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”

Mea Culpa.

At present, I work nights, in an attempt to recoup my financial losses quickly. Stacking shelves doesn’t absorb much mental power, so at night I listen to audio books and dream of new escapes. In my more histrionic moments, I cast myself as a reverse economic migrant, exiled to home to pay my debts. I never said I was a reasonable man. Continue reading “Mea Culpa.”

Good Morning, Verulamium (Here and There)

FDE5C3CE-3CD5-409F-8C0E-2DEAB38FA098It was a slow burner, that realization of change. A friend of a friend told me that it took her five months to readjust to England after leaving Japan. After returning for Christmas last year, I often joked to friends that it took me twenty-five minutes. But I can see now that I was wrong- the Earth has shifted slightly beneath my feet. Continue reading “Good Morning, Verulamium (Here and There)”

The Maddest People on Earth

A family friend visited the other day. A history buff and bilingual tour-guide in London, he’s also a veteran of various 1970s revolutionary left-wing groups, which were notorious for their furious discord, their endless -isms, and their tendency to split into smaller and smaller sub-factions. Declaring each other to be revisionist pseudo-Stalinist traitors, adding initials to your faction’s name, arguing about manifestos in draughty meeting rooms- all de rigueur for the movement1. Continue reading “The Maddest People on Earth”

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”