Welcome to 2019! 明けましておめでとうございます 。 I hope everyone had a restful year end. I really appreciate that Japan shuts down at year end and everyone has time to take a break and spend at home with their family. I was able to take off from just after Christmas until January 7th. It was nice to have 9 straight days at home. I am on the go so much that it gives me time to dig into a bunch of projects around the house that have been stacking up. I always feel good going back to work in January with my to-do list cleaned up.
One of the things I had on my to-do list was to complete my Furusato Nozei shopping. Furusato Nozei is a unique Japan tax scheme created to help bring additional tax revenue to smaller towns in Japan to support their development. The way this system works is let’s say for example I’m going to owe $5,000 in tax to Tokyo next year. I can decide that rather than paying the money to Tokyo, I can decide to donate the tax to a different province or ward in a different part Japan. As a Thank You, and to encourage donations, the ward I donated to will send me a predetermined Thank You present. My tax bill is then reduced by the amount I donated. There are limits on how much you can donate based on your income but the limits are surprisingly generous making this a pretty beneficial scheme.
Let’s say I donated $4,000 of my $5,000 tax bill. Next year’s tax bill will be reduced by $4,000. The presents are often valued at up to half of the value of what you donated or more. The gifts are all sorts of things from local delicacies such as crafts, meat, fish, or alcohol to travel vouchers or even electronics such as iPads. So rather than paying $5,000 in tax, I pay $1,000 and donate $4,000 to a different part of Japan but I get $2,000 worth of stuff that I may already be buying so really I’ve lowered my tax bill by $2,000 while helping with the development of a small town.
Now $5,000 above was just an example, depending on how much you make your tax bill could be much higher and thus the benefit of the program you can received much greater. Have a look at this popular Furusato Nozei site to get a feel for the kinds of gifts you can get. It’s Japanese but just click around and you’ll get the idea. While the prices look a bit expensive don’t forget everything is basically ‘free’ as that money would have gone to tax with nothing in return vs. the Thank You present you are now getting here. It’s a fantastic system. You can also check this English Furusato Nozei site out for a little more information on the scheme if you are interested.
I was listening to a video of Tim Ferriss the other day that explained the concept of Singular Focus. He talks about it as a super power for getting large volumes of work done. I didn’t realize but it’s what I’m applying when I am working on ShootTokyo and Grown Man Shave. He talks about how everyone is always multitasking and how that’s not actually always a good thing. His suggestion is to block out time to do what he calls “deep work”. His approach is to shut off the TV, put your phone on airplane mode, close the other tabs in your phone and just dig into the task at hand for two, three, or four hours.
Husband Tip: Put your phone on airplane mode when out with your wife and singularly focus on her.
With the singular focus approach you will get far more accomplished than if you were multitasking your way through the tasks. A good example that we are all guilty of. Wake up on Saturday morning. Pour yourself a coffee. Turn on the TV and crack open your laptop and try to clean up some mails. You probably sit on your laptop for an hour or two but probably get very little accomplished. If rather you have 30 or 60 minutes of singular focus on that task you would accomplish much more in a shorter amount of time. When I think about writing blog posts here on ShootTokyo. If I am singularly focused I can pound out a blog post in an hour and a half. If I am watching TV, surfing the web, and distracting myself 5 other ways, the writing of the blog post can drag on over a couple of evenings. Singular focus is a concept I have practiced but not consistently so I’m going to try to be more mindful to apply this approach
I took the opportunity to make Grown Man Shave my singular focus during my time off over the new year. I added some new product lines to the shop. It takes time to find the right manufactures, set up the agreements, add the products to the shop correctly (quality images, descriptions, SEO). It’s easy to be sloppy when adding products but then you end up with a sloppy looking shop. I have been very detail orientated with everything I do in the shop so people have the best shopping experience. I spent time tweaking a lot of little things on the site, improving in little increments and began some new work on the marketing front. I have so many ideas for marketing. I think that will be my big project for 2019. I also spent time setting up a proper accounting system. I set up QuickBooks and it’s really interesting to see the cashflows and how I can improve things.
People always ask me how I have time to do so many things. Firstly, I have a very supportive wife which goes a very long way. For Grown Man Shave, I take a very organized approach. I use G Suite to run the business, outside of accounting, and I’m very organized with my Google Drive and in Gmail. I have all of my documents very well organized in Google Drive so I can find anything I need in just a few seconds. In my Gmail inbox, I probably have 4 or 5 emails right now which I’m leaving there as I need to follow up on them. I have a ‘touch once’ policy with email. If I touch it, I reply to it, delete it, file it. You can read mails on the go and consume them but not action them and when you finally sit down you have an inbox full of read but unactioned mails. It’s highly unproductive. This is where applying a singular focus really pays off. I keep a task list in Google Keep and whenever I have a bit of free time I chip away at one of the tasks. I also look around and see if there is someone I can bring on that is a better fit to complete the task than me; developer, marketeer, accountant, etc.
Last year I flew 133,009 miles last year. That is actually quite a lot considering I didn’t fly the 1st four months of the year or in December. My travel was a lot more focused with trips mostly between Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney and San Francisco. This year I already have trips scheduled to Las Vegas, New York City and San Francisco by the 1st week of February. I’m excited to see where 2019 brings me.
I have had a few inquires recently asking me if I am going to make more ShootTokyo shirts. If you haven’t purchased one before, the shirts are very high quality, custom silkscreened in Osaka, Japan, made with a heavy 6.1 ounce 100% cotton t-shirt. I need to order in bulk to maintain quality so I wanted to gauge demand and see if it makes sense to do another run of t-shirts. If you would be interested in ordering a Black ShootTokyo shirt for $39.95 w/ free world wide shipping can you please indicate your interest here. If there is enough people interested I’ll do another run of shirts.
Today’s Configuration: Leica M10 with Summilux 35mm f/1.4 and Summicron 28m f/2.0 Leica lenses. On an interesting note, I’ve been shooting my Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4. for more than 9 years now. This has been the lens that I am most consistent with over the years.
One of my last business trips last year was to Sydney, Australia. My meeting started 1st thing on Monday morning. The only flights to Sydney from Tokyo are red eye flights and given the early start time of the Monday meeting I needed to take the Saturday night red eye arriving around 9AM on Sunday morning. I think many people don’t think about the amount of time it takes to travel around Asia.
Arriving early Sunday left me the day to explore Sydney. I was traveling with a Japanese colleague so I took the opportunity to teach him the phrase ‘bromance’. We explored around the Opera House and then took the ferry and headed over to Manly Beach for a few hours before meeting some other colleagues for dinner.
I try to fly out of Haneda Airport whenever I can given it proximity to Tokyo but there are times I need to fly out of Narita. I’m always torn if I should drive or take the Friendly Bus. I love my car but after 4 years it only has 21,000 kilometers on it. There just aren’t enough driving opportunities for me. The drive from Tokyo to Narita is a night straight shot for 70 kilometers and a good opportunity for my car to stretch her legs. I also enjoy the quiet time on the bus to read or work. When I take the bus I usually get there a bit early pick up a Starbucks for the ride and make sure I have the front seat on the bus. I’m always torn which way to get to the airport.
One thing I love about my Leica camera, aside from the amazing photo quality, is the conversations it starts. I can’t remember this guy’s name but he say my camera and stopped me. I was checking out the area behind him as I realized there is a separate ANA checkin for Diamond members I can now use. He said something like ‘nice camera’. He is also a Leica shooter and was in Tokyo on vacation picking up some cameras. I always arrive to the airport early so I had some extra time and we spend 20 or 30 minutes talking. He was wearing the Rolex Submariner with this special black rubber strap from Germany that I have seen online before so I was asking him about it.
My camera gets me into conversations with strangers at least a few times a week.
The ANA Star Wars themed plane…
Late last year I got to fly to Florida to to spend time with my folks. This is something I’m trying to do once a year. It was a great week. We basically went from restaurant to restaurant and filled the voids in between watching various COPS shows. It’s always great to spend time with them. This is my ideal staycation. I miss them living so far away.
I picked up the Apple HomePod while I was in the US. I really like it. The sound quality is amazing and does exactly what I want; plays music and sounds beautiful. I had Google home but I found it super annoying as it always actives when someone says Google, which is more often than you might imagine. This used to happen to me when I was on calls and it would keep talking to me and I would end up needing to unplug in. I think it’s a fault in the design that will probably turn off more people than just me.
I caught up with my friend Fukuda-san just before the new year. He wanted a new headshot so we met for a bit of shooting and a coffee. The last time I took his headshot was more than 5 years ago. Check out his Instagram if you want another great glimpse into Japan.
I headed out to Yurakucho as one of my blog readers Matty was in town. He was nice enough to take me out shooting when I was last in LA and I wanted to return the favor. I love this area. I would walk around and shoot here every night. I love the tiny little restaurants all up and down the streets under the train tracks.
Quiet year end in Tokyo…
In the latest Tokyo Real Estate things I don’t understand news… This is one of the major intersections in Ginza, arguably one of the most expensive places for real estate in the world. They have torn down a massive 15 story building and replaced it with this small weird garden and an airstream trailer where a local radio station is playing music and there is a small coffee shop. How this can make any financial sense is beyond me. I can only assume they are waiting to tear down another adjacent building so they just needed something to do with the space.
Thanks for stopping by today! Don’t forget to indicate your interest here if you want me to make more ShootTokyo shirts.
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