Golden week archery

”Golden Week” is a stretch of consecutive holidays in Japan, that combined with a weekend a day or two of PTO can be like 10 days off. Lots of people take the opportunity to return to their hometowns to visit family and friends, and others go sightseeing… many many people come to Kyoto. And with Covid and masking restrictions going away, there is a lot of pent up wanderlust for the Old Capital. So we decided early that we did not want to go anywhere. But with the kids home from school, we could not capitulate to hours and hours of daily YouTube!

During Spring Break, while traveling southern Kyushu and exploring the samurai culture of the Shimadzu of Kagoshima (photos) and Tanegashima (photos), we had some chances to shoot a few arrows in the Heki Ryu style. The kids enjoyed the experience, and since we are always looking for things for our kids to do to help them discover their passion, we signed them up for a three day archery camp.

Composite of two photos. LEFT: Chad and daughters lined up and kneeling with Japanese bows at full draw. The kids faces are obscured with Girl Emoji. RIGHT: From behind a girl kneeling drawer and aims at a target surrounded by tropical trees.
Chad and kids shooting Japanese bows while in Kyushu.

Kyudo, traditional Japanese archery, requires young archers to be at lease of middle school age, which meant my youngest wouldn’t be able to join. So we opted for an archery club south of Kyoto, nestled in the mountains to the east of Jōyō. The range is in a building on the grounds of the “Rehabilitation Hospital.” I am not sure who started the archery club, but many of the archers there (including some serious competitors), used wheelchairs. The club was very welcoming to everyone, and it dawned on me how inclusive a sport archery can be. I can stand beside both my children at the shooting line, being coached by archers young and old and with different abilities, and we can all share in the fun!

The camp was two hours for three days. We used recurve bows with sights. We all started off on 16 lbs draws, but I had a gaggle of elderly archers egging me on so soon I had a 20 lbs bow with all sorts of attachments on it. They even gave me a bow with a 38 lb draw to try out! I was definitely being over-coached, but it was fun and I learned a lot about the basics of archery and what kind of sport it is.

For the first couple of days we really just focused on the basics and achieving good “grouping” (getting your arrows to consistently land in the same place), extending the range from 5 meters to about 10 meters. On the last day we learned how to count points and did a “competitive” round. (I crumbled under the pressure!) Lastly, they got out the balloons and the kids and I had fun (and frustration!) aiming for that satisfying POP! sound.

Since the range is pretty far from our house, we can’t take it up as a weekly hobby. But they will have another camp in the fall and both my kids said they were up for going. We enjoyed our time. The sport has a lot of depth but is still accessible, and a good bonding experience for parents and children. Recommended!

Maker Faire Kyoto 2023

Last March, while hanging out at the Engineer Cafe in Fukuoka I heard about the annual Maker Faire in Kyoto. Some of the Engineer Cafe folk planned on coming up to Kyoto to attend. I have never been to a Maker Faire before so I decided to join. After canvassing on the HN Kansai slack group I connected with a dev that also lives in Kyoto and we trekked down to the Keihanna Open Innovation Center for the event.

It was massive! There were people there of all ages. It is incredibly inspiring to see such creativity on display, especially as a person who spends a lot of time on the philosophical edge questioning the emancipatory nature of technology.

I have published an album full of short videos featuring computer junk instruments, computer controlled pen machines, a polar-bear piloting a dinosaur mech, a home 3D ceramic printer, a tiny motorcycle ridden by a man in cybernetic wolf(?) mask, and the creepiest robotic maids that you can invite to dance with… and much more!

One project I would like to highlight since I think it is brilliant as a mechanical keyboard enthusiast is a maglev powered keyboard switch. This kind of switch is less prone to breakage, but the coolest part is that you can actually control when the actuation distance by running different amounts of electricity through it! Watch the video to get what I mean, and check out the GitHub repo to see how you can build the thing yourself!

“Truly Asia” Pt 2: Melaka

Read Part 1 “Kuala Lumpur” here →

It took about two and a half hours to reach Melaka from the busy bus depot in southern Kuala Lumpur. We had loaded up on snacks and sandwiches for our lunchtime departure, just liking getting the “ekiben” or packed lunches in Japan before getting on the Shinkansen for a long journey. The bus was a long haul bus, very comfortable and the seats laid back far. The driver on the otherhand was anything but laid back. Before departure he stood at the front of the bus and delivered a strong lecture, outlining the rules on his bus, including NO EATING. For you see, this bus was his home. For obvious reasons he wanted to keep it clean. I was in the very first row behind the driver’s seat, and looked up. This explained the clotheshangers on the curtain rod above, where certain delicates were being aired out. We were guests in his home, and I was going to do my best to make a good impression. So even though I was starving I did not even sneak a bite of anything for the whole trip. I just set my body on low energy and watched the world slip by.

Read More

“Truly Asia” Pt 1: Kuala Lumpur

PREFACE: this is a whirlwind post meant to give you the tiniest sliver of context for the accompanying photos which I hope you have a spin through. They are at the bottom of the post.

Back in about 2018 my wife and I started talking about living in a third country for a while. My kids had only ever known Canada and Japan (and a couple of trips to the US). We wanted to broaden their perspective. Initially I thought about doing a year in Central America, but with this 21st century being Asia’s, we started researching different options. We landed on Malaysia primarily because of its multiculturalism. With its mixed population of Southeast Asian, East Asian, and South Asian people groups, as well as the fact that it is an Islamic country, we thought Malaysia would be an excellent place to demonstrate the broad diversity of Asia to our kids who are of Asian heritage themselves.

In about 2019 I started looking for work in Kuala Lumpur. However, due to family reasons we decided to do our year abroad in Iki, and our Malaysian adventure was put on pause.

But after more than four years, we were finally able to make it to Malaysia!

Read More

Twitter archived

I stopped using Twitter last December, but with the news of Twitter is restricting its API I got my butt in gear and set up my personal archive of tweets. I pulled an archive pretty much as soon as the whole dumpster fire started, and thought I would always go back at some point and wipe the account. With Elno’s threat of shutting off free access to the API it meant that apps like might go away and I would be forced to remove 18,916 tweets by hands.

I used two different systems.‘s Twitter Archive Site which takes your Twitter archive and builds a static Hugo site out of it. I uploaded everything to a subdomain here on my site. It was a pretty painless process. You can see it here:

I also ran Tweetback, which generates a very pretty Eleventy-based site with a search box. You can see this one at One cool thing about Tweetback is it generates some interesting stats from your Twitter archive. Some highlights from mine:

Read More

Japan doubles its islands

A couple years ago, after moving to Ikijima, I introduced you all to the idea of ritō, or “remote island”.

Being a “stratovolcanic archipelago” Japan has a lot more islands than you can likely name. In fact, there are 6,852 at the last official count.

A few days ago, the Japan Times reported that the official count of Japanese islands will increase significantly:

The number of listed Japanese islands is expected to more than double from 6,852 to 14,125 after the government recounted them for the first time in 35 years, according to a source familiar with the matter. The huge increase resulting from improved accuracy with the digitalization of maps is unlikely to change the size of Japanese territory or territorial waters, the source told Kyodo News on Monday.

This brings Japan up in the ranking of archipelagic nations:

  1. Indonesia at 17,508 islands
  2. Japan now at 14,125 islands
  3. Philippines (the former Number 2) at 7,641 islands
  4. The UK at 6,346 islands (not counting overseas dependencies)

Indonesia is legendary for its number of islands. I’ve heard that “nobody really knows” how many islands Indonesia has. To my knowledge the mapping technique that Japan just used has not been applied to any of the other countries listed above, so I am not too confident Japan will retain its ranking.

Even more surprising to me, when I looked up the island counts of countries even the massive Indonesia was outranked by a few non-archipelagic countries! Here is the top 10:

Country# of islands# of inhabited islands
United States18,617
List of countries by number of islands. Source →

1 year an Upāsaka

Halfway through last year I described my year-long commitment as a lay devotee of Buddhism in the Thai Forest Monastery under Ajahn Sona. I completed the commitment at the end of December and was given the Pali name of Sanghapāla — “protector of the Sangha (the Buddhist community).” I use that name now when in Buddhist circles. Pali names are sometimes thought of as aspirational and I have taken that to heart. Protecting and supporting the Buddhist community is particularly necessary in the West. I have seen how Buddhist communities survive in different countries and cultures, so I know what is possible. (Although I am not sure of Ajahn Sona had this in mind when he selected the name, I can easily rationalize it! ). Community is something I already strive to build and protect, so I think the name is fitting.

Spending a year as a dedicated practitioner was certainly transformative. I gained a deep appreciation of the Buddha’s insightful Noble Eightfold Path through the structured study, and was able to work on my personal conduct. I definitely feel like I have made progress towards more moral living (even though I see the long road still ahead of me!). I hope others have seen this as well. There is so much in those eight insights! You could easily spend multiple lives trying to work through them.

Over the whole year I missed daily meditation only four times, due to bad planning or travel (ie when we moved to Japan in April). Importantly, I learned not to beat myself up about missing those kinds of things. Living under a self-imposed regime of renunciation, I learned how to be much more gentle with myself.

All of these are personal changes, but the best feature of the program was meeting and working with the support of so many kalyāṇa-mittā. The Buddha advised surrounding oneself with the wise.

So what now? Generally I am continuing on. There are 160+ upasikā program alumni living in 18 countries. Many of them have grouped together in online meditation and study groups. I have joined one doing a close reading of The Island. Each day I maintain the Five Precepts and meditate accordingly. I might slip now and again, but this is just how I live now — day-by-day.

The biggest change is Uposatha days, which it turns out were a hardship on my family last year. After discussing it with my wife, and being inspired by a man in Malaysia who told us about how they train young kids for Ramadan, we decided to do a sort of Uposatha-lite twice a month as a family. For the traditional full moon and new moon days I will commit to a more dedicated day of practice, and then as a family we will all just have a very light okayu (Japanese congee) dinner. This is how we have decided to have a couple of intentional days of reflection each month as a family. It is an experiment, but I hope it serves as a good example and opportunity for the kids.

To wrap up, I am very happy to have completed the program. I am satisfied to maintain my practice for now and am not feeling particularly ambitious to go on to the next level of renunciation. Some day, maybe, but for now I will continue to sit, keep building my knowledge, and refining my personal conduct. The obvious next step is doing more suttā study and thinking seriously about what it means to protect and support a community.

Best of 2022

At the very beginning of the year I created a Reading Schedule for 2022 note topped with: “Goal is 20 books. 5 Japanese books.”

As I looked over the snowy countryside in Canada last January, I was thinking about how I could maintain my connection to Japan and improve my language learning from afar. I thought I would set my reading goal a little low to account for the time I would need to read some books in Japanese. Little did I imagine I would be moving back to Japan in a mad rush just a few months later. Furthermore, as I engaged with my new work, I read more on distributed decision-making, organizational theory, computer history, and corporate strategy. Then there were a few literary novels I read as part of a small online book club I participated in. And of course, with trips to Portugal and Malaysia this year I just had to do a little background reading before traveling!

Needless to say, I veered heavily off course in 2022. But that’s okay! Goals are not laws.

Be that as it may, the book I started off the year with turned out to be the best nonfic book I read all year. I have recommended it countless times: The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
by David Graeber and David Wengrow. I reckon this book ranks up there with Debt in terms of potential impact. It shows just how narrow our political imagination has been these last 250 years when you look at how humans have organized themselves over the past 40,000 years.

The other book I read this year (recommended by one of the book club memebers! Shoutout!) which also acts as a good wedge to get people out of their complacency is Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future. This is the kind of speculative fiction that is a thought experiment run through to a logical conclusion. KSR takes a number of climate crisis disaster scenarios and solutions, and eschewing monocausal taxiphilia, runs them all at once. Thus the book weaves a complex story of how our society could come out the other end of our climate crisis.

The climate crisis is the number one problem that faces society today, and many tech workers that have been turned off by the last couple decades of optimizing ad revenue or perfecting the next SaaS business in the name of “changing the world” have started to think about how to make a real impact with their skills. Reading Ministry motivated me to join two communities to help me learn not only what is currently being worked on, but also where I might be able to put my skills. See:

Anyways, I read a lot of good books this year. It was a good one. You can see the whole list: Goodreads: Chad’s 2022 books by rating →

A quick note on Film and Television

It has not been a particularly good year for film, on the otherhand. I watched just 17 films, none worth 5 stars, and only one garnered a “like” on my Letterboxd.

I did dip into a few prestige television shows (and even a few Marvel and Star Wars ones) that were making the watercooler discussions online. Above and beyond them all was Andor, the slow-burn spy thriller that just happens to take place in the Star Wars universe. I was all-in on this show: watching it week to week, listening to recap podcasts, and watching YouTube breakdowns – very impressed with the all around quality, and very much looking forward to next season.

Concluding remarks

Although I hit my reading goals in purely numerical terms, and did read a lot of engaging things, I don’t feel like I read enough. I mean, this was a crazy year for me, so there is that. Also, I listened to about a billion podcasts this year. I delved deep into the backlogs of a number of new-to-me shows, most to do with work-related topics involving tech trends, critical tech analysis, remote work, etc. (f you are interested I can share, of course). The biggest impact on my reading has been my lack of a commute. For the past 6 months my commute has been just 5 minutes on foot! That has meant a lot less audiobook time than I am used to.

Saturday morning walks in Kyoto

In recent weeks, as the kids sleep in on the weekend, my wife and I have been taking early morning walks around the city, hitting temples and shrines before the tourists. We chitchat while strolling along, poking around areas of the city that we have not taken the time to explore. Sometimes we talk about memories from two decades before, when we lived in the city together. How the city has changed since then! Ironic since Kyoto is known for maintaining its twelve-hundred year old history. But that makes it such a fun city to explore on foot. Kept small, it is very walkable. Much of it is flat. The histories of the city are layered upon one another, just waiting to be peeled back for new discoveries at the same old places. Every street corner has been the site of some major historical incident. My wife’s grandmother lived in the city her whole life, was a proud Kyoto-jin. She claimed to need many more lives to know every part of the city.

As we stroll I take short vids and some photos and post to social media. I thought I would reproduce the last couple of excursions for you here.

Read More