Friday, October 20, 2006

Pocket Pet

Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
When I think Japan and Pocket Pets I think of little electronic thingies that goes beep everytime they need a virtual feed. In fact when Westerners think of pets in Japan something conjured up by Sony usually springs to mind.

However the reality is quite a different story. It seems the "in thing" in Japan, especially among the single young female Tokyo-ites, is to own a small dog that more resembles a rodent in size and shape than it does anything canine.

Not only is it crucial to have your very own Louis Vitton purse, sweater, bra and knickers it now appears you also need to have a bite size puppy stuffed in your handbag. Back home the term "walking the dog" usually makes you think of something large and labrador-esque dragging it's owner through the park (or of course a simple yo-yo maneuvre) but in Tokyo it has a completely different implication. In Tokyo, "walking the dog" is slinging your favourite designer accessory over your shoulder, filling it with something supposedly related to a dog, then going shopping.

I love this country.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tokyo in motion ...

Every day in Tokyo sees me take at least one if not many small train rides. In fact the only way to traverse Tokyo effectively is by train. Cars and buses just get bogged down in traffic and, unless you are a local or are carrying a handheld GPS device, riding a bicycle any distance just sees you lost in one of the myriad of small streets and twisting alleys that make up Japan. Today was no exception.

Plugged securely into the iPod I desperately want to upgrade (I bought a Mini one week before the Nano was released!) I made my way to the Starbucks next to the station. The first song of the day: Tool, ‘Forty Six & 2’. A nice hefty base-laden song to get the day started. 1pm and the sun was shining with all the intensity of summer without the humidity and with that slight breeze that reminds you that autumn has definitely arrived. It was by and large a good day to be alive in the world.

I stepped onto the train just as Queen sang the first words of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. “Is this the real life?” they sang and I had to say to myself, yes, in fact, it is. Standing on the train I stopped to take in the passengers around me. During many of my frequent train rides I become introspective. I look inward and think about all of the things going on in my life. I wonder what I should have for dinner, do I really like my job, should I call my mum tonight, all of those things. Today I looked outward to the people around me. For a change I would study them. Not just look at them but really take in the details.

The first passenger I noticed was a lady I like to call “Screwface”. At first I just thought she was just making faces to dislodge something caught in her eye but it seemed, after about 5 minutes of constant ‘face screwing’ (yes I know that sounds dirty), that maybe she didn’t have any eyes at all! Then I noticed something even more amusing… It seemed ‘Screwface’ was, however coincidentally, in fact scrunching her face up in perfect time to of The Bees ‘Chicken Payback’ now playing on my iPod.

Imagine if you can a cool 50’s swing-rock beat…
“Chicken! Pay the chicken back, back, pay the chicken back, pay back the chicken, do the chicken payback”
Screw! Scrunch pucker screw, screw, scrunch pucker screw, scrunch screw pucker, pucker scrunch screw.
“Piggy! Pay the piggy back, back, pay the piggy back, pay back the piggy, do the piggy payback”
Screw! Scrunch pucker screw, screw, scrunch pucker screw, scrunch screw pucker, pucker scrunch screw.
“Monkey! …”

I nearly laughed out loud there and then, but the song finished as did her ‘face screwing’ so I turned my gaze elsewhere. My next subject was the ‘trendy’ guy to her left. He reminded me a little of someone out of a bad 80’s pop-funk band. It seemed he began every day with a game of twister. Left hand blue, right hand green – or in his case T-shirt white, pants purple, shoes red, satchel green. These weren’t the nice muted colours of autumn by the way, these were the real deal. When you buy a box of crayons these are the colours you get.

Flicking my gaze down the length of the train I take in more interesting characters: a guy with a double chin and a bouffant hairdo resembling a bad Japanese Elvis impersonator (circa Elvis’ Vegas period); a guy standing in the aisle trying to balance a Starbucks latte, a brief case and a stack of spreadsheets; the obligatory white masked old lady; a line of sleeping businessmen you could only tell apart by the colour of their suits, and a girl wearing a three quarter sleeve blouse with a long sleeve T-shirt underneath. At the girl I stop a little longer wondering about her story, about the long sleeve T-shirt, about what might be hidden underneath those sleeves, but I have to stop myself. I’ve had friends in the past who dressed like that…

I had to look away. At the far end of the train was a cool looking guy, hair stylishly windswept to one side, wearing a crushed velvet jacket, swigging on something blue. Gatorade or Bombay Sapphire – I couldn’t really tell. Across from him was a lovely looking old lady apparently doing some kind of one handed Tai Chi. Oblivious to all around her she would extend her hand, twist and turn it slowly, extending and retracting fingers as if in the middle of some complex dance or ceremony. One look in her eyes told she wasn’t on the train. In her mind she was somewhere else entirely. I could only image where she might have gone. I envied her for a brief moment but I didn’t need to go anywhere else, not today.

The train doors opened and the mix of the carriage shifted. Stepping into my field of vision was a lady I’d have to guess was in her mid to late forties, but then it’s hard to tell with Japanese women. What struck me about her was her undeniable sex appeal. While she had that older lined look that delineated her age I still couldn’t help but stare. Until of course she stared back and I knew, even though I had no intentions, she was out of my league. Confidence crushed momentarily I turned to the girl now standing to my left. Even from her profile I could see she had the most perfect lips in existence – just the right amount of pucker and pout. Then I noticed the handbag slung over her shoulder… Samantha Thavasa. The rich girl’s alternative to Louis Vitton. I could only imagine what a kiss from those lips would cost and quickly looked away… Into the eyes of a squat little woman who also seemed to be studying the people around her. While I stood there scrutinizing her she scrutinized me. I held her gaze for as long as I could but I was no match. She had that no nonsense look about her that suggested she’d experienced more in her lifetime than I ever could and learnt more from it than I ever would. How could I possibly compete with that?

Of course I wasn’t competing with anyone, I just felt on top of the world. Then the train stopped and that was it. Another 27 minutes of my life spent on a train.

From start to finish here are the songs:
Forty Six & 2 – Tool
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues – The Eels
Diamonds on the Inside – Ben Harper
Chicken Payback – The Bees
Aint No Crime – Carus & The True Believers
Take Your Mamma – Scissor Sisters
Kashmir – Led Zepplin
Wrong Party – Dallas Crane

(Yes my iPod was on shuffle)

My only regret for the day was not taking my camera. I guess that’s why I’m writing all this, but then… A picture may be worth a thousand words, but are they the right words to tell the story?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Mini Typhoons & Active Staring

Running Wet
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Yesterday was yet another wonderful day in Tokyo. A mini typhoon had blown in and was trying it's hardest to be upgraded to a full scale event. Umbrellas were being blown inside out and people were getting drenched no matter what they did to stay dry. Even the people INSIDE were getting wet! And what did the people of my town do to raise their falling spirits? They played the cheesiest, most sickeningly sweet music in the street they could find. Yesterday as I walked home it was the symphonic version of "The Never Ending Story" followed by a musical rendition of Disney's classic "It's a small world". JOY of mother fucking, teeth grinding, humming despite yourself, JOYS!

And of course the weirdness for the week doesn't stop there. The day before, I was actively stared at. I know what you are thinking... How can anyone actively stare? Before yesterday I would have thought the same thing but trust me, it's possible. Ok, so being a stranger in a strange land I'm no stranger to being stared at (don’t you just love the clever repetition and alliteration) but yesterday was something else entirely.

On the train on the way home I moved over, being the gentleman that I am, to make room for an old lady that needed the seat. At first I don't think she noticed I was a foreigner. People have a tendency to look through each other on the trains. We are “other” people. We don’t actually exist in each others lives, we’re merely bodies packed into a confined space.

What got the old lady’s attention at first was the book I was reading. It was clearly written in English (of course) and had a bright pink cover. This is unusual in itself as most Japanese opt to cover their books with dull brown paper jacket covers. I’m not really sure why to be honest. The only legitimate reason I can think of is to disguise the fact that you are reading porn and, unless there’s some really horny grandmas out there, I don’t think that’s it.

In any case the grandma next to me slowly turned her eyes from the book up to my face and that’s where they stayed. Now, I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating grandmas. Maybe she was just one horny old woman looking for a ride, but this really freaked me out! It wasn’t just that she was glaring at me with her eyes though – this was a whole neck and head experience!! I could feel her breath on my neck as I tried to read, not that I actually got much reading done. By that stage the book had become a prop, something to look at while I actively ignored being actively stared at. Had I turned my head we’d have been nose to nose or, more accurately (considering the height difference) chin to forehead.

I’ve never been as happy to step off a train into gale force winds in my life!

And what was the music playing in the street as I walked home?
Sting, “I’ll be watching you”.

No, only kidding, but it would have ended my day on a laugh.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Ramen Girl

The Ramen Girl
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Out on a photo-shoot in Harajuku last Sunday I inadvertantly stumbled into a Hollywood movie! At first I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I had intended to get some photos of The Dancing Elvis's (famous in Harajuku) but I couldn't get anywhere near them. Next thing I saw was a pretty blond girl standing next to me and some guy ushering my friends and I off the road as a camera crew rolled in. The pretty blond girl then went running into the dancing crowd while the camera crew followed.

It wasn't until after all the comotion had died down that I realised the pretty blond girl I'd been standing next to was none other than Brittany Murphy! Later research revealed she is in Tokyo making a movie called The Ramen Girl.

From what I saw of the shoot the movie should be a fun no-brainer. Not usually my kind of thing but I'll be watching this one come September 2007. Hell I was there!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Yakitori Obasans

Yakitori Obasan
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Having spent the day trying to squeeze English words into the non receptive minds of Japanese children I thought I would treat myself to some Yakitori as I meandered along the paved street leading back to my apartment. To the uninitiated Yakitori is basically grilled chicken on a stick, and there happens to be at least five street vendors conveniently stationed along the main street for anyone who fancies a tasty, if sometimes sticky, snack on the way home.

Whenever I approach one of these vendors I'm always apprehensive about speaking Japanese. It's invariably at the end of the day when I stop in for my fix of chicken-on-a-stick and I barely have the ability to string two words together in English let alone another language entirely. Tonight was no exception. As I approached the Yakitori window I noticed the two old ladies nattering away to themselves at the back of the store. Happily plugged in to my iPod I waited for them to finish their conversation then one of the old ladies wandered over. As she approached she mumbled something I didn't catch.

"Sorry?" I said (in Japanese of course).
"I said do you like Yakitori?"
"Oh. Yes, I like Yakitori"
The old ladied turned to her friend. "Did you hear that? He likes Yakitori!" She turned back to me. "So you like Yakitori then!"
"Oh yes" I replied. "I like Yakitori very much"
"English?" she asked, more as a statement than a question.
"Australian" I replied.
"You have a Japanese girlfriend yet?" she asked, as if she knew someone who might be interested. I don't know why it is but it seems foreign boys are not allowed to be single in Japan, especially not as far as the old ladies are concerned. They are always trying to introduce you to someone.
"Umm, yes I have a Japanese girlfriend, thankyou".
"Oh good" she said as she handed me my chicken and that ended our conversation.

It's funny, but back home a conversation like that would never happen, especially not with a foreigner. People are too busy keeping to themselves to bother taking an interest in those around them let alone people on the other side of the counter. At home the staff at the convenience store are more concerned with getting you out and away as quickly as possible so they can go back to whatever it was they were doing before you so rudely disrupted their life. Here, especially with the older generation, it's quite the opposite. I don't know whether it's out of some kind of fascination because you are a stranger (in more than one sense of the word) or because the people are generally more friendly. What I do know is it can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing on those days when you feel the pressures of a foreign world pressing in around you, and it's a curse on nights like tonight when you know you're just going to fall all over the language you've been studying so hard to get right.

Tonight was one of those nights when I fell all over my Japanese and stumbled home embarrassed. Later I realized I'd forgotten to get my bike from the station and had to stumble back again, smiling politely to the old Yakitori lady as I passed.

"It was delicious" I murmured when she saw me. She just smiled and went back to her grill. Probably marvelling at just how odd these foreigners are.

The Mr. Postman Flower

Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Harajuku: the place where cool young Japanese go to buy trendy clothes with poorly constructed English phrases printed on them. I suppose I should feel some comfort in the fact that English is the "in thing" in Japan (or at least Tokyo) these days, however I can't help but shake my head every time I read another mangled English sentence. A case in point is this t-shirt. It has words on it I'm sure don't even exist!


What the hell is a "cecret" and how the hell is it "supritual"??? Here's another one I read on a bag on the train.


Pure gobbledy-gook! The Mr. Postman flower??? While I love the fact English is becoming more and more popular they could at least spend a little more time getting it right when it comes to putting it on consumer products.

Then again... there's probably hundreds of people back home in Australia walking around with "foreign wanker" tattooed to to their bodies in kanji so I guess that makes us even.

Hell for all I know there may be a Mr. Postman flower wandering around delivering things to signs. There's lots of things I don't know about this country.

Aside from the bad English though (which actually gives me a chuckle when I see it) I'm still loving Japan. What can I say? It's one of the most SUPRITUAL places I've ever been... whatever that means.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Goodbye to a mate...

On Monday I lost my oldest friend in the world. While I always thought that he was probably going to go in some stupid car crash or something, it turns out he was going to get wiped out by a stupid little virus that unexpectedly turned into pneumonia. He went into hospital Monday morning. By lunch time he was dead. This is what I wrote for his funeral…


We were polar opposites in so many ways, and yet we were the best of mates for years and, even though we moved apart to live different lives, we always found time for each other. Whether it was just to have a few beers and tell stories or whether it was to pull the engine out of my old Subaru because the bloody thing wouldn’t work AGAIN we somehow always managed to keep our friendship alive and well.

What do I remember about Alex? My earliest memory was wandering over to his place bored one afternoon because I had nothing to do. I must have been about 8 at the time. Both our parents were building houses at the same time so there was plenty going on, just not if you were 8 years old. So, I met Alex. Alex was always the one making stuff and I was the one just happy to go along. That afternoon we made a tree house around a tree. Sidonie was probably still in nappies, and James was about the most annoying child I’d ever met. Every time one of us told him to rack off he’d just ask “why” in his long, whiny, high pitched voice and keep on dogging us.

How things have changed hey.

Things just grew from there I guess. It seems we went through all the important stages of life together. From lego building to mild acts of public vandalism we pretty much went through it all. Here are just some of the things I remember…

… Alex stealing a bottle of port from Ian’s stash, the two of us getting incredibly drunk together then deciding to walk the 1km stretch from his place to mine. By the time we got to my place Alex looked so sick he was almost blue. I remember mum asking me if Alex was alright, and all I could think to say was he’d eaten some bad wallaby patties… Then he threw up everywhere! Luckily he’d made it into the toilet; however I think he managed to hit everything except the toilet bowl. All I can remember seeing is red everywhere. On the walls, the ceiling, the wall behind him… Everywhere! To his credit he cleaned up every bit, except perhaps for one stain on the wicker basket by the toilet. Come to think of it, last time I looked that stain was still there. It was such a funny memory I never told mum about the stain and never bothered to clean it off! Several days later Ian found the empty bottle in James’ cubby house. Neither of us was really punished though. The way we felt the next day was probably deemed punishment enough!

… Rocking the next door neighbour’s roof until he was so irate he chased us for over an hour! It was one of those things really. It was Alex’s old place so we knew the whole area pretty well and in those days we considered the new owner to be “a bit of a Wally”, so we often stood outside lobbing stones at the roof. What we weren’t expecting was the guy waiting for us to come back. The moment we threw our last rocks he came charging at us out of the darkness. We were so scared we split up and headed in two separate directions. I ended up jumping a fence and hiding under an old car in the middle of a paddock while Alex managed to run all the way back to his place. I’ve never seen him move so fast before or since! Over an hour later we met up and decided it was safe to walk to my house, when a car pulled up and offered us a lift. It was of course my friendly neighbour and he had some questions for us. As you can expect we refuted all claims at the time, but I guess I’m safe admitting to it now!

… Heading back to Back Cam Road after we’d both moved away to find local council had installed a traffic island at the juncture of Hoare’s Road and Back Cam. Well we couldn’t have that! Since when did Back Cam need and traffic island? Nobody bloody well asked us! So, what did we do? We walked back to my place, got some tools then went back up to the traffic island to remove the bloody thing. Sadly they saw fit to concrete the damn thing in and it wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard we hit it with the sledge hammer. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts right? You can’t win them all after all.

These are all funny, stupid things I remember about Alex and when it comes to memories of Alex I have millions. I remember random camping trips, drinking lots of coffee and playing stupid computer games until the sun came up, jumping on the trampoline until it was too dark to see, skinny dipping in the pool (why not, Roger did it), “Dookie” by Greenday, falling in love with the same girl in high school (Alex won that one - he got in a day earlier), playing catch with wallaby testicles (every country boy has done that surely), “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by the Spin Doctors, building tree houses in the bush, getting covered head to toe in leeches and burning them off, “Voodoo Lady” by Ween, the Surprise Chef impersonation he would do every time he stayed at my place (yes he could actually cook – maybe even better than James!)… It would take me a life time to go through them all.

Over all these things though, what I remember the most is his ability to just listen. While most people around him would talk on and on about nothing (me included) Alex would shut up, listen and pick his moments. Of all the things I will remember about Alex I will respect this about him the most. Just by being himself he helped me through a number of tough times. He was my oldest and best mate and I’m going to miss him like a brother. I just wish I could have said goodbye.

Alex mate, I’m going to miss you.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

White Noise in Tokyo

Neon Walk
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Confession: “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees was not only a hit song in the 70’s but it is also one of the songs on my iPod.

Discovery: Walking down the street while listening to “Staying Alive” will cause you to strut.

Now picture this – a tall white guy strutting down a street full of short Japanese people, nodding his head casually and coolly to the Bee Gees’ high pitch brand of disco funk. That’s me. That’s the guy I’ve become. The guy this place has turned me into!

Ok, so I can’t vouch for the casual/cool thing but from the inside looking out that’ how things appeared. On the reverse side of the coin I’m sure there’s a Japanese guy out there writing up his blog just as I type this one – and where I’ve written casual and cool he has written geeky and awkward. But, each to his own perspective I guess.

If I’m honest Tokyo is starting to get to me. It’s not that the people aren’t friendly and the place isn’t interesting it’s just… different. For a start there is a noticeable lack of birds. Ok, so there are sparrows, crows and pigeons but I hardly think they count. I don’t think I’m the only one who misses them though. If you happen to be up and walking down the main street in my city first thing in the morning you will notice the lovely bird sounds all around. The first time I heard them I was reminded of my grandfather’s garden and started looking around delighted trying to find the source. My delight soon turned to dismay however when my search revealed nothing but speakers at the top of every lamp post in the street.

This leads me to my second grumble about Tokyo… The place is almost never quiet. Every shop, bar, street, street vendor and pachinko parlour feels the need to pump noise pollution into the atmosphere – each one clashing with the next.

A typical evening in Kiyose:
Stepping out of the train station you are immediately accosted by eight people trying to hand you various things from tissues to discount vouchers and candy. Once you’ve managed to get beyond those you hit the pachinko parlours. As you pass, the doors open to reveal a smoke filled room full of flashing lights, jangling little silver balls, bells and sirens from 1000 machines, and an assortment of inane tunes, all of which combine to create an invasive and abrasive white noise. If you are having a hard time picturing it just imagine a large pinball arcade on crack.

Beyond that you enter the main street where you are assaulted by sounds coming from every shop and drug store you pass. Some of the stores have their own annoying jingles they like to pump out into the street, whereas others like to go for the more popular but just as annoying J-Pop. If that wasn’t enough however there’s also a street vendor in the street selling gyoza (kind of like a Chinese steamed dim-sim) from the back of a van. This wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t have a PA system rigged to the van loudly playing the same high pitched nasal recording over and over and over and over!

“Gyoooooooozaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”…. wait… take the pitch up a notch… go again… “GyyyoooooozaaaaaAAAAA!”

This is all on a normal day by the way. It’s even worse during election time. Then the politicians actually ride around on the back of trucks with microphones giving mobile policy speeches! Something I’m sure would never happen back home in Aus. The first politician to try that would probably have something very nasty happen to him/her. Luckily the politicians back home have the decency to stay behind closed doors where we can ignore them peacefully.

Finally, to top it all off, the street actually plays music at you from the very same speakers that like to chirp like happy little electronic birds first thing in the morning. I think last time I actually listened to the music in the street I heard the toy piano rendition of the Carpenter’s classic “Close To You”. It was a touching moment.

My ranting and raving aside however, this place also manages to dish up some very funny, peculiar moments (look a segue!).

Last week I was standing in the train station waiting for a friend when I noticed something rather odd – a Japanese guy in drag. Ok, so in a city of 20 million people I’m sure this isn’t so odd but I haven’t painted the whole picture yet. Firstly the guy was immaculately tailored in what appeared to be a very expensive skirt suit – the kind worn by powerful women executives. In addition he had a full ensemble of matching accessories and his hair and makeup was perfect. Ok, again this is probably not such a big deal in a place like Tokyo but, what made it odd was this… he was standing in front of a ringing pay phone.

Now you need to step back and get a bird’s eye view of this picture… There was me unabashedly staring at a transvestite wondering whether I had time to get my camera; there was the transvestite staring at a ringing pay phone wondering whether he dared to answer it and; there was the rest of Tokyo pouring past us without even registering that anything was slightly out of place. It was, if anything, a surreal moment in my life.

Of late I think that’s what Tokyo has become for me – a serious of surreal moments linked together by long stretches of hum-drum. I go to work, I come home, I go to work, I come home etc…

I suppose it’s time I got off my ass and did something about that. If I’m successful I’m sure I’ll write about it here so, assuming anyone actually reads this, wish me luck.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Train Sculls

"Train Sculls"
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
I'm not sure why, but there's something about teacher's and alcohol, especially when the teachers are somewhere like Japan. Perhaps it's the feeling of isolation that drives you to drink, or perhaps it's the yearning for like-minded company; people who intimately know the frustrations of someone who has to constantly navigate their way around a foreign country they may never fully understand. Or... maybe we just like to drink!

Since my last post several things have happened to me that have caused me some amusement. Firstly I am receiving love letters from one of my students! Fortunately her English ability is so low the love letters consist of sentences like "You smell good. What did you eat?" The downside is she is incredibly incredibly attractive (yes that’s a downside!) Hmmmm... What to do what to do what to do...

Of course I'm not going to DO anything, but it would be so much easier if she wasn't so damn attractive!

Then, the other day I managed to drop 10 yen on the escalator while I was fishing through my wallet for my train pass. 10 yen is the equivalent of about 10 cents... So what did I do? Nothing. It was only 10 yen. Let it fall down the gap and see if I care! Did the Japanese guy behind me let that happen though? Not on your life. It was perhaps one of the funniest things I've ever seen. One man holding up and entire escalator full of people while he valiantly tried to rescue my 10 yen from the abyss. To his credit and my amusement I got my 10 yen back. I'd like to see that kind of thing happen in Australia!!

Oh, and a couple of friends and I invented a new drinking game! I'm going to tentatively call it "Train Sculls". "Train Sculls" grew out of 3 of us standing on a platform freezing our asses off while waiting for a train. Eventually one of us cracked it and suggested we get some beers from the newspaper stand (yes the newspaper stand) and jump on the next train that happened to arrive. Public drinking not being illegal in Japan (although a little frowned upon on the train) we grabbed a few cans of beer and jumped on the next train which just happened to be going in the opposite direction to where we really wanted to be going! The rules were simple. Every time the train stopped we had to drink. Every time an old lady got on the train (every second passenger is an old lady) we had to drink. Every time a cute guy or girl got on the train (we were 2 guys and a girl so we had to go both ways) we had to drink.

Aaaaanyway, this took us into the heart of the Tokyo subway system several km’s underground before we ran out of beer and had to find our way back again. It was, to say the least, a fun experience!

And that, apart from all the photos I've been taking recently, is my life to date. Ok, so it might not be packed full of adventure and derring-do right now, but it is interesting. Well... for me at least!


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My images...

Girl in Black
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Once upon a time I used to love photography but, since coming to Japan, I've been guilty of merely pointing my camera at things with no regard for the image or composition.

However, I've recently started to get back into actual photography. Here's just one of my most recent images. If you'd like to see more you can find links to my photos on the right of this page or you can just click on the image.


Drunk in Japan

Drunk in Japan
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Since my trip to Nagano I’ve been trying not to spend too much money. Consequently my life has been pretty quiet of late...

I’ve been out drinking a few times with some Japanese mates, which is always fun, especially as they don’t know a lot of English and they always seem to end up paying for most of it, even if I insist.

Actually its interesting how gaijin (foreigners) ate treated in Japan. We can either be ignored completely or people can be extremely generous. Just recently I left a bar with my mates then, after seeing them off home, I went back in for another drink. Not having a lot of money on me I was keeping a close eye on my drink, however the bar staff kept topping it up. When I told them I was short on cash they told me not to worry about it because someone else in the bar was covering my tab!

Ok, so this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time but it certainly happens a lot more here than it does back home, and on those days it is great being a foreigner in Japan.


Nagano Sunset
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Nagano… A place world famous for skiing and snowboarding and I managed to fall down most of it. Ok, so maybe it was only one run, but I now know that run in detail. I should, seeing as I spent a lot of time sliding down it on my face and ass.

Actually, although I came away from my three day trip bearing some phenomenal injuries, it was one of the best trips I have ever had.

For three days my friend Jamie and I went up and down a mountain on a ski lift offering us some of the most amazing views, although our first day saw us mainly sitting at the bottom of a gentle incline wondering just how the hell we were supposed to stay standing up, while dreading the walk back to the top of our little slope just so we could tumble down it again.

By the end of day one we were sorer than we have ever been in our lives and Jamie was muttering something about having torn his sphincter!

Day two was significantly better. My friend Yusuke (who organized the whole thing for us) took us to the top of the run and spent some time teaching is just how NOT to fall over. This doesn’t mean we didn’t fall over at all, but we fell over a hell of a lot less. However I did manage to take one spectacular fall that left me wondering whether I’d cracked a rib or two. It’s now three weeks later and I’m still tender down one side! Seven hours and some amazing weather later Jamie and I found we could actually “snowboard” and I discovered I’d managed to get sunburned pretty much all over my face except for where my goggles had been. My chin has never been so red in all my life!

On our last day we woke up to a blanket of fog that didn’t lift all day. However, despite the multitude of aches and pains we now bore (including my possibly cracked ribs) we were determined to spend our last day on the run. By this stage we considered ourselves fully fledged snowboarders and had even resorted to saying things like “gnarly dude”. The run however was unforgiving. It had been packed down the night before and, as the snow never saw the sun, it was like boarding on ice. Each tumble was like falling on solid concrete. It was so bad that we nearly packed it in and went home, but sheer bloody mindedness saw us persevere.

There is nothing quite as frightening as sliding down a wall of ice at unknown speeds while not being able to see anything. At some stages the fog became so thick it was almost impossible to differentiate between the snow and the fog at all. Many times Jamie and I would begin at the top of one run only to find ourselves at the bottom of a completely different one.

The end of the trip saw us heading home exhilarated but completely knackered. That didn’t stop us from heading to the pub however. It’s amazing how a few rum and cokes can make you forget about cracked ribs and incredible sunburn.

A cold ride

Cold Ride
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Here’s a little something I noted down back in January:

Gaily humming along to “The Girl from Ipanema” coming from speakers hidden in the street above, while trying not to fall over the sludgy remains of yesterday’s snowfall, I can’t help but marvel at this place… Tokyo… The only city I have encountered where it can be snowing and you will still see girls in shorty shorts and pumps. It’s just… beautiful.

Of course it would help if most Japanese girls actually had asses to fill out those little shorty shorts but… you make do with what’s available.

Tokyo… Not so much a cultural melting pot as a mixed bag where everything tends to clash. I don’t say this in a bad way… I mean… If we were to compare Tokyo to, say fashion, then it could be said that Tokyo is the Socks and Sandals combination. From the outside they don’t quite seem to match, but Math teachers the world over will tell you that the socks and sandals combo provides not only comfort but freedom.

It’s also the only place I know where people ride their bikes to work in the snow.

My first Blog

Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Hi All, this is my first blog so bear with me.

Why am I doing this? Because I found that sending multiple emails back home just became a hassle. I would often wait until I felt I had enough interesting stories to tell then I couldn't be bothered actually writing it all. A bit pathetic for a guy who wants to be a writer I know!

So, now I have this blog. The challenge is keeping it up to date. Ok, I better go away and think about what to write.