Where are you from?
I was born in Lancashire, England, then brought up in Nottingham, then moved to London to
go to university at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
What brought you to Japan?
I had no choice. I' studying Japanese and I came here to do my year's study abroad. I
came here on a free exchange. They have a year out program, but they're just started it
and they're really disorganized and they ended up with some spare places. I'd already been
to Japan on a home stay a couple of years ago, but when they offered me the chance to come
again, I said yes.
How long did you spend here last time?
I was here for three months, but in Hokkaido. Hokkaido looks like America, huge expanses
of field stretching off into the distance.
Is there a big difference between Hokkaido and Tokyo?
Oh yeah. It's the same as in England. You read all the media, but if you're not living in
the capital a lot of it's just not relevant. As soon as you move here it becomes useful.
In Hokkaido I'd ask my host family about something that was going on in Tokyo and they'd
just shrug. The daughter was the same age as me, but she'd only been to Tokyo three times
in her whole life. Their life seemed really remote. But the people were a lot less
Which do you prefer?
Tokyo. But only because I like big cities. I don't like living in the wilderness.
Are you looking forward to going back?
No, I really want to stay here, but I can't get a visa and I've got to do my final year,
or I'm just never going to do it.
What do you like about Japan most?
The people, I guess. And the fact that it's so safe. I can walk around in the middle of
the night and not get attacked. The fact that it's not England.
What do you dislike about Japan most?
The crowds, and all the stuff that I can't buy, like brown bread. Also, nobody has an
oven, so you can't cook anything. And cockroaches. And salarymen's manners. They'll push
you out of the way on the train to get a seat, even if youve been standing in front of it
for half the journey.
Do you organize your CDs alphabetically?
I can't because half of them have got Japanese names.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Tofu and toast. Not one on top of the other, because the toast gets soggy. Because tofu
doesn't taste of anything, the best time to eat it is in the morning, before your system
If you could take one thing back from Japan to England, what would it be?
Onigiri, because it feels like it's good for you. In England I'd be eating crisps or
Do you have a favorite place to eat or drink in Tokyo?
I go anywhere that's really cheap. Some of the places I like are so cheap they don't even
have names, but I do like Ben's Cafe in Takadanobaba. It has a really nice atmosphere.
Where would you like to be when the big one hits?
Not here. I think I'll stay in England until it happens and then come back.
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?
My CD would be a compilation of all my favorite songs, my book would have to be something
Japanese, maybe The Tales of Genji. But I'd have to have at least two
versions—the original and the translation, so I could figure out how they got
from one to the other. Maybe a modern Japanese version would come in handy as well. My
luxury would be a PHS phone, so I could call everybody from the train.