Humour and Culture

Not everyone understands the Australian sense of humour. Sometimes it’s even beyond Australians. Some of my countrymen have complained about the Prime Minister’s recent video declaring that the end of the world is nigh. In one case, a mother of a young autistic man has had to convince her son that the Mayan calendar can’t… Continue reading Humour and Culture


2011 has been a big year for me. In March, my first book Dragon Bones was released in Hong Kong. In May it was released in the US. In June, I moved into my new flat – the first place of my own that I’ve ever lived in. It’s right on the train line, but… Continue reading Birthdays

Earthquake Gets Personal

I only experienced one significant earthquake when I lived in Japan. Five years after the famous Kobe earthquake, I was sitting at my desk on the 17th floor of a 30-story office building on a reclaimed island just off the Kobe coast. The building I was in had been evacuated after the Great Hanshin Earthquake,… Continue reading Earthquake Gets Personal

Still Learning

My life here has been rich, but the country seemed determined to make me regret leaving. I was drafting a letter – which would form the basis for this chapter – in my head one afternoon on the way into Sannomiya when, on boarding the train, I found that the driver had left the blind… Continue reading Still Learning


Towards the end of my stay, I came home to find a tent set up in the empty block next door. “It’s Takeshi’s punishment,” I was told, though not what the crime was. “He has to sleep outside for three nights.” ‘Cool,’ I thought. ‘Not much worry about curfews if you’re sleeping in a tent.’… Continue reading Discipline

It’s Not Wrong

“It’s not wrong – it’s different.” Three years ago I sat on a plane to Japan repeating that mantra. I was on my way to start a new life in a foreign world – an expatriate Australian in the confused traditional / modern world I’d come to love – and knew that the phrase was… Continue reading It’s Not Wrong

Categorized as Japan


I pulled up at a set of traffic lights – red, yellow and blue lights laid horizontally – and waited until they turned blue, then began to pull out. Another car screamed across our path, horn tooting, and I remembered that traffic rules in Japan are considered more as guidelines than obligations. Nagoya is famed… Continue reading Driving


“It’s so unfair,” said Kayo, breaking the silence. “It’s not my fault that the economy is bad at the moment.” “You’ve been with the same company for seven years. Maybe it was time to move on, anyway.” “That’s not the way it works in Japan. We’ve been brought up to be loyal to the company.… Continue reading Unemployed


The rock walls rose steeply on either side of us, and the river gently pushed us towards the rapids ahead. There was time enough to get back to the raft and prepare for those when we got closer. For now, the members of the hiking club were free to float in the clear, blue water,… Continue reading Environment