I got a FaceTime call this morning from two old friends. Well, when I say this morning, it was 2:30AM in England. They had just got back from Krakow; they were barrelling through shots of mint vodka and yelling excitedly about the summer. And just like that, it welled up.

The last time I felt it was a drunken Whatsapp from a wedding, to paraphrase Radiohead. Not just any wedding, but the first of my friends to tie the knot. Jake, Indie, I know you’ll be happy together. I can’t wait to see you all again.

fish in the current

The monster pounces, often without warning. It’s strongest at night, and disappears for days at a time. It a beast that knows no borders, shirks company, and has no table manners. Its claws are sharp, but sometimes I kind of like it. Some pain reminds you that you’re lucky, I guess. In Japan, it goes by the name of satogokoro– literally ‘hometown heart’. It’s more of a lyrical term than homesickness, and I fully plan to culturally appropriate it.

So what do I miss? Well, I miss making summer plans on a whim. I miss hanging out in a pack, getting drunk in the park. There are parks in Hiroshima, but I’ve been out on perfect summer days and found them virtually empty, which frankly should be a crime. I miss running inside to hide barbecued sausages from the rain (although I gather there’s not been much of that this summer).

empty park

I miss good gigs. Perhaps there’s a decent live music scene in Hiroshima, but I’ve not found it yet. I miss Leeds’ scuzzy warehouse clubs and Bristol’s dangerously crowded music pubs. The one club I’ve been to here was Gatecrasher levels of awful; I stayed for all of fifteen minutes.

I miss weekends. I’m working Tuesday to Thursday plus weekends at the moment, which is quite the schedule to get used to. Never having two days off in a row makes it hard to relax.

I miss the sarcasm and dark humour of home. Lots of my students make me laugh and many people have a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour, but I miss the deep anarchic streak in British humour, and the surrealism.

I did catch up with Henry Parkyn-Smith in Osaka though, which was fun.

I miss all of you, especially the ones who’ve messaged and called me and reminded me what your lovely faces look like.

I miss peanut butter, possibly more than I miss any of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I came here. I’ve met some great people, the job is engaging if occasionally frustrating, and Japan is full of hidden places that take your breath away. But there’s no point me holding forth if I’m sugar-coating my experience. Honesty is everything in blogging, as I believe Derrida once said.

On a serious note, though, thanks for reading so far. Ten articles down, ??? to go. It’s been real.

on the river.JPG



For Margaret Neal

I had some sad news this week- I found out that my godmother died. It’s been a long time since I saw her, as she hadn’t really wanted visitors in her final years, but I’m sad I can’t honour her memory in person. Margaret, you were a selfless and supportive presence in my formative years, an indulgent babysitter and a gracious and caring soul. I’m sorry I don’t remember the last time we spoke. I remember that I had nightmares, when I was a kid, that the juniper bush in your garden would wrap its branches around me and swallow me whole. Nonetheless, I loved your cosy cottage and the wooded tracks in that little Shropshire village. You will be missed.

Wayside Cottage.JPG



3 thoughts on “Satogokoro

  1. Thanks for that lovely comment on Margaret . It was a giant Yew in her garden. It had an amazing presence and was very old. Margaret’s cottage is a place I go to in my mind when stressed. Heimweh is incredibly powerful. I love getting all your pictures and news.


    1. Are you sure? I’m thinking of a bush rather than a tree- a low, sprawing shrub, coniferous as far as I remember. Juniper was the closest match I could find in terms of pictures, but I don’t remember it well enough to be sure. I would still appreciate a picture to add to the blog, if that’s okay.


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