The Bittersweetness of Things

‘If the cherry blossoms lasted six months, nobody would love them’.

IMG_4365This sentence1 lies close to the heart of Japanese culture. Right now, the cherry blossom is covering the city in a thick mist of wan, snowy petals, and the city’s outdoor spaces are coming alive again after the winter. Stirring dull roots with spring rain, and all that. Despite a cold snap, people are barbecuing on the riverfront and eating picnics in the park. Every man and his dog carries himself like a pro photographer.
Continue reading “The Bittersweetness of Things”


Valentine’s Politics and Detachable Limbs (Another Miscellany)

It’s rare for me, but I’m struggling to find something to say. Usually there’s too much, to the extent that I’m forced to self-edit. I’ve been working a lot the last couple of weeks, and I haven’t had much money, and it’s still cold here, so life’s been on the quiet side. I’ve been trying to promote the blog on Instagram and via a couple of internet forums, but without much success. Continue reading “Valentine’s Politics and Detachable Limbs (Another Miscellany)”

No Place (or, Stuck in the Nineties)

‘Evening. What’s new with me, you ask? Well, I’ve actually been keeping one of my new year’s resolutions! I decided to get more active, and to that end I’ve started swimming at Hiroshima Central Pool, and am going bouldering once a week with my buddy from work, Brett. He’s a seasoned climber, so he’s giving me tips. The climbing centre is great, although for some people, gravity is just a minor inconvenience. Spot the difference*:


To my chagrin, I’m forced to admit that doing more exercise does make me happier. I’ve been working on taking some more interesting photographs, too, and later in February I’m heading for Shimane Prefecture, to see the birthplace of Japanese civilization. And then in April, I’m visiting Tokyo for the first time!

Anyway, enough about me. Today I want to talk about my biggest surprise when I moved to Japan. Continue reading “No Place (or, Stuck in the Nineties)”

Fireworks and Gravestones

I was writing the wrong blog, basically. For the last week, I’ve been straining to finish an article to answer the perennial question of my return: ‘what surprised you the most when you moved to Japan?’ But it’s a difficult question to answer, and I wasn’t getting much inspiration. Sometimes you don’t write well because you don’t know what to say. Continue reading “Fireworks and Gravestones”

The Japanese and Everybody Else (Immigrant Song)

‘There’s the Japanese- and then there’s everybody else’.

After I started the ball rolling on moving to Japan, I heard this one friendly warning time and time again, from a range of different people. A friend of my mum’s who worked with Japanese clients, a British-Nigerian dude who had worked in Osaka. Former travellers and Nipponophiles. On first impulse, it felt like a bit of a cliché, but now I’ve been here for six months, I thought I might revisit the statement, and evaluate it. Long story short? It’s totally right. But then again, it’s also completely wrong.* Continue reading “The Japanese and Everybody Else (Immigrant Song)”

Round One, Fight!

As November closes, I find myself struggling to get an article finished. It’s been a good month: I’ve explored a remote mountain valley, watched some Shintō dance, bounced on a floating rock and tried deep-fried garlic. It’s also been a busy month; since I got back from Fukuoka last week I’ve been bowling, celebrated a mate’s birthday, bought famous fabrics in Fukuyama and visited a 300-year-old sake brewery.

Continue reading “Round One, Fight!”

Dancers in the Sprawl

So, I’m already back from Fukuoka, and I’m itching to write about Sumo- but I had a half-written blog article to finish. So, today’s offering is about beauty and ugliness, and how the two intertwine in modern Japan.


— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — Continue reading “Dancers in the Sprawl”

When Autumn’s Sweet, We Still Don’t Call It Fall (A Miscellany)

I’ve been feeling a bit fatigued this last week. Maybe it’s the nights drawing in, or maybe I just need a holiday. Anyway, I thought I’d break with tradition; in place of a grand theme, here’s some unconnected snippets of life in autumn.

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Hiroshima Ultra Badboys: the Strange and Polite World of Japanese Football

‘He’s football civilised, football refined, football’s kept him standing in neat and respectful lines’ – not a chant at the Edion Stadium, but it should have been.

berlin-wall.jpgThe assorted literati and liars who write history books like to talk about turning points. Turning points are moments when history pivots, and continues on a different trajectory. Sometimes they’re so obvious you can see them even in the chaos of the moment; the protesters dancing on the rubble of the Berlin Wall in 1989 knew history was turning around them.

Continue reading “Hiroshima Ultra Badboys: the Strange and Polite World of Japanese Football”