Last September

So I wrote this piece for a travel writing competition. The task was to describe a local connection in seven hundred words. My essay didn’t win, and after reading the choices of the judges, I’m reluctantly minded to agree. It doesn’t distill a moment: it’s more of a jumble of thoughts, as my writing tends to be. Having said that, it was a jumble I enjoyed writing, and it peoples a quiet moment in last summer’s travelogue. So I thought I’d share it with y’all instead. Continue reading “Last September”


Spring Back (The Blossom and the Memory)

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts […] there’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you,and here’s some for me.‘- Ophelia, Hamlet

Blossom Blog 4I always knew this would be the difficult time. As winter gives up the ghost, my battered old green coat is finally too warm. There’s an ambient chorus of birdsong outside my  window, and when I walked through the park today, early spring was making its mark on the trees. Mosses were glistening on the damp tree stumps and gaunt paper birches suddenly sprung to life. Around me, I could see cotton-white, fuschia, lemon yellow, warm mulberry purples and brick reds. I used to say spring was my least favourite season, but I think I’m changing my tune. Continue reading “Spring Back (The Blossom and the Memory)”

My Desert Island: Japanese Films

When I lived in Japan, I didn’t watch many films. My Japanese never developed to the extent that I could really understand films without subtitles, which generally ruled out the cinema. Anyway, I was more often focussed on exploring the world outside. But cinema was a route to Japan for me, and now I’m back on the other island frontier of Eurasia, I’ve been watching a lot of films. I’ve also been rewatching some of my favourites, and discovering a new richness and subtlety that I missed before. Continue reading “My Desert Island: Japanese Films”

On Bauhaus, the Squirtle Squad and the Gothmother of Black: How Japanese Culture Shapes Your Life

Base set VulpixLike many people born in 1991, I first became aware of Japan when someone handed me a Vulpix trading card. Back then, I didn’t know the cunning foxes with nine tails of east Asian folklore, but I was mesmerised by the lo-fi, cuddly ecosystem of Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori’s creation. As a result, my later years of primary school played out against the inevitable backdrop of rash trades, battle themes and the inevitable banning of the card game from my Year Five school playground. I still recall being personally affronted when my classmate Theo traded his Charizard for a hundred and fifty energy cards. I jettisoned my pocket money on slivers of shiny card, and soon afterwards on generations of video games. I vividly remember losing my shit when my Gameboy went missing at Whipsnade Safari park. Continue reading “On Bauhaus, the Squirtle Squad and the Gothmother of Black: How Japanese Culture Shapes Your Life”

Bossed in Translation

Iridescent and beautiful, with an eye for the smallest detail, Your Name is justifiably the best-known anime movie of the decade1. It takes place in a world of fated meetings, time travel and body-switching magic, but it never loses sight of the commonplace, humdrum stuff of life. It’s been translated into English, Korean, Hindi, Spanish and a number of other languages, but there’s one scene in particular that gives translators endless trouble. Continue reading “Bossed in Translation”

川の流れ/ Last Post from Japan (I’ll Be Back)


It is late October 2019; the trees along either bank of the Motoyasu are starting to turn pale orange and yellow and drop leaves into the river, and I am closing bank accounts and notifying authorities and getting ready to fly home via Manila. I shall be reading this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence. Whether it’s a sigh of regret or sweet natsukashii1 remains to be told.

Continue reading “川の流れ/ Last Post from Japan (I’ll Be Back)”


Let me preface this by saying: I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

When Typhoon Hagibis barreled into the Kanto Plain at the weekend, at least 58 people lost their lives in the extreme winds and flooding. Over 10,000 houses were damaged by flooding, and more are still at serious risk from heavy rain and landslides. As of yesterday, 77,000 homes didn’t have access to electricity. The disaster has been particularly cruel to farmers of certain crops, like Nagano apple farmers whose crops have been irreparably damaged by the storm. It was the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in sixty years, although not the most deadly, thanks to improved weather warning systems1. Continue reading “Typhooned”

Cropped Out

3EA467F0-9A00-4155-97EE-C1F4A8C327E4I was lugging these heavy old tatami mats across the pig and goat pen, to make a path over the earthen space in front of the chicken enclosure. After all, as my host Kaz said ‘after a few years, tatami will return to the land’. Suddenly, I started to think about how people use, and think about, the land beneath our feet. Continue reading “Cropped Out”

Valley Folk and City Kids

I was stalked home by a white cat the other night. It was exceptionally odd- the cat would walk in the shadow at the edge of the path. When I turned away, the cat would start sprinting towards me; I would suddenly turn back and the cat would screech to a halt a little too late, its piercing eyes fixed on mine. I’m not one for the supernatural, but I felt like that cat knew me. Continue reading “Valley Folk and City Kids”