Tag Archives: Tokyo

You say you want a revolution?

I have a confession to make. I’m not in this picture.

You say you want a revolution, well you know,
we all want to change the world

- The Beatles, Revolution

Protestors have been coming together in Tokyo each Friday evening, gathering outside the Prime Minister’s residence to demonstrate against the restarting of some of the country’s nuclear power plants. Not me though. Instead, your fearless correspondent was sipping a vodka tonic, pontificating on what it all meant and making bold statements all over the internet about what an heir to Orwell she is.

If Orwell had walked into that bar he probably would have told me to go to hell and he would have been right. I don’t have the excuse of working on a Friday, or having commitments, or living far away from the district where the demonstrations have been taking place, like others who would have loved to attend but couldn’t. With no good excuse, only my own preoccupations, I’ve been lazily watching as the protests built via word of mouth to the point where organisers and police could argue about tens or hundreds of thousands attending (organisers say around 150,000, the police 20,000).

So I sipped my drink and pondered the more-than-fifty shades of grey area that surround The Nuclear Question:

Because it’s dangerous, sure. There could be another earthquake and tsunami at any time. But we need the electricity. Except TEPCO (the utility in charge of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant) falsified safety test results, while METI (the Government department with oversight of the industry) looked the other way. You like electricity, especially the lights, the music and the air conditioning that it brings, but when the yakuza are all but running some plants, who is really overseeing them? Fukushima Daiichi was years out of date, as well as poorly maintained and inspected, they don’t build nuclear power plants like that any more.

Maybe alternative power can make up the gap, Panasonic is planning to build a town where all the houses are energy self-sufficient to show it can be done or we could just switch all the old power plants back on and this time make sure they get checked properly. Can Japan innovate again, this time on renewables and will we really do setsuden (power saving) properly when the air conditioners are already running full blast and it’s only July?

I heard they want to make Miyagi a hub for green manufacturing as part of the reconstruction but it’s a big gamble, the Oi nuclear power plant is built on a fault but up and running at full capacity and the kids of Fukushima have radiation in their thyroid glands but still talk on the Children of the Tsunami video about how they want to go home but people must know that’s a never by now. If we switch all the plants off the economy is doomed, it will mean no jobs, but the lakes are radioactive, parents aren’t letting their children drink tap water although the neon and screens are loud and bright in Shibuya and please show me the box where I mark the ‘X’ that makes this all go away for another few years…

How to cover all those thoughts with a slogan like ‘no nukes’ is beyond me, so I drink more vodka and lime and try to pretend it isn’t happening, for an evening at least. How do we begin to fix this mistake, sixty years in the making? Collective errors that brought nuclear power plants and prosperity to the regions of Japan, yet left them mismanaged and vulnerable to natural disasters. It is easy to forget, but the plants weren’t dumped on places like Fukushima, they were welcomed by populations desperate for the jobs and incomes they brought with them.

And I can’t help thinking that if Fukushima Daiichi had possessed a back-up generator on a hill somewhere – or even on its own roof – if the inspectors had made sure the company was prepared for the once in a lifetime event, if everyone had done their jobs like they were supposed to, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. No anger, no disbelief, no mistrust, no demonstrations.

The banner I want to hold says ‘no stupidity’ or ‘no hubris’, perhaps. No more cosy lunches between regulators and the regulated. I don’t know if we can un-invent nuclear power now it exists, or make it safe enough to be used to power us into a greener future. I don’t know if we can convince politicians to look beyond the short term and their own self-interest. I do know that if enough of us put down our drinks, get involved, engage with the problems that have us wide-awake and staring at 4am instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, maybe we can get a little closer to that revolution after all.

I went down to the demonstration to get my fair share of abuse

- Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I know where I’ll be next Friday evening. See you there?

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This is where I live

At times you have to escape the city, to see a wider sweep to the horizon, feel fresh air on your face and remember what it is to have elbow room, before returning feeling charged and able to appreciate the urban beauty again.

My home city, looking as beautiful as it gets, courtesy of the very talented Samuel Cockedey.

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ten minutes hate at The Cat’s Meow

I mention that I have family about to arrive and they are so happy to hear the news, we talk of places my relatives should visit while they are here and it is a relief to turn to a less fraught topic of conversation for a short while.

It seems such a small crumb of comfort to be able to offer when what is needed is a feast.

Fortunately there really was a feast on offer last Friday when I appeared as a guest of The Cat’s Meow at Biscotti Tapas in Tokyo to read extracts from The Teas That Bind, answer questions about writing, tea and earthquakes as well as sign some copies of the book.

Thank you to everyone who organised or attended, it was really great to meet you and I hope you enjoyed the evening as much as I did!

Photo by Uchujin/Adrian Storey

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The price of everything

A comment on my post about this week’s book signing event made from the direction of the mortal bath, when added to a Golden Week spent with delightful visitors from back home, has suddenly opened my eyes to a universal truth. Crikey, life in Tokyo is expensive at times.

I realise that I now regularly pay 4,000 yen (slightly over thirty notes) for a night of clubbing without batting a heavily mascara’d eyelash at it, when back in the East London days, a fiver would be all I would need for admittance to some of the city’s finest warehouse raves. A taxi home once the last train has been missed will cost slightly less than four grand, but is still a hefty chunk of cash and remember, no drinks have been bought yet.

Still, payday is approaching and summer fun is on the horizon. Ticket details for the forthcoming Tokyo performance by the xx were released today and I allowed myself a couple of moments of getting over-excited about the prospect of going. I love their sparse beats, plaintive lyrics and am sure that seeing them would be a highlight.

Then reality kicks me in the head. Tickets have been priced at forty-five quid (5,800 yen). I paid about the same to see The National last year, a band who have released five albums and a stack of additional songs and who were on stage for almost three hours. It felt at the time, and still does, like a good return – much as I hate to be measuring my enjoyment of music in such a way. I suppose I should be grateful that I am able to hand over actual cash in return for a ticket at all, when the xx’s London dates have completely sold out, having been released in a ballot.

And yes, I do appreciate that it costs money to run a club and to fly bands and DJs in from overseas. I don’t begrudge anyone making a living from selling their creativity, especially when the use of it results in me having a cracking night out. That said, there are times on the dance floor when wide open spaces loom all around and the thought that it would be better for the room to be full with people paying less is difficult to push away. If everyone is priced out of going clubbing and gigging, where will that leave the respective music scenes in a decade’s time? We will all be the poorer, not just the promoters, if they allow the atrophy to become irreversible.

So, with some reluctance, I will be sitting this one out. Hoping instead to pick up on some smaller, less well-known, less high-priced gigs and nights out over the summer, to enjoy the immediacy of live music without completely breaking the bank. And for now, I will have to content myself with sitting in my room, writing and humming along to the xx as I do.

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The Teas That Bind at The Cat’s Meow

I will be signing books and talking about The Teas That Bind at The Cat’s Meow on Friday 11 May. The event runs from 8:30-10:30pm and tickets are 3,500 yen, which includes a drink, snacks and a copy of the book.

Come along to hear all about surviving earthquakes, one pot of tea at a time…

You can also get your book signed and ask any questions you have about the book, volunteering, tea, earthquakes and self-publishing. Full details and a form to RSVP are here.

Hope to see you there!

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You can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop, MCA come and rock the sure shot

It is difficult to credit, when you consider their later preoccupations, that the first incarnation of the Beastie Boys was a gift to tabloid headline writers, creating outrage wherever the group went, causing riots and scandalising sleepy British society.

That it was all taken seriously was amazing even to my 10-year-old eyes, who could see that the Beasties were meant to be a real-life extension of the Saturday morning cartoon shows I was glued to. With their Volkswagen-owner bothering jewellery, Ad Rock’s baby-faced clowning and the custard pie antics of the Fight for Your Right video, the moralising made it even more certain that I and many other kids far from their native Brooklyn would love them.

Of course, history records that the band had the last laugh on everyone who predicted that their brand of juvenile humour would begat nothing more than a one hit wonder. The moves from frat house soundtrack to enlightenment now look so assured that again, it is difficult to recall exactly how close to being written off they came. Teaming up with the Dust Brothers to make an album now as universally loved as it was initially ignored, organising concerts in support of the Free Tibet campaign, apologising for the worst anti-women tirades of their Licensed to Ill days in the lyrics to Sure Shot.

The Boys done good.

And that is before we even get to the music, the incredible brilliance that is the Sabotage video:

The wonder of Intergalactic: I can’t be the only one who never walks through Shinjuku station without thinking of the lads dancing in a crowd of bemused Japanese commuters, can I?

And now that high whine is silenced. I first heard of MCA’s illness when learning that touring in support of their latest album was on hold pending his recovery from another round of treatment. 47 is far too young and cancer is a bitch. But as a Buddhist, perhaps he would have celebrated the impermanence of life, knowing that it is short for all of us and the end is inevitable. What matters is to live it to the full and bring happiness to others while we are here.

On both counts, MCA delivered.

Goodbye and thanks for all the tunes.

R.I.P. MCA.

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ten minutes hate is on holiday

Feeling very lucky and grateful to all those who have fought for my right to kick back and enjoy time away from work.

If you are looking for holiday reading material, my recommendation is here.

Back soon!

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Friday May 11th, 8:30 -10:30 PM The Teas that Bind by J.C. Greenway at Biscotti Tapas

Originally posted on The Cat's Meow:

The Teas That Bind

by J.C. Greenway

May 11th, 2012

8:30 -10:30 PM

Biscotti Tapas

¥3,500 (includes welcome drink, snacks, & a book)

What happens when the adventure you signed up for is a whole lot more adventure than you expected?

Join us at the Cat’s Meow for an intimate conversation and reading with J.C. Greenway, author of The Teas That Bind which answers the question, “So, the big earthquake then. What was it like?” and much more.

In her own words:

The Teas That Bind is the story of my year in Japan before and since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, living, observing and questioning what goes on around me.

Comprising posts written for this website – along with emails, tweets and status updates, as well as previously unpublished material – the book covers the days following the disaster and the months beyond, including my involvement…

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That time of year again

It is that time of year again, when every corner of the city looks gorgeous; when the large, famous parks draw the crowds but single trees tucked away down side streets are equally as appreciated and likely to be immortalised by the smartphone cameras of passing commuters.

There is something about the heady mix of sunshine, sakura and a huge pile of food and drink to be shared with friends under the boughs that acts like a shot of something pure delivered right to the brain after the chills of winter. I don’t think I could ever get cynical about this season and all it brings. New term, new jobs, new projects: January may be the start of the year, but April is when everything begins again in Japan.

So hard to believe that by next week it will all be gone. With the sakura, as with all the good things of life, be sure to enjoy it while you can!

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You never forget your first time

image

Me, holding a copy of the first short story I have had published
Tokyo – 30 January 2012

It feels every bit as good as everything that led me to start writing promised it would.  Thanks to everyone who has read and offered advice on one of my stories, it means more than you will likely ever know.

If you would like a copy of your own, it is available here

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