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”
Like 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”
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.
The steam rises, gently caressing the edges of the bamboo-pattern tiles. A pipe (real bamboo this time) brings bubbling, warm water from a hot spring. A group of friends in their twenties chat animatedly as they get ready for the plunge. An older man sinks deep into the water, eyes closed, world outside invisible. Continue reading “Hell or Hot Water”
In my more cynical moments, I’ve grumbled that all Japanese cities look the same, an endless expanse of YouMe malls, flat pack apartments and telegraph wires. Well, bollocks to that. In the first four days of my journey, I visited three cities, each with its own vibe, its own look, and its own experiences to share. Future blogs might be more about the people I meet and the events that unfold on my travels, but this one’s all about the places, three Japanese cityscapes. In lieu of more waffling, here’s part one of my travelogue. Continue reading “Darth Vader Drinks Plum Wine (Travelogue Part 1: Yokohama- Nagano- Matsumoto)”
People travel to find themselves, don’t they? Well, I get the feeling I quite like being lost. I’m gearing up to travel before Japan before long, and I’m in a weird transitory phase at the moment. Having trouble focussing on anything, having trouble relaxing, having trouble kicking back and enjoying life as it is. I’m sure this too will pass.
Anyway, in my turmoil, having finished at NOVA, I thought I’d set sail across the sea to Shikoku. The smallest and by far the least travelled of Japan’s four islands, Shikoku is nonetheless a centre of Buddhist pilgrimage, and Matsuyama is its largest city. Continue reading “Zest and Hot Water (A Trip to Matsuyama)”
Yesterday, over drinks, somebody cornered me to ask which I prized most- movies, music or reading. A terrifying question, to be sure. I wrestled with the answer, and what it said about me. Continue reading “Slowburn Playlist”
We woke up late, groggy and discombobulated, after a night out at Vent in Tokyo. The place was interesting and all, with its audiophile soundsystem, its concrete monoliths, its orderly drinks queues and its unexpected houseplants. On the other hand, I’ve never really liked minimalism, or techno music and its many bastard offspring, and the whole place took itself a tad seriously for my taste. It was an experience worth having, I reckon, but probably just the once. Continue reading “Lewis Waits for Sushi (A Tokyo Story, Part Two)”