is incredibly difficult, and have huge respect for anyone who can speak two or more languages. [Edit: I also have huge respect for those who try to learn a second language, but fail miserably. 😉 ]

In summary…

While writing this, I’ve been drinking a hot “One Cup Sake” – perfect for a wintry evening. Unfortunately, it has failed to stimulate my imagination beyond the points above. I’ll see if a few more cups can’t work their magic next month when I host the Japan Blog Matsuri on JapanSoc. Stay tuned!

Kudos to Danielle for hosting this month!

LongCountdown Turns 2 Years Old

It slipped me by this year, but on September 23rd, this blog turned two. That’s not long, but with the millions of blogs that don’t even last a year, it probably puts this site in the top 5% for blog longevity.

What I’m lacking though is post longevity, as these blog posts are getting shorter and shorter..

Happy Birthday LC! Without you, I’d have no fans! 😛

Reviving the Japan Blog Matsuri

I’ve been working behind the scenes with other members of JapanSoc to revive the old Japan Blog Matsuri. This is a monthly blog “carnival” where given a theme to write about, bloggers everywhere are invited to share their stories with everyone else. It’s a great opportunity to find new blogs and attract new readers to your own.

Organization and Announcements

The Japan Blog Matsuri Newsroom is where things are being organized, and I can now tell you that the first matsuri of the revival will be hosted in August at The Tokyo Traveler.

Shane has published a Japan Blog Matsuri announcement naming the theme and submission details, so if you’re interested, swing by her blog to learn more!

Introducing the JapanSoc Community Blog

At universities across the UK, student clubs and societies are known as “socs”. Each of these socs is intended to bring together people with common interests, and nearly every campus has a Japan Soc.

With its Japan-related news and stories, the website of the same name has done a good job of focusing on the “Japan”. Now, though, I’d like to give as much attention to the “Soc”, by sharing with and learning more about the JapanSoc members themselves!

What is the JapanSoc Community Blog?

The JCB is an open blog that allows anybody to post a blurb about anything. It’s a blog, forum and Twitter hybrid, that can be used for Sharing, Promoting, Asking Questions, Updating and Organizing, or as I prefer to call it, SPAQUO!

Examples of SPAQUO


“Do you have any good photos from New Year? I’m writing a post about New Year in Japan, and would like to include other people’s experiences. Oh, and if you want any old Japanese textbooks, I’m giving mine away.”


“Just a normal day today, but I found time to post a video of my toaster oven on YouTube. It makes great cheese on toast! Tell your friends. The Japanese toaster oven phenomenon will take over the world!”

Asking QuestionsAsk a Question

“I’m thinking of getting that seishun 18 kippu summer train discount thingy, has anyone used it before? Is it worth it?”


“I’ve just got back from three days in Osaka and Kyoto. I’ll have the pictures up on my blog tomorrow. It’s goooood to be back!”


“I’ll be at the Aldgate in Shibuya on Sunday evening. Join me for a drink! If you’re not in Tokyo, I’ll buy you a virtual beer at the Japan Resort in Second Life tonight after 11pm.”

You can see in the examples above that you don’t have to say anything funny, intelligent or useful. It’s not a competition. No points, no genki karma, just good old community spirit.

The possibilities with JCB are earth moving!

The JapanSoc Community Blog enables tagging, which is incredibly useful for tracking a topic. For example, imagine a group of you are organizing a get-together next month. If you all use the same tag, e.g. “meetup”, you can track the latest developments by searching for “meetup”, or even subscribing to the RSS feed for the topic “meetup”.

Technical bits and pieces

Registration for JCB is separate from the main JapanSoc site, so you’ll need to register again. Of course, it’s a good idea to sign up with the same username and password you use on the main site so that you don’t confuse your JapanSoc login info.

After you’ve registered, you’ll see a form at the top of the main blog page where you can type your SPAQUO in. This saves the trouble of going into the WordPress Dashboard and writing a full post.

Avatars on the blog are also different to the avatars on JapanSoc. JCB uses Gravatar, a global avatar which is quickly becoming the standard across the blogosphere. If you have a gravatar, you’ll need to register with the same email address you used when you got your gravatar, otherwise it won’t show up.

RSS feeds are abundant on JCB. The main feed shows the user updates, but you can also subscribe to individual author feeds and topic/tag feeds. If you’d like to show off your JapanSoc updates on your own blog, just import your author feed.

HTML is allowed in the post form, and since all users have Author status, you can always correct any mistakes afterward.

Sensible Usage

Each “update” on JCB is technically a blog post. The only difference is that you don’t have to go into the Admin panel to write it. Bearing in mind that these are blog posts, please refrain from tiny updates such as “I’m bored”.

Also, please avoid the temptation to make too many updates. One or two a day at the most is more than sufficient. Of course, you can use the comments section as much as you like.

An experiment in group twittering

This kind of group blogging is quite revolutionary, and is made possible with the new WordPress Prologue theme. It will be interesting to see if JapanSoc’ers take to it and find it useful. What are you waiting for? Go to the JapanSoc Community Blog, sign up and post a SPAQUO!

Nick Ramsay Google Battle Update

In October last year, I laid down the gauntlet and swore I would take the number one spot in Google’s search results for my own name. My opponent was none other than the politician, Nick Ramsay, who happens to be a fellow Brit, born in the same year as myself! Supported by internet powerhouses Wikipedia and the British Conservative Party, it was going to be tough…

Rising to the top

Five months later, and I’ve done it! I’m now No.1 in Google’s search results for my name. The key to my success was probably not telling my competition I was competing with him! 😉

Comparing search results

What’s your Google battle?

If you could get your own blog or website to rank higher in the search engines, what “family-friendly” keyword or search term would you want to rank higher for? It would obviously need to be related to your site. One of the more popular search phrases for people in this community is “Japan blog”, which returns GeishaBlog.com as the first result. I bet that one gets a few hits!

Using JapanSoc to Boost Blog Traffic

JapanSocFrom time to time, I’ll be posting about my new project, JapanSoc, so if you’re not sure what it is, please read the article JapanSoc Brings Social Bookmarking to Japan so that you understand these posts!

Over on the Daily J, Chris B posted a comment about JapanSoc’s voting system, suggesting that people could cheat it by asking their friends to vote up their submissions. I responded by explaining how social bookmarking manages itself because users can vote up what they like or “bury” what they don’t. I then went on to talk about how votes are less important than visitors:

Using JapanSoc as a bridge between Google and your blog

From a bloggers point of view, you want to get as much traffic as possible. The best way to get traffic is through search engines, but it’s very difficult to get your own blog ranking high in Google’s search results because you’re competing with other, bigger sites for the same keywords.

The advantage of a site like JapanSoc is that as it grows and gets more users and incoming links, it will become one of those “big” sites, and rank higher for YOUR keywords than your own site. Hence it becomes a “bridge” between Google and your blog.

One important concept to remember is that when you submit one of your own posts, you should use a different title to the original, and give it a quality write-up, using keywords you want Google to find. If you just cut and paste the opening paragraph and use the same title as you did in the original post, it will be judged by Google as duplicate content and not rank so high, if at all.

Anyway, I hope you can see that it’s not about getting votes, it’s about getting visitors.

Competing with yourself is a waste of potential traffic

With the above in mind, I did some searching on Google to see if I could find any real examples of how JapanSoc can be used to get traffic from the search engine giant. First, here’s an example of why you shouldn’t use the same titles:

Google results for Hinoki Ramen Shinjuku

You can see that for the search term “Hinoki Ramen Shinjuku”, the third result is the JapanSoc submission, which comes behind Neil’s original article. Ideally Neil should have used a different title with different keywords to avoid competition between his original article and the JapanSoc submission. Incidentally, notice how the JapanSoc link ranks above otaku.fm, Danny Choo‘s aggregated feed network. Sorry, Danny! 😉

Titles matter to Google

This next example is a little more interesting, but shows the same problem:

Google results for Yutampo Japan

The above screenshot shows the results for “yutampo japan”. Thomas wrote about the Japanese hot water bottle on his blog, but his original post doesn’t show up in these results at all.

However, you can see Japanalyst (an rss feed aggregator) at number one, and it shows the same title for JapanSoc, BloggingZoom, and even the original article – talk about competing with yourself! 😯 Blogging Zoom have made things hard for themselves by attaching “BloggingZoom” to the front of the title instead of the end. All these things matter to Google.

Example using different titles

This last example shows how it should be done. The original article was titled “Slipper Ping Pong Official Racket” and as you can see below, it comes up first for the search term “slipper ping pong”.

Google results for Slipper Ping Pong

The JapanSoc link is nowhere to be found in those results because when I submitted the article to JapanSoc, I gave it the title, “Play table tennis with your slippers”, which as you can see below, ranks third for the search term “table tennis slippers”. Now that article can get traffic from both search terms!

Google results for Table Tennis Slippers

Help yourself and others by using different titles

If you use a social bookmarking site, whether it be JapanSoc or otherwise, think about changing the article’s title and summary when you make a submission. Of course, if you’re not a blogger yourself or you like submitting other people’s work (as I do), you can send them a little more traffic from the search engines by taking a few extra moments to personalize each submission. Happy JapanSocking!

Happy Birthday LongCountdown!

Today marks the first anniversary of starting this blog. Can you believe it’s been a year already? The first year saw Mami and I buy a house and have a baby, and while that will be hard to top, the next year should make for very interesting reading, particularly if you’re following the progress of our son, Rikuto.

There have been exactly 153 posts and 300 comments so far. I’d like to thank fellow Kakamigahara blogger, Jason Irwin for the 300th comment. Jason recently married into a Japanese family and among his many science and technology articles, he writes about his new life in Japan. Take a look at Jason’s Random Thoughts.

If you’d like to catch up on the last year, you should read LC’s 100th post, which highlights the best articles from the first hundred posts, and then look through the latest articles on the archives page.

To celebrate LongCountdown’s birthday, I got to together with Mami, Rikuto, our friend Keith and my Net Buddy 4 Life, Michael McKinlay, for a little song and dance. Enjoy the video.

LC’s 100th post!

LongCountdown's 100th post!I started writing this blog on September 23rd, 2006, with a post describing my arrival in Japan. Now, one hundred posts later, I thought I’d take a look back through the archives and point out some of my favorite articles which you may have missed.

September 2006:

  • What is Yakudoshi? I wrote this when we were looking for a house to buy. There were all kinds of problems at first, not least that Mami was in her yakudoshi, or bad luck, years. Three months after that post, we did eventually buy a house.
  • Ballroom dancing in Japan told the story of how we got into ballroom dancing. It’s one hobby that we both share and love… even though we’re not very good at it!

October 2006:

  • Oh my Gomi! This was the first of a two-part tale about my experience with taking out the trash and recycling in Japan. Read about how I took my rubbish with me as I moved from city to city. At the time, it was just much easier to keep it than chuck it!
  • Tetsu and Tomo mime Shouten theme! This was the first video I posted, and still my favorite. Just watch it and you’ll realize why.

November 2006:

  • I’m gonna be a daddy! This was the day Mami found out she was pregnant. One of the happiest moments of my life! It also marked the start of my Baby in Progress updates.
  • It’s a KFC Christmas was the first post I made that was linked to by other websites, bringing a lot of new readers to LongCountdown.com. Read how the Japanese go clucky for chicken at Christmas.

December 2006:

January 2007:

February 2007:

March 2007:

It was lovely to hear from Emma, she ended her email with…

I wish you and your family a very happy time together when your little boy is born: you’re in my RSS reader!

My motivation for writing LongCountdown comes from people reading, leaving comments and linking here like Emma did. So let me end with a big thank you to all my readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written so far and that you’ll stay with me for the next hundred posts!

LongCountdown hits the 100 post mark.