The time may have come, however, when it is too much trouble, and when even if I do have something to say about Japan, I worry that it may no longer be interesting, original, witty, clever, insightful or downright excellent. Having become a father of two within the space of as many years, this could simply be because I’m knackered, but while I don’t get quite as much sleep as I used to, being an ALT still affords me plenty of time to write. Somehow, though, I seem to find myself doing other things at work these days – some of which, incredibly, involve fulfilling my role as a ‘proper’ English teacher.
In addition to this, a nagging doubt has been creeping up on me recently, namely that if part of the reason I moved to Japan was to become fluent in the language and eventually get some kind of job that requires using it, then what am I doing spending several hours a week writing blog entries in English? Sure, writing those entries often involves consulting Japanese websites (take a bow, Wikipedia Japan!) and translating the relevant parts into English, but perhaps I ought to be writing a blog in Japanese instead (actually I’ve already tried this once, but gave up because it was too difficult).
As I’m sure many of you – my faithful, not-so-faithful and accidental readers – have no doubt realised, my race to complete the Wrong Way Round account of my cycle tour of Hokkaido became a way of avoiding the kind of topics a proper J-blogger is supposed to write about: eg. whale burgers, penis shrines, used underwear vending machines and so on. I did my best to make Wrong Way Round more than just a straight travelogue, and to include content that is relevant to everyday life in Japan – the kind of thing that English-reading expats and non-expats alike might want to read – but where I used see something that made me think, ‘Hey, that would make a good blog entry!’ almost every day, recently I have been doing so less and less. Or rather, I still think, ‘Hey, that would make a good blog entry!’ almost every day, but never get round to writing the entry.
You might even say that I’m jaded, but to be honest, part of the reason for my lack of motivation has been a lack of feedback, and of any sense that more than four or five people in the known universe are bothering to read what I bother to write. This of course is an insult to the ‘lurkers’ – ie. those people who probably read everything I post here, but for whatever reason have never felt the need to comment on it. Furthermore, the irony is that I too am a lurker, and hardly ever comment on the blogs I read, thus leaving little evidence that I hit on them the first place.
Speaking of hits, incidentally, my stats tell me that I am getting hundreds – on average two or three hundred, and occasionally close to a thousand – per day, and while a certain number of these are proper readers, the vast majority, I have come to suspect, are people who have done Google searches along the lines of ‘hot Japanese chicks’, ‘repairing punctures’ or ‘hot Japanese chicks repairing punctures’. Weebly, the frankly useless hosting service that I use as a vehicle for Muzuhashi (even after three and a half years, I still have to delete and re-insert my blog archives list at the beginning of every month because it has failed to update automatically), doesn’t allow me to view my search terms – ie. what people typed into Google that in turn led them to me – without paying them a monthly fee, and frankly, they don’t deserve a monthly fee. By way of illustration, though, in another one of my stabs at virtual stardom, I once produced a podcast with some friends of mine, and after some initial euphoria at the fact we were getting 10,000 hits a month, a closer look at our (free) Wordpress stats told us this was almost entirely down to a picture of some cheerleaders we once copied and pasted onto the blog.
Another fault of mine is that even from behind my veil of anonymity, and even in the virtual realm, I am a fundamentally unsociable person, and therefore don’t interact with other J-bloggers (or rest-of-the-world bloggers, for that matter) half as much as I should. When I do leave the occasional flurry of comments, deep down, I have to admit that my motives are selfish, in the sense that even as I write my, ‘Nice entry! / I must try that brand of instant noodle myself! / I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the economic crisis! / Stop talking crap, you loser!’ I am not doing so out of genuine interest in the content or style of that person’s blog, but in the hope that he / she / it will read my comment, reply to it, post a link to Muzuhashi on their J-blog, and thus hasten my rush towards worldwide internet domination.
But just supposing I was sociable, and not a lurker, that I still did have the motivation to post something every week, and that Muzuhashi became a hit, how much better off would I be? Well, the probable answer is not a lot. Let’s take the example of Loco In Yokohama, which it is safe to say is the most popular expat blog in Japan, and has been for some time. First and foremost, let me just say that Loco In Yokohama is well worth checking out, particularly because Baye McNeil, the blogger himself, is African-American, and offers a fascinating insight into how members of different races treat each other depending on the cultural context. But – and here’s the catch – even though Loco is linked to on numerous other websites, even though it gets oodles of hits and oodles of comments, even though McNeil has been interviewed for various newspapers and publications – both virtual and non-virtual – around the world, even though his self-published books appear to be equally widely read, and even after the best part of a decade blogging about Japan, he is still working as an English teacher.
Not that there’s any shame in being an English teacher, but there comes a point in writing a blog when one wants something in return for all of that hard work, all of those hours spent tapping away at a computer keyboard and trying to come up with new and interesting ways of describing whale burgers, penis festivals and used underwear vending machines: that something being cold, hard cash.
Just to make me sound even more selfish, as well as worldwide internet domination, my other reason for starting a blog was to keep my friends and relatives outside Japan informed of what I was up to, and if I stop posting, this connection will be lost. Particularly now that Mrs M and I have M Jr and M Jr II, even if our friends and relatives don’t get to read baby stories, they ought to be pretty happy with the baby pictures I have been posting on Facebook and Flickr, right? Well, hopefully.
But anyway – and having said all that – three and a half years is a pretty good average for a J-blog, given the fact that most expats only live here for a short while before returning home or carrying on around the world with a rucksack on their back. My main reason for writing this particular post, therefore, is simply to avoid disappearing without warning or explanation, as certain other bloggers who really ought to know better (Pink Tentacle and Japan Probe, I'm talking to you) have done in the past (Tokidoki Tokyo, I'm also talking to you, although you're a mate so all is forgiven).
So for the moment at least, I'd just like to say thank you for reading, thank you for lurking, thank you for commenting (yes, contrary to what I’ve just said, quite a few people have left comments over the years), and see you again – possibly in another blogging guise, possibly in the same blogging guise after a sabbatical, or possibly running past you at a shopping mall somewhere in Ibaraki, as I try to catch M Jr before she breaks something valuable or takes something without paying for it.