Danshari 断捨離

Hey! It’s been a while. I realise I haven’t written here for almost exactly three years! I guess working at home and almost never going out during the COVID-19 pandemic is a good time to catch up.

There’s actually quite a bit that came to this long-awaited entry.

The Japanese has a word, danshari, written as 断捨離 (Japanese page on Wikipedia). Transliterating the characters one by one, you get decline, discard, detach. These are the three Ds you need to declutter your space, which is what the word means. An old activity with religious roots popularised lately by the popular Marie Kondo. And this is what I have done.

I said “Marie,” not “Mario.”
(Image: Unknown source.)

These past few weeks, I dated someone and saw her place. One thing struck me: how she didn’t have many things; she only had what she needed. When I came back home, it hit me all the sudden. I glanced at all the stuff in my small 25 m² apartment and I simply wondered, “Why? What is all this? Why do I have all of this junk?”

Over the next few days, that question endlessly tumbled in my brain. I told my date about it. I mindlessly shuffled things around, turned every object upside down, inspected every nook and cranny… Stacks of CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, old clothes, costumes, piles of documents, little knickknacks… Until one day, my girlfriend not only pushed me to take action, but also helped me go through it. She has a “Just do it” attitude, which a guy who procrastinates like me needs from time to time.

We started from my old books. Then my CDs. Then whatever else I found that brought me no joy, no satisfaction. Many of my things were only souvenirs of memories I didn’t remember or didn’t want to remember. I collected old items and little doohickeys for 10 years, and sometimes even more, before my life in Japan. Why was I keeping all that? No matter. I didn’t need it then and I won’t need it now. We simply stuffed as many trash bags as we needed while cleaning every spot of my place imaginable. I only took some photos of some things about which I want to write later, and ripped a few discs for posterity. I even took time to fix my long desk which was sagging—turns out it was missing a support leg in the middle.

In total, we tossed outside 50 garbage bags. I also have 13 items too large for the normal trash collection that I’m waiting for the city to pick up. As for my place, it feels much bigger and much much neater. I now know everything I have and where everything is. I even found an old camera I thought I lost! Gone are the days of frustration when I’m looking for that one thing I have no idea where I left it. Working from home with a tidy desk is more productive. I even sleep better.

All that thanks to the girl who encouraged me to do it. Frankly, she didn’t find my place very inviting before… but after all this, she stayed for days on end. Now that’s improvement!

Nobody asked for a picture of garbage, but here it is… Day 1 of 3 of throwing bags away.

This renewed space. This is bliss.

And now…

Decluttering is a new habit of mine.

I look at other things and wonder if I can danshari that too.

The confusing dated and unorganised documentation at work. The data I hoarded on my NAS…

My website. Yes…

There’s one thing I’ve not been touching for the same reason I was shy from spending time in other spots of my apartment. Just like my place was a few weeks ago before this massive change, my website has been rusting in its corner of the Internet with its pile of old whatever stuff was in it.

Here was my setup in general: three websites built with Middleman, four installations of WordPress, a few PHP scripts here and there, and the most complicated .htaccess file to hold everything together with plenty of redirections to make any browser dizzy and any developer cry. I even had a local repo to generate that .htaccess file and deploy it!

Why was I doing all this? Ego, probably. I’m a Web developer. I’ve been one for 20 years. Shouldn’t I be able to make my own website instead of relying on apps like WordPress or anything else similar? I know JavaScript, I know PHP and Ruby, I know backend and frontend. Well yes, of course I should! I am professional! Therefore, I must! How dare I use something made by somebody else while I could write it myself? Besides, there’s always something in what they make that doesn’t suit me. Everything is better custom!

Haha… Funny how my mind changes as I’m approaching my 40s.

It’s a very egotistical point of view, I realise now. Yes, I could embark on an adventure to make my own site from scratch. But why? Surely, with all the experience I have as a Web developer, I should know exactly how tedious and how much work that is. Do I want to spend all me free time to do more work? Oh no. I’ve been doing that for way too long.

You wouldn’t believe all the details I implemented. Even features I knew people wouldn’t use. Keyboard shortcuts on most links (you could hit the ? key to make them all appear, good accessibility!), search fields using CSS (no backend required!), custom styling on every post (a pain to write and maintain, but it felt much more expressive—loosely inspired by Panic’s blog back in the day), even Easter eggs like hiding messages in JPEG images using steganography and a retro style for my site reminiscent of the first personal homepage I’ve published on GeoCities in 1996. All experiments, really. Fun experiments. But, who am I doing this for? Myself? To learn? Maybe? They were normally useless for most.

I backed up everything, in case I want to reuse something for later, then I got rid of most. I only kept one WordPress installation on my 15-year-old account at DreamHost (referral link), merged the content from the other ones, and upgraded this one to version 5. Very, very good editor, by the way. I’m impressed! You could tell I haven’t been using WordPress actively for a while now and I’ve been missing out. I was also able to easily find plugins to do some of the things I want my site to do, like making it multilingual. What I’d spend weeks to accomplish with custom code, I’ve done in a day or two with this setup. The only custom part of this is the 100-line of code or so of CSS to change the look of the site and give it a dark mode, if your system is in dark mode. That’s it.

Funny enough, I feel happier having decluttered my site and make this simple blog than what I’ve spent years to write, tweak, build, adjust, and rewrite. For once, I can actually focus on the content of my site rather than on the presentation or its container. Sure, there may be things I’d like to change, but I have to accept them. It’s good enough, and I must go with it. Besides, why would I? What I’ve done is much more satisfying.

I suppose what they say is true…

Less is more.

Short visit at Comiket 90

My busy weekend impairing my plans for my third day of Comiket 90 last Sunday. The original intention was to go there and write an article about it, but then realise the sites I write for actually wants news—like when I reported in French about whether or not Comiket will happen during the Olympics of 2020—not just photos of cosplayers.

That, plus me forgetting a few things about my camera, turning some of my photos into a blurry mess. I promise myself I’ll do a better reporting job at Tokyo Game Show later this year.

I could complain more about that day, but do you really care? Do you really want me to also rant about the hot humid weather? Nah. I certainly don’t need to tell you how busy Tokyo Big Sight is during that event, if you really need a reminder:

Now moving on to the reason why you’re here. Check out below photos of the place and a few cosplayers I managed to capture during my short visit on the last day of Comiket 90:

Nairu was a Pokemon trainer on the lookout for creatures to catch.

Paula incarnated her original character, Ninja Hina, and she writes about her love to ride her motorcycle.

Tidus (by Shion Kaito) and Yuna (Shion Takamura) from Final Fantasy X.

Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman from Batman vs. Superman.

From Idolmaster, Airi Totoki (by Watapachi) and Shiki Ichinose (Rise).

Maev of Fate/Grand Order by Chigoku Yuugi.

Kyoko of Madoka Magica decided to let her beard grow this time. I get that.

I still believe Tokyo Big Sight is a dormant Transformer just waiting to manifest itself one day.

Big letters for Big Sight.

The organising committee estimated 530,000 people attended the 3-day event last weekend.

See you at Tokyo Game Show 2016! I’ll be at Tokyo Big Sight again for Comiket 91 in December.

First Chōrai Mobile gathered aspiring and experienced electronic music talents in Tokyo

Since last year, I’ve been joining other participants of the Tokyo Electronic Musicians Collective, also known as Chōrai, organised by Katohmy, a music producer in Tokyo. People joining the regular gatherings are fans of electronic music, clustered in groups within, each with its own theme: DJs, singers, hip-hop, etc. Some members are experienced and famous, others have hidden talents they want to polish and show the world. I’m of the latter.

My friend Dan and I discussed about the wide range of apps to produce electronic music on the iPad and the iPhone. We know there are a lot of tools available. But they are so new to us, and there are so many, that we spend more time discovering more things available than we spend time actually producing anything. It was like discovering filters the first time someone uses Photoshop.

While we are exchanging knowledge between us, we thought it might be a good idea to invite others who might want to learn from us, and put their know-how into the mix. So, we have. Yesterday, about a dozen people joined us for the first Chōrai Mobile Monthly.

We spent the evening listening to Dan showing us the hidden power of GarageBand for iOS. (Version 2.1 for iOS 9.2 and up, to be precise.) While I’m not too keen on using its desktop version, and I thought the iOS was a watered-down of what I already didn’t want to us, GarageBand is surprising flexible and polyvalent on iOS. Multiple tracks, volume automation, electronic instruments, automatic drums, loop pads, etc. There are many features that I didn’t even imagine available on that simple-looking app.

Thoughtful Dan also brought a few splitters to let us all listen to the sound of his iPad while he was demonstrating all the features he knew about, and not disturb the customers around us, at the coffee shop where we were.

2016-03-31 14.50.08
“Live Loops,” one of the many features we reviewed in GarageBand 2.1 for iOS yesterday.

Our first assignment for next month is to make up a track by using GarageBand. I can’t wait to hear what others will make, and what I’ll be able to come up with!

The next Chōrai Mobile Monthly will be on Wednesday April 27 in Shibuya, likely in a studio. Location details will be announced on our Meetup page and our Facebook group.

Realistic visuals of Tokyo in “The Garden of Words” resurface

The Garden of Words (Koto no Ha no Niwa, 2013) is an anime masterpiece with remarkable realistic visuals. The trailer will show you how rich and artistic the movie is and you’ll be begging to watch the entire movie:

The story takes place in the Meiji Jingu Gaien, or in other words, the outer precinct of the Meiji Shrine. The area is one of the rare large green spaces in Tokyo, and the house of various sports facilities, stadiums, and a memorial hall.

Montages comparing stills from the movie with photos of the actual locations were posted anonymously on a Korean forum soon after the theatrical release. After the film’s television broadcast earlier this month on the NHK, those images resurfaced and regained their much-deserved attention:

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This quality is expected by the production studio, CoMix Wave Films, well known to pay great attention to details in the photographs of actual locations they use for reference.

If watching The Garden of Words is not enough, you’ll also want to see 5 Centimeters Per Second (Byōsoku 5 Senchimētoru, 2007). Their next feature-length animation, Your Name (Kimi no Na ha) is scheduled for release in Japan this August.

Magic tape covers your tattoos for the gym and onsen

In Japan, people often associate tattoos with gang members of the yakuza. So, it’s no surprise most gyms and onsen, public hot-water baths, will not accept guests with tattoos on their body. No matter how subtle the tattoo may be or how insignificant.

This causes problems with people who get tattooed simply for artistic or emotional values, rather than membership markings. The no-tattoo rules also surprise foreign travelers who have no stigma against inked skin.

There is now one product to help curb tatouazophobia, the fear of tattoos. Called Foundation Tape, it first looks like slices of beige processed cheese. Once unwrapped, the artificial membrane can cover your tattoo, and stick to your skin, like a large square bandage. Simply press it against your skin and it will stay on. No more need for makeup.

It’s water resistant, making it perfect to sink yourself in an onsen or sweat at the gym, while tattoos go unnoticed.

Now is a good time to take your tattoos where they couldn’t go before.