One Year in Japan

A year ago today, I stepped off a plane into the feverish Osaka summer. I got lost, failed to understand conversations and had to flee the city for a day because it was all too much. Battling the elements, braving the rush hour subway, trying to learn the basics of conversation and culture. Looking at my first photos of Japan today didn’t merely stir a warm glow; it catapulted me headfirst into an intense flashback of emotion. Continue reading “One Year in Japan”



I’ve learnt a lot about Japan in the last nine months, as I’ve got to grips with life in an unfamiliar society. I’ve written about urban geography, muzak, religion and death customs, sumo, cuisine, historical memory, work-life balance, design, international relations, arcades, football, nature, volunteering, technology and rabbits, as well as a hell of a lot about travel. Well, today, I’m writing about me, and I’m keeping it relatively short. Continue reading “Blossomfall”

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)”

Impressions- Dusk in Hiroshima

At the end of my shift, I tear off my tie and loose my collar;

shopkeepers shuffle raiments for the evening crowds.

Pachinko parlours swallow businessmen,

decking the dusk with glitz-

offering absent-mindedness in lights.


Nine white birds glide on the wash of the Motoyasu,

and a bevy of cyclists float around a bend.

That old hulk of brick and metal snares the tourists.

And the flame of peace still burns,

a monument built to honour a contradiction.

a beacon of shame for a century in absentia.


The City forgets in the warm glow of Remembrance;

sagas itself in the passive voice,

exhumes no bones, but only stories.


Elsewhere, the night is a deepening pool of neon,

no sane man could swim in long and not in love.

A streetcar streaks past.

On anonymous sidestreets, restaurants rise from slumber.

‘Fire up the griddles! We must eat’

The city ablaze with a million pangs of hunger.


Out west, the lights are no longer soluble

But fall like threads into the thickening water.

The heartland ends here,

tailing off into institutes and schools and clinics.

A bruising bouquet of clouds, and surprising silence.


La Daijoubu Vita

IMG_1685I’m writing this on the last day of September. Last night, there was a definite chill in the air, and this morning, a typhoon was howling in from the south. Unlike earlier in the summer, the winds have really picked up here in Hiroshima. Late in the afternoon, the sky turned the strangest colour. But the rain just stopped, and for a moment a rainbow poked through the clouds.

It’s been three months since I took my first tentative steps into Japan, through the sultry fug of the Osaka summer. Tomorrow, school is changing over to the Autumn textbooks, and it felt like a good time to stop and take stock.

Continue reading “La Daijoubu Vita”

Somewhere Close To The Door

To lift an opener from Che Guevara’s diary: this is the history of a failure. Not a failure of an effort, or a moral failure, but the failure of a theory to explain the world as it is. These are the kind of failures that drive scientific discovery, and self-discovery too.

Continue reading “Somewhere Close To The Door”

Life Out of Balance, or The Story of a Boy with One Less Tooth

Oyashirazu (親知らず), the Japanese word for wisdom teeth, is an etymological gem. The word  roughly translates to ‘without the parents knowing’, and nobody’s quite sure why, although it’s probably because your wisdom teeth emerge after you move out of your family home. It’s such an elegant, lyrical word.

Continue reading “Life Out of Balance, or The Story of a Boy with One Less Tooth”

O Taichou! Watashi no Taichou!

September arrived in style today, with a cool breeze, insistent rain, and clouds cuddling the mountains. I like the sharp-drawn demarcation between seasons, and to be honest after two months of Hiroshima summer I’m ready for autumn. Just don’t call it ‘fall’ like half my students do.

Contemporary Art Museum in the rain.JPG

Continue reading “O Taichou! Watashi no Taichou!”