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Tokyo Summer

As some may know, I’m back in Tokyo all through the summer, to organise an exhibition (more on that shortly), run a workshop for SCBWI Tokyo on the 19th, see as many old friendly faces as possible, and basically to just re-connect with my former home of 21 years.

It’s very good to be back, even though school holidays dictate daughter and I are here at the hottest time of year. Most people here can’t understand why I would want to come back to Japan while the Olympics are on in London, and in this heat. Fortunately I love the Japanese summer. There’s a unique ambience to the city at this time of year, things slow down, less bustle, more time for contemplation.

Last night I dreamed that Tokyo was like an ice cream slowly melting in the heat. In reality it’s not exactly as cool as ice cream, and it’s the people who feel melted, not the city.

I always have a lot to contemplate when I come back here, most of it connected to the sudden death of my wife in 2007 and subsequent decision to return to the UK. Maki’s presence is always with me, but never more so than when I tread the familiar streets of Tokyo. The comfort of intimate knowledge here pulls me back. This still feels like home,  it’s like an old familiar musical instrument that you can just lose yourself in, make beautiful sounds with. I don’t feel the same connection with anywhere in the UK, even after 5 years back there. It’s definitely time to move on from the past and become more enthusiastic with life in England.

It’s been 2 years since I was in Tokyo last, this has been the longest time away from Japan since I lived here. Some things have changed, superficially the shops in Shibuya and other places, but still it’s the same old city. One thing that has surprised me is the invisibility of the Tsunami and Fukushima in Tokyo. Outside the under-reported demos, Tokyo just carries on as it always has, last years’ disaster is almost completely invisible. Such stoicism and willingness to “stay calm and carry on ” is both reassuring and worrying. People are willing enough to relate their memories of the earthquake, but no-one generally talks about the ongoing problem of Fukushima. There’s a sense of resignment, of helpless resentment in the face of challenges. The government has never listened much to the wishes of the people in the past, so the mechanism for effective dissent is underdeveloped, there are plenty of opinions, but most people stay on the wings. There is much talk of the nuclear issue of course, yesterday was the anniversary of Hiroshima, there was much on the TV, some comparisons with Nuclear energy in Japan today. The media is covering the issues to a point.

But generally, life just carries on as it always has. Hot, sultry, vibrant and determined. If Tokyo melts it won’t be due to sunshine. Despite the mixed emotions and loneliness coming back here I’m enjoying Tokyo immensely, though I am missing the euphoria of the London Olympics a bit. Unless you watch things live (late at night) Japanese TV only shows the progress of Japanese athletes, so I’ve only seen snippets of the Olympics. Oh well, can’t have everything.

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