An Open Letter

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“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” — Samuel Adams

If you have any part in the J-web I beg you to suffer through this long letter. If I have done my job well it will be more than worth it for your time.

As the two or three people 🙂 who used to read my blog know, at the end of 2008 I “went to the mountain” on a soul searching journey to try to figure out (among other things) what I really want out of life, who I am inside, and why are Japan and the people who are tied to it so interesting to me.

When I completed that intensive soul searching I still was not fully sure of the answers to those questions but I was sure of one thing… I was much closer to the answers than ever before and my life was infinitely better off than if I had not taken the time to examine it.

It seems to me that few of us human beings ever take the time to really search ourselves, let alone continue to “soul-search” and examine. And that is a shame because as I have learnt firsthand it is one of the most beneficial activities one could ever make time for.

That being the case, I can only consider it an extremely fortunate thing that my pride/life took such a horrible beating in 2006 that I was forced to come face to face with that question. And I must consider myself even more fortunate for the “failures” and “setbacks” of the two years that followed which lead me at the end of 2008 to stop and deeply examine life, who I am, what is important, and who I want be.

When I say that these “life shocks” were fortunate I mean it with the utmost sincerity, because I realise now that I was (/am) being forged. During forging, a katana‘s steel is not rubbed lovingly in oil. No, it is thrust into a blazing furnace, quenched in the coldest water baths, and beaten by a thousand hammer blows. This creates a blade with a quality and tenacity unmatched,… and so too with the human character.

It is only a guess, but I imagine that you can related to that; that you have gone through “trials by fire.” I also imagine that growing up you might have often been asked “what do you want to be?” and now, you are asked “what do you do?” And yet, I am willing to bet others rarely ever asked you “who do you want to be?” which is much more important. Though others might never ask you,  please do not make the mistake of not posing the question to yourself.

And so I questioned myself in 2008. The answers I have found have been moving and personal. I cannot share all of them here but I will give you an impression of my mission statement:

My mission is…
through continual development of qualities of character to:

1) … Seek to understand the purpose for my life.

2) … Be fulfilled whatever comes my way (contentment). To be confident. (internal. not based on external circumstances)

3)… <personal>

4)… Create a mobile lifestyle; very few possessions. Continual language learning.

5) Live with excitement, joy, love and deep/helpful relationships with other people (like family and friends)

And, (through knowledge, continual learning, industry, frugality, focus, discipline, and systematisation) conduct business and live my life in a way that facilitates the above life purpose to the greatest extent possible.

Why does any of this matter?

My friends, I put to you the following questions: Who are you? And what do your interests say about you? Why Japan? Why the web? Why a community?

Is our interest in the Japan-related web, in building websites and in interacting with others of like-interest not greater than just what we see on the surface? Is there nothing deeper here? I believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is.

I believe that we are different. And that is why we have these interests. And that is why we long to be part of a community.

In 2006 I started the first incarnation of my web project, Nipponster. Like all versions to date, it was a failure 🙂 But it successfully started me on my path.

In 2007 I created this blog, DailyJ, in a desperate effort to find and connect to like-interested individuals in order to feel that I was not the only one trying to create something Japan-related. I wanted to know that there were other people out there on the web with dreams and goals and missions. People with interests like mine.

And so I did something that I did not quite fully understand the significance of at the time: I began interviewing webmasters and bloggers of Japan-related websites.

I interviewed 22 of them in that year and it was so rewarding and fun!

At the time I did not truly understand why I liked interviewing them so much. And I did not realise why interviewing them was so emotionally rewarding to me or why I found each of them and their stories so interesting and special.

I was missing the point, the reason that was right there under my nose.

Now, after much thought, I think that maybe the reason was this:

We are people with a shared past/present, interested in each others endeavours toward similar goals and a similar desire for the future.

We share goals of life and travel abroad, of viable businesses or work that let’s us pursue our passion, of language and cultural learning, of excitement and adventure, and of sharing our experiences with others.

We are all looking for an unconventional life; a lifestyle free of the limitations of the past and the status quo.

We are all growing through – and with – our websites; and learning from each other’s websites.

We are all on a journey.

In my post “back from the mountain” I wrote that I was looking for my “why,” why I wanted to do DailyJ indefinitely (despite the obstacles)

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

It took me longer than expected but I finally found exactly why I want to do DailyJ and what I want to do with it.

DailyJ is about the web as medium for empowering us, the Japan-enthusiasts of the world. Empowering current J-bloggers to continue J-blogging. To empower current foreigners in Japan to stay in Japan if that is their goal. To inspire and empowver people (like Jamaipanese) who have a dream of visiting or living in Japan, by giving them some of what they need to get there.

I now consider my mission with DailyJ to kickstart the AA of the Japan-related web.

That might seem like a strange statement, so let me explain. I think of the decentralised nature of organisations like AA. They are support groups made up of people who are all at the same rank, there are no leaders or bosses. At a support group people with a common background come together to help one another toward a shared goal; in AA’s case sobriety, in our case a freedom.

A freedom from constrained lives. A freedom to dream and strive toward a place that we long to go to, or to stay in. And more than that, toward perhaps a life where we choose where we live and on what terms. The internet has greatly enabled the possibility of these unconventional realities: the possibility of freedom from being tied down to one place; the power to overcome the limitations of the past; the opportunity to learn and to grow in new ways.

When a person blogs about their experiences in Japan I get excited because I remember my first year in Japan and how much I wanted to share my awe of that experience with the world (motivation enough at the time to teach myself HTML).

When a blogger or a commentator talks about their desire to go to Japan or to learn Japanese I get excited.

When a webmaster or blogger relates to readers about the life he/she is able to build in Japan and inspires those readers to be different, I am grateful because I know that I needed similar inspiration.

I enjoy the J-web.

I am glad that I have been able to make my own small contributions to it too. And I am glad that it is growing more and more all the time.

But mostly I am eager to see if we cannot make it into more of a place where the participants are empowering and being empowered by one another. (I know “empowering” is a bit of a silly word but I cannot think of another that conveys accurately what I mean)

Let’s share with each other the story of what we are trying to create (i.e. why we have created our blog, business, lifestyle). Let’s inspire one another to be different!

And surely we are different. Many of us, when the two roads diverged in the wood, took “the one less traveled by.” We have fought hard to do what we have done. We have strayed far from conventional and beaten paths. We have learnt impossible languages. We have learnt web development skills that others lack. We have a love for reading and learning that many do not. And we have a desire to create something of great value through our blogs, through our ideas, and by our will power.

And together, my fellow J-webbers, we will.

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