I am on Mastodon!

Post illustration created by Dall-e. The orientation of the book is off, but I like this illustration very much!

I am not on many social media, and the only one that I have used consistently is Twitter. With the recent events happening over there, I did what many did: I opened an account on Mastodon.

This is my Mastodon account

I’ve been using it for ten days now, and I am really loving the experience there. I’ve put together some of the features that I particularly love, and how I am using Mastodon, but as I am very new to it still, feel free to correct me if I am mistaken. Also, it looks like the app does not work well and does not give access to all the features. I am using the browser directly (Safari).

When I opened an account on Mastodon, it felt very lonely at first. I felt like I was the only one learning Japanese and that no one would be interested in hearing about Japanese or Korean novels. I joined a small server of 100 people (mindly.social), but I did not dare posting at first because I was afraid to pollute their local timeline with my niche content, haha. But with more and more people coming from Twitter, the 100 people on our server became 10,000 (!) and things became suddenly more lively, with a growing community of language learners finding themselves through #langtoot and #languagelearning.

The best thing on Mastodon is that there is no algorithm deciding what to show you. No content is pushed to you in order to make you spend more time on the platform and generate profit. You can favourite a post (like), but it is only a way to tell the person that you liked what they wrote, it will not increase the popularity of a post, or how far it can travel. The only way to help a post reach further, is to boost (retweet) it, so that it can reach more persons.

Similarly, you have to use hashtags to allow new people to find your posts.

On the timeline, you cannot see how many stars (the likes, similar to the heart icon on Twitter), or how many boosts a post had. I really like it, because it makes you appreciate a post for its content, not for its popularity. You can see the number of likes and boosts if you click on the post, but they are not prominent, and it is not what matters at all. What matters is just whether you found the content of the post interesting or not.

There are three timelines on Mastodon:

Home: posts from people I follow.

Local Timeline: posts from people on my server.

Federated Timeline: A lot of posts from a lot of people… I’m not sure to be honest, I never use it.

Ideally, you join a server restricted to a topic that interest you. For example, let’s imagine that there is a server devoted to language learning. This means that all, or at least most, of the posts in your local timeline will be about language learning or posted by people who are into language learning.

In parallel, you are perfectly free to follow people that are not on your server. For example, I am also interested in fountain pens and ink, literature, cats, etc. I can follow people who post about these topics and see their posts on my Home.

Unfortunately, there is no server devoted to language learning yet. So what I did is join a general server (not restricted to a topic), and I manually follow people who are into language learning or anything related to Japan/Japanese. This means that my local timeline is a bit more random, with people with all sorts of interests, whereas my Home is only about topics that I am interested in.

There are some features on Mastodon that also improve your experience and allow you to connect more easily with people who share similar interests.

  • You can follow hashtags! This is a fantastic feature that allows you to easily find new people to follow, or simply see single posts related to this topic but from people whom you might not necessarily want to follow. I personally follow #langtoot, #languagelearning, #Japanese, #Korean and a couple more.
  • You can add feature hashtags on your account. I personally added #Japanese, #Korean, #Chinese and #Books. When people arrive on your account, they will see your posts and the ones you boosted. But let’s say that someone only wants to see what I posted about Japanese, and they are not interested in my posts about Korean or Chinese. They can choose the option #Japanese and will only see my posts with this hashtag. They can also see how many posts I published with this hashtag, so they know if this is a topic I discuss often or not. (This only seems to appear when I am on ipad, not on my phone though.)
  • You can create lists. If you follow a lot of people and don’t always have the time to scroll through your Home, you can create lists of people by topics for example, or a list of people whose posts you don’t want to miss. I follow a lot of language learners because I am interested in language learning in general, even if I am not myself learning these languages. But obviously, I am even more interested in posts about learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese. So I created a list for these three languages and added the people who learn them.
  • In any timeline, you can choose whether or not you want to see posts that have been boosted. Boosting is great, because it is the only way to increase the visibility of a post, but your Home can sometimes feel overwhelming if people are boosting a lot. If you need to, you can toggle the boosts off, and you will only see the posts effectively posted by people you follow.
  • You can decide who can see your reply to posts, from anyone to the person you’re replying to only.
  • You can add a note to people’s profile that only you can see. I haven’t used it yet, but it could be useful to write something like “the person who recommended this book to me”, so you can go back to them if you read the book.

As a result, I have many ways to spend time on Mastodon.

  • I have a lot of time and just want to spend time on social media: I can scroll through the local timeline and see posts from people who share the values of the server like “sharing knowledge”, “positivity”, and “bettering each other”.
  • Most of the time, I only read posts on my Home with the boosts toggled on. This way, I see posts from people I follow and the posts they boosted, as well as posts with the hashtags that I follow.
  • Let’s say I have less time, or I haven’t been online for some time and there’s a lot to catch up on. I toggle off the boosts and have much less posts to go through. I often do this in the morning, because due to time zone, there’s always a lot happening while I sleep and it can feel daunting to catch up.
  • If I really don’t have much time, but want to check out what people who learn Japanese are up to, I only go through my list. Here again, I can choose whether I want to see the boosts or not.

For someone like me, who does not spend much time on social media as a baseline, but who still wants to stay in touch with people who share common hobbies, Mastodon is the perfect place.

It is a lot of work to find people to connect with, but the experience is also very rewarding, because the number of likes and followers does not feel as important as interacting with people, sharing knowledge and experiences. For language learners in particular, people are very active at the moment to re-create the #langtwt community on Mastodon (#langtoot). If you are new, write an #introduction post with hashtags, and people will find you.

I am still on Twitter, because a lot of people I follow and whose content I really love are not on Mastodon (yet), but if they were, I could see myself changing completely 🙂

Reading update and November plans

Post illustration created by Dall-e.

I have not been very motivated to read lately, hopefully this will change! I did start a promising book, so let’s hope it will be engrossing enough to make me read more.

The book in question is 『蒸発』by Shizuko Natsuki (夏樹静子). She is apparently best known in the English-speaking world for her novel Murder at Mt. Fuji, (translated by Robert B. Rohmer), but it is the first time that I am reading this author.

『蒸発』has won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1973. I have only read 126 pages out of the 486 pages of the novel so far, but it is excellent, with a good mix of mystery and character building.

In the novel, the term 蒸発 (じょうはつ: evaporation /mysterious disappearance) is explained as a trendy term (in 1970) used to talk about the people who disappeared, included those whose disappearance has not been reported to the police.

I looked a bit further, and found a site explaining the difference between several words meaning “disappearance”:

行方不明・ゆくえふめい: The reason why the person disappeared is completely unknown. The person could have disappeared intentionally, or they could have been victim of a crime or accident.

蒸発・じょうはつ: the person disappeared intentionally, but the reason for their disappearance is completely unknown. The person is not considered to be involved in an accident or criminal case.

失踪・しっそう: the person disappeared intentionally and is not involved in an accident or criminal case. Even though the reason for their disappearance is unknown, people who knew the person like family members and colleagues can, to a certain extent, guess what the reason is.

家出・いえで: the reason for the person’s disappearance is easy to guess. They often come back eventually or, if they don’t, they still maintain a social life.

駆け落ち・かけおち: The reason for the disappearance is known: lovers who didn’t get their parents’ approval run away to live together or get married.

Finally, the term 夜逃げ・よにげ is just describing a way (by night) by which people intentionally disappear. I see this word quite often in novels, and if you don’t play Animal Crossing for a while and then come back, the “コワイ” character would say he thought you had 夜逃げ.

According to the same site, the term 蒸発 has started to be widely used as “disappearance” (and not just “evaporation”) with the film 『人間蒸発』(1967). This film is a pseudo-documentary (Japanese word is モキュメンタリー for “mockumentary”) about a woman looking for her fiancé who has disappeared.

Anyway, it was interesting to learn all these nuances. My goal is to finish 『蒸発』and read two other Japanese books this month, that I have ordered (but not received yet).


I finished 재생 by 정명섭 (Jeong Myeongseop). I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the novel. It was suspenseful, funny, and the time loop was really well done. I kept wanting the character to go further and learn the truth while also enjoying seeing him failing and doing everything all over again.

The end is not bad, but there is clearly a shift in the narrative and even the genre changed a little. It felt like reading a completely different novel, one that was less my kind of book.

Still, I found the book overall entertaining and both classic in its genre (the zombie situation in there is pretty much what you would expect) and also original and unique (the time loop brings an exciting aspect to the story). Except for the last part, which again felt like reading a different story, the book is very easy to read, with a lot of recurring scenes, hence recurring vocabulary.

The prompt for November #22tlreadingchallenge is “a book with a movie”, but I could not find anything that I wanted to read or watch. As I was not super motivated to start a Korean novel anyway, I decided to just continue reading Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo (遠藤達哉) in Korean for this month’s challenge (translated by 서현아).

I was hoping that there might be Korean dubs for the series, but I only have access to the Japanese version with Korean subtitles. In the end, it is actually more fun this way. I am first reading the Korean translation, then I watch the series in Japanese with Korean subtitles.

I don’t know if I will be able to catch up with the 10 volumes this month, but I’ll try to read as many as possible. I have already read the first 4 volumes.

Finally, these are the books that I have finished recently.

First, I finished 『乱れからくり』by Tsumao Awasaka (泡坂妻夫) and ended up not really liking it. I was hoping that it would be a murder mystery where mechanisms (like toys, labyrinth, etc.) would play a part, but it feels more like the reverse. Parts explaining the history and particularities of mechanical toys where a bit too long and detailed, and the murders occurring in the novel felt strangely anecdotical. It was hard to understand the characters’ actions and reactions to things, and I also disliked our protagonist.

Unfortunately, I feel like most of the winners of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award that I have read so far fall in this category of books that were okay, but not astoundingly good. I enjoyed reading most of them, and even 『乱れからくり』did not make me want to DNF it, but they are not extraordinary good either. I must say that for now, I am a little disappointed by the selection, but on the other hand, it lets me read authors that I didn’t know and would not have read otherwise.

I also picked up 『迷宮』by Fuminori Nakamura (中村文則) because it just got translated into Korean and I saw the Korean version in a bookstore. Upon reading the summary, I thought it would be a book for me, and I ordered the original version on the bookstore website instead of buying the translation.

The summary had caught my eye when I read it in Korean. It looked like a good howdunnit, with a locked-room mystery and a very intriguing setting for a murder. The mystery is good, but this is not really this kind of book either. It is much darker than I had expected, and quite depressive too. I don’t think that this book is for everyone as it deals with childhood trauma and abuse.

If you are looking for an exciting locked-room mystery, you can certainly find other books that are not so heavy. I personally liked the book, but it did not make me want to read other books by this author, or at least not in the near future.

Finally, I want to read books that deal with time, so I picked up a classic: 『時をかける少女』by Yasutaka Tsutsui (筒井康隆). It is a novella of 115 pages first serialised in 1965 and published in 1967. The story feels surprisingly contemporary, I was shocked when I learned that it was written more than 50 years ago!

The story is very good and really engrossing. The end was less convincing to me, but I still enjoyed reading it from start to finish, even though I am neither a big reader of light novel nor a fan of SF.

There are numerous adaptations, including an anime movie from 2006.

The book was easy to read, and it is available in the Tsubasa collection, which has complete furigana.

And that’s it! My goal for November is to finish 『蒸発』, and it will certainly be the only award winner that I am reading this month (because it is quite long). In parallel, I hope to finish the two books I have ordered this month as well.