Thursday, 8 February 2018

The big announcement

Ok - I lied, I didn't upload the pictures from Taiwan. 

Anyway, 2018 is the year of big life changes and decisions.

One big decision that's been looming over me, and finally starting to take shape is the decision to leave Japan and move back to the London. DUN.DUN.DUN.

It's the right time to move on. I mean, I could easily stay in Japan forever, and it certainly has that power to draw you in. What I'm talking about, is that annoying irony that comes every time I threaten to leave this damn country (which I love). The promise of sweet new friends, a nicer place to live, a better job, a better life.... stop trying to seduce me Japan!

Now that I've realised its just a desperate seduction technique, I've gotten better at responding and accepting my fate by saying the N word. Which is "no". What other N word would I have been talking about? Japan is the needy partner who is impossible to break up with.

I've been ticking the boxes of closure in this relationship:

☑ Tell work I'm leaving
☑ Visit Jason in Sendai one last time
☑ RSVP "yes" to friends wedding in UK in July (thus confirming a date I must be back by)
☑ Begin searching for jobs in London
⬜ Finish paperwork for leaving current job
⬜ Buy leaving gifts for work colleagues
⬜ Do something about house and belongings (pack and ship presumably?)
⬜File paperwork at city hall to claim I'm leaving
⬜ Book a flight home
⬜ Figure out what to do with future

Ok, so I'm not doing that well so far... but there's other stuff on my plate, big stuff.

Here's one big thing: I'm getting married!! That's right....

We are getting married in Japan in March. WOOF. Bang - doin' it!

And that, tied to figuring out ways for Matt to get a valid UK visa with his exotic yet inconvenient Brazilian citizenship, is taking up a lot of time. Believe me, the UK has very strict immigration policies.

I feel really happy about marrying Matt - he's an amazing guy. I guess I've been really wrapped up in everything going on at the moment and getting to grips with all the changes and big decisions, its been emotional and overwhelming.

So, sorry I didn't upload the goddam Taiwan pictures, I was busy frying other fish.

Mic drop OUTT.

Friday, 12 January 2018


Akemashita Omedetou Gozaimasu!

I will be uploading the pictures from our trip to Taiwan, just as soon as I get round to it. DONT PUSH ME MOTHERFUCKERZ.

The concoction of being hungover and sleep deprived mixed with a flight back to cold-as-hell Tokyo from Taipei on the fist day of the new year caused me to catch a flu. Seriously great start to 2018 bla bla sarcastic eye roll emoji.

Before the damage was felt, I was able to see my old school friend Yuri on Jan 2nd for a quick catch-up, but I could feel something was off. By the evening I knew I was coming down with something serious. I spent the first week of the new year bed-bound with a crippling flu. Matt was there to nurse me which was wonderful. There is no way I would have been able to get to the doctor alone in that state.

With confidence I can say that was one of the occasions I've felt most sick in adult life. I was having flashbacks to being a kid and having glandular fever. Theres two other times that immediately come to mind: getting food poisoning in India, and catching a virus off my mum before the xmas of... 2011 (?).

After recovering, I finally feel a shot of optimism back into my mind. I'm determined to make big changes this year.

I told my boss that I will quit my job at the end of March. I will be leaving Japan in May. I'm returning to London, and Matt is coming with me. We are trying to figure out the visa situation. It's a little stressful, but I already had a mass panic about it, and now I'm trying to see the positive side.

We are heading to Sendai this weekend to spend time with cousin Jason.

I'm no longer mixed about leaving Japan. I finally think I'm ready. It only took five years.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Atami and the Ratbones

In the Izu peninsula of Japan, Shizuoka prefecture, there’s a strange seaside town called “Atami”. I had the pleasure of visiting it yesterday.

Atami has the distinct vibe of a holiday seaside town that was once glamourous and hip in the 70’s and 80’s – but is now washed out and run down, never quite making its comeback after the economic burst of the early 90’s.  

From my experience I can tell you that this discovery was in no way unique. When you start to avoid the modern tourist traps, you will find that Japan is full of places like this.

What does make Atami different, is it’s impressive “hihokan” – adult sex museum. And, as impressive as the views were high up in the cliff side where it is located, that is certainly not what I left remembering from my visit.

As you follow the course of the museum, you are lead from bizarre exhibition to bizarre exhibition. Many of the displays require you to push a button/sit on a chair/look through a hole/ insert a coin, etc… and then see what unpredictable strange thing happens. 

The museum does not take itself seriously in any respect, in fact it’s clear that it’s more of a sex-joke museum then an “adult” museum. Needless to say, I laughed a lot.

The worst part of my visit was buying an omikuji from a mysterious sex guru and receiving no fortune (had the machine simply run out... or was it a sign of some awful event in my immediate future.....?). The best part was when I played a game on a very old pachinko machine and won a pair of fluffy handcuffs!

After our visit to the museum, we walking into the town of Atami and went to the Atami geiko getaway dance hall (or 熱海芸妓見番歌舞練場), which is a traditional geisha theatre, where we saw “Yanagiya and the Ratbones” play live, accompanied by burlesque dancing, a traditional geisha performance, a flamenco dancer, and the auctioning of a cocktail drink.

The venue was all tatami mat. We gathered round a small table, drank cheap local beer and homemade food that was sold at the event. We each bought an official merchandise T-shirt, which I will be sure to wear next time!

Each member of the 12-man band was dressed in a different genre of rock
With the singer

Dancing with Joelle for the encore

This hairy-pitted dancer came onto the stage wearing a different costume for each song

Geisha performace

Thank you for the invite Duncan!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Smartphone Life


The whole time that I`ve been here, I thought Japanese people were seriously addicted to their smartphones. But, now I think that it's more the case that I just happened to have been living in Japan at the time when Smartphones peaked in popularity and technological capability, rendering general society to be highly addicted.

Smartphones are very useful - Google maps saves my life... I would never be able to navigate the Tokyo subway system without it. And, of course, Whatsapp and Facebook allow me to maintain contact with family and friends back home. It's truly amazing.

However, I've had this deep growing feeling for quite some time, that outside of being an instrument of distraction, Smartphones and social media are having strong negative effects on individuals and society in more profound ways. I wasn't able to tangibly express why, but I've found a very insightful YouTube interview with American motivational speaker Simon Sinek, that sums it up really well (purposely starting at 3:49):

This certainly got me thinking. I showed the video to Matt (who I think is more addicted to his phone than me), and we discussed how we will start trying to take active steps towards cutting down on using our phones and pay more attention to each other.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Tokyo Streets

Matt works most weekends. So when I wake up at 10am on a Saturday or Sunday, if I don't have something planned already, I'm faced with the decision of what to do with the day. 

Yes I can be productive, clean the house, study Japanese, practice hula hooping whilst watching Netflix (sure...productive). But, that's when I'm not in the mood to leave the house.

A beautiful day in a beautiful city forces me to push myself out the front door. 

So now what? Shopping? Tokyo is the place for it. Yet, I've been thinking a lot recently about my consumer habits. It is too easy to fill free time with mindless shopping. I want to be more ethical in my approach to fashion and consumption, fast fashion is a unfortunate byproduct of the modern era. I'd like to avoid feeding the flames. Be part of the solution and not the problem and all that jazz. Besides, I don't really need anything new. I do not need a new winter dress, I do not need that new winter coat. I must stop filling the void with stuff. 

So then what to do on a lazy Saturday? Well, after whining over the phone to Matt on his lunch break, midday I finally decided the best thing was to just get dressed and go. Why not visit my old haunt Shimokitazawa? Message some friends and see if they're free to meet for a coffee. According to google, the walk was only 2 hours. Perfect. What a great way to enjoy the city, clear my head and get some exercise...(man, dogs would crave an owner like me!).

With a poor sense of direction, and large margin for potential error, of course I did not have complete freedom to wonder there - I had to rely heavily on my phone.

Unfortunately, google maps does not have a "scenic route" mode... as far as I'm aware, so naturally it took me down the busiest, ugliest streets.

But, in those moments where I misinterpreted the map, took the wrong street at the crossroads, or messed up in some other way, things started to become a little more interesting. Of course, I wouldn't intentionally go off-course - 2 hours is plenty enough :-) but in it's effort to redirect my course, google then sent me through the incredible backstreets of Tokyo. Yay!

Tokyo streets are full of tiny houses, apartments and shops, built with intricate unique detail. Each building is designed to maximize it's small designated space in a strange and creative form. They wrap around the narrow winding streets that make up the quiet residential neighborhoods of Tokyo. 

Each home has a completely different style of architecture. Some modern, some old, many inspired by completely different parts of the world. There is an abundance of different shapes, colours, materials and concepts.

The buildings are contradictory, they clash in design. Yet the weird amalgamation of these Frankenstein pieces of Tokyo is one of the most exhilarating things about the city. 

I'm happy with this choice.

When life gives you yuzu

Yes it is finally yuzu season in Japan!

I have already hunted down my first yuzu, which I bought from a small fruit and vegetable vendor that I passed in one of the backstreets of Shibuya. 

In my yuzu-high excitement, I rushed it home and baked a cake. I followed a simple lemon drizzle recipe, but substituted lemon for yuzu.

Zest life= Post-grated yuzu
Although the texture wasn't as perfectly fluffy as I would have liked (according to Matt I over-mixed), the taste was delicious!

Matt adds the sugar-yuzu drizzle to the cake as a finishing touch

Ok, so maybe I won't become a food photographer anytime soon... but it was yummy

Since that first encounter, there have been yuzus spotted in Maruetsu Petit. 

It seems the market price for yuzu in Tokyo this year is between 200-250¥ for one large yuzu.  If you find them cheaper please let me know!

Hey here's something I've been listening to this autumn from the new Kishi Bashi album:

aaaannnd, an oldie which reminds me of hanging out with Addie back at Bristol who introduced me to Kishi Bashi:

Video is a bit meh, but that tune doe.