"Let's Do Talk"
a film about teaching English in Japan.
Time in Japan:
Where are you
from? I'm originally from Cheshire, England, but lived in London before coming here. I
worked for Olivetti computers for a while but then took time out to write a novel. Which
was a complete waste of time.
What brought you to Japan and how long have you been here? Money. I got into financial difficulties at the end of the '80s in England and a
friend was out here teaching and said, "Why don't you come out here, save some money
and get back on your feet?" So that was it.
Are you planning to stay? I plan to leave every Christmas, but I'll probably be here for the next 12 years.
Well, we've got two more films lined up, so I want to try and do those.
Tell us about your commute to work.
Commuting was a real problem for me for the first three or four years, even though the
commute itself wasn't that long. In the end, I bought a bicycle. I try to avoid the trains
as much as possible.
What do you like about Japan most? I like the fact that you can be as anonymous as you want, but at the same time you can
become a regular somewhere and make friends. I like the fact that I've got friends from
all over the world, which I didn't have in England. I like the safety element, the way
that people here have a sort of general respect for personal space.
Also the situation here for foreigners has improved a lot since I've been here. Without
sucking up, I think that's down to Tokyo Classified. Before you came along, it was very
difficult to do anything, from finding somewhere to live to learning Japanese. Maybe
that's why you don't see so many crazy foreigners walking around as you used to. TC has
taken a lot of the stress out of living here.
What do you dislike about Japan most? Racism towards minority groups, particularly Iranians. This is a community of people,
a lot of whom have fought in a war, a lot of whom are dissenting against a repressive
government, a lot of whom speak three languages and are very well educated. Yet they are
treated with disdain by the Japanese. A couple of years ago there was an incident where
the riot police basically attacked them in Yoyogi Park. If that had been a bunch of white
Americans, there would have been outrage.
Do you organize your CDs alphabetically? I had a very traumatic experience with my CDs. I used to organize them alphabetically,
but since I switched to Case Logic cases, it's a nightmare. It takes me ages to find the
CD I'm looking for.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen or experienced in Japan? One of the weirdest was that a friend of mine was arrested for something he didn't do,
a nothing little incident in the street, and spent two weeks in prison. When he went to
court, the judge told him that if he didn't confess to this crime, he would have to do
another two weeks without being charged. Another, funnier, one was once when I was walking
through Shinjuku station and a drunken salaryman came up to me, mistook me for an Italian
and went down on his knees and started worshipping me. When I pointed out that I was
English, he stood up, looked at me like I was dirt and walked off.
What do you eat for breakfast? Coffee and cigarettes.
If you could take one thing back from Japan to your native country, what would it be? Clean and punctual trains would be a big thing. That, and the lack of violence.
Do you have a favorite place to eat or drink in Tokyo?
I go to the Rock 'n' Roll Diner in Shimokitazawa a lot. John, my co-writer, and I do a lot
of work on our scripts there. We've been going there once a week for about three years,
and the staff there have been very good to us, very kind.
Where would you like to be when the big one hits?
In a very very deep sleep.
You have to spend the rest of your life trapped on the Yamanote line. You're allowed to
take one book, one CD and one luxury item. What would they be? I was going to say The Smiths, but that might be too depressing. For the CD I'll go
for This is Hardcore by Pulp or Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. As for
the book, A Child In Time by Ian McEwan is a big favorite of mine. The luxury would
probably be a word processor or a camera.