The price of madness

Posted: March 12, 2018 in uncategorised

For the last 5 minutes I have been waiting for one of my French housemates to notice me pulling a strange stare/look at him from across the room.
While waiting, I had to change my face position slightly, as you can fiercely raise your eyebrows for only so long, but, you must maintain a solid and unmoving posture. This is an essential element in the delivery of one of my favourite jokes.

Indeed, in these five minutes I had time to think. Namely, that I have always enjoyed being perceived as odd or strange or crazy.
In my life so far, I have done a wide variety of things which might make the average onlooker question my sanity.
When I was a paperboy, at 11 or 12 years old, I remember at the start of every paper round I would look for aluminium cans, and if you stamp on them just right, then they clamp around your shoes. So, I would do my whole paper round with these special aluminium-can shoes, 2 on each feet; one at the front and one at the back of each shoe. Clapping around like a tin soldier.
I always wore big boots to school, that went above my ankle, so it wasn`t a problem to fit the cans on.
I think when I was a child I must have used normal shoes and they gave me a blister just under the little ball of your ankle, you know? Under that little ball of your ankle? Normal shoes rub there sometimes. Especially school shoes because they had a hard leather rim.
So, I wrote off normal shoes for the rest of my life.

To this day, whether with smart or casual wear, I favour shoes that go slightly above the ankle.
I wore ex-army boots for years from army surplus stores.

In school I was always in the least popular group of kids, the weird ones, because I enjoyed acting in a bizarre fashion.
While the other kids played football or got into smoking and such, me and my friends used to have mock battles in the trees between the playing fields.
We chased each other round school having deodorant fights, which probably wasn`t good for our health. The aim of that game was to spray your opponent/s with so much deodorant that they give up. I don`t know how Lynx convince people that their fumes smell good.
Hiding in one of the cubicles in the toilets was the worst idea! There`s no air flow!
I remember one day we decided to wage war on a wasps nest that we found. Compared to my friends, I was relatively unscathed, but wasps kept flying out of my school jacket sleeves for the rest of the day.

In sixth form, which is the last 2 years of school in the UK, me and 3 friends had a water fight in one of the maths rooms. We`d tied the cord of a computer around the door handle to prevent the door from opening.
When my physics teacher came into the room, it dragged the computer off the table onto the floor and he got hit in chest with an open water bottle. I don`t remember what the punishment was for that.

Nowadays, while sat at my computer, I like to wear one of my mexican wrestling masks, and when nobody else is in the study room, myself and a friend have a secret pact to make high pitched octopus noises (or what I imagine to be an octopus/squid noise). The source of these noises is quite a mystery to most of the people living here, which brings me great satisfaction.
The world is even more interesting when you fill it with unexplained events!

I spent about 6 months walking backwards. I wouldn`t walk forwards, and whenever I went into a shop or supermarket, I would try to walk in a totally illogical pattern, just to excite intrigue and unpredictability.
Eventually I stopped because my neck got a little sore and I probably lost sight of why I was doing it.

I could go on and on about some of the things I`ve tried out and experiments I`ve undertaken, but the most important part about being silly is that it can cheer up anybody.
Having worked with children for a little while now, I know that children would not hesitate to be silly or have fun anywhere.
We should all make an effort not to be so damn serious all the time and learn to be silly. Our lives are very short after all, and even what we think are the most amazing accomplishments are really nothing in the scheme of things.

Long story short, the price of madness is that judgemental/serious/sour people won`t be your mates. Who cares!

God bless, have a great day, peace and love to you

(When my dad had work friends come over, I would deliberately dress unhinged. oh my word it still makes me laugh now)



Sat here in a corner, in my favourite Mexican wrestling mask, listening to 90s metal, I thought I would take some time to write a few of my Japan experiences that I have not talked about before.

From a young age I have been fascinated by ninja. The mystical, magical, black-clad martial artists who can climb any wall and dispatch any foe with stealth, swordplay and agility.
Nowadays you can find ninja represented all over popular media, with a wealth of television series`, movies, games and books. Ofcourse, most of these are quite far from the truth.

When I was 17 I purchased my first seemingly-legitimate ninja outfit, since then I have added special ninja-shoes with toe gaps, padded soles and hardened tips for climbing. I`ve also added real shuriken (throwing stars), metal nunchaku and some other bits and pieces.

At the age of 19, after reading many Batman comics, I set about patrolling the streets of Plymouth late at night. During this time, I`m sure my parents must have thought I was going a bit mad. One particular week, I was convinced that the way to becoming a martial arts master was to punch the ground hundreds of times. So that is what I used to do every day for a little while. This had consequences. Namely, that my fists were covered in scabs that would not heal because they kept breaking when I went out to punch the ground some more. I was working as a barman at the time, and my colleagues were convinced I had become some kind of street brawler. My parents considered it to be a form of self-harm.

The truth is, I had been reading about a crazy Korean martial artist who trained himself so brutally, that at the pinnacle of his strength he could (and did) kill live bulls. This is the founder of Kyokushin Karate (a particularly gruelling type of karate), Masutatsu Oyama.

In my imagination, patrolling the streets of Plymouth would undoubtedly result in confrontations with obvious drug dealers and street thugs, so, to prepare, I would go to the parks near my house and practice Karate katas in the moonlight.

After two or three weeks of doing this, and also of not finding any drug dealers, I hung up my nunchaku. Nunchaku are those two sticks held together by a chain, which Bruce Lee often whips out.

It was probably good timing that I became a Christian at this point. Turns out that the best way to help criminals (people) is not by beating them up.

Fast forward to last year, I took the time to visit one of the hometowns of real ninjas, the city of Iga, in the prefecture of Mie.

From the books I`ve since read, and the time spent there, I learnt a number of things:

The ninjas were a response to the genuine need for espionage, assassination and sabotage during the hundreds of years of samurai warfare from roughly 900-1000AD to around the 1700s, and utilised the highest technological assets available throughout this time. The reason the area of Iga and Koga were strongholds for ninja clans was due to the availability of the natural ingredients in gunpowder : sulphur, potassium nitrate (saltpeter) and charcoal (from the expensive Japanese wood Hinoki, the same one used in onsens/baths).

Most of the time they did not wear black, but had a variety of disguises and outfits they would employ depending on the task. The ninjas had little or no allegiance, and worked for the highest bidder; profiting greatly over the chaos of the 100 year country-at-war period (sengoku jidai).

Typically, a ninja came from the lowest social group (hisabetsu burakumin = people from the discriminated community, or, less politely, hinin = non-humans) and if captured would face the most nasty executions. They were not allowed to weigh over 60kgs, as this would hinder their ability to climb, and refused to eat any strong-smelling food, including meat, eggs, etc. They employed a number of secret languages using colored rice, and even an ancient Japanese written language, which existed before Chinese-influenced characters.

The city of Iga has a fascinating ninja museum, and trick-house, which shows the many secrets and tools that were used. This included having every room in the house designed to grant an advantage against any particular weapon, i.e – low ceiling, pillars in the middle of the room, hidden daggers/tunnels/doors/staircases, lips in the floor to trip people. It was an ingenious array of tricks.

One of the gadgets I was particularly fond of in the ninja museum was a sort of metal clip that ninja would slap on a normal sliding door, while being pursued through a house, preventing the door from opening, and ofcourse the caltrops. These are little metal spikes, coated with poison, thrown on the ground as the ninja makes his/her escape.

I bought a translation of a number of ninja scrolls while I was there, and found some interesting material. For example, female ninjas (kunoichi), have a surprising variety of cringeworthy techniques to kill men through intercourse, which I will not delve into.

Most of the secret techniques and teachings were recipes to make things like sleeping powder, long lasting embers, dripping liquid fires and useful tools, but there was a fair amount of fantastical magical spells including heron heads and toad blood and making circles with arrows pointing at the moon with mirrors in different places and drawing nightmares so your enemy has a bad night sleep. So basically, you have to lose sleep for a week, catching herons and toads and other forest creatures to give your enemy one bad sleep. Not a good deal in my opinion.

One thing I really liked from Iga was the ninja food! They make these resilient biscuits which a ninja would carry with him on long missions, and the biscuits are so hard that you have to break them with a rock. Even if you soak them in water, they remain solid.

If you`d like some, then just send me 20 big ones and I`ll get some for ya.

Have a great day, God bless you.

I am now listening to Mozart, like this:

The Very Latest in Tokyotown Blues

Posted: November 21, 2017 in Japan, Non-Fiction

Hello friends.

I am not very good at replying to emails and messages, and, as soon as I allow one to live in my basement, it quickly alerts all its pals and the flood to my inbox commences. Now I am standing at the base of a mountain of virtual correspondence, all screaming out in electronic tones.

I have decided to take the easy route and blow the mountain up with this quick draft. Ofcourse, this route is not very good for the environment, and might not be ideal for long term sustainable growth amongst friends. But it is forgivable once in a while.

So. Currently, I work as an english teacher from Monday to Thursday in Tokyo, and I do various construction/carpentry type work on Friday and Saturday in Gunma, about 300kms north-west. Then on Sunday I go to church and the cycle begins all over.

I can`t remember what things I have told you and what I have not, so I`ll just throw some things out there.
My share house has grown since the last time I wrote, and I am now the longest staying tenant in the history of the place, and there are roughly 50 people here now.
Naturally, I have met many interesting people.

There have been, and are, English, German, Italian, French, Azerbaijani, American, Mexican, Chinese, Filipino, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Hong Kongonese (no idea what they are called Hongkongese? Scholars maintain that the original name for people from Hong Kong was lost centuries ago) and Thai people. There have probably been more, but thats all I can remember,

I think I`m friends with all of them. But life isn`t just about making friends. Sometimes you have to tell people painful truths, and they don`t want to hear those truths.
Sometimes I think I don`t give people enough of those painful truths. A dose of reality. Like, you only have a short amount of time with people in real life.

I love going up to Gunma and doing building-type work. It`s the highlight of my week.
The place where I work is surrounded by mountains, and now snow. There are still bears roaming around, and huge great big insects. They roam around too.

Last year I wrote about a type of hornet here in Japan called the Oosuzumebachi, which is a Giant Asian Hornet, or Killer Hornet, well I finally found one last weekend.
It was not as terrifying as I had imagined, she was very tired and weary after a hard summer. She didn`t have the energy to fly at me, and just crawled along the ground trying to get out of the cold. I was smashing up an old wooden Japanese house, and this queen was going to wait out the winter and then build a nest somewhere inside.

Yeah. I love even the train trip out of Tokyo and up into country. Once I`m outside the big metal city I remember that I`m in a different country; a strange country.

I think my time in Japan will shortly draw to a close. I`m at the point where my batteries are empty. This Christmas I will return to Australia for a few weeks and get some new batteries put in.
I`m in desperate need of some bbq ribs, a big breakfast, pancakes and a good coffee or ten.

I`ll tell you a cool story before I leave.

One of the guys working in the same place as me was attacked by a bear, the bear savaged his arms and hands, wailing at him while stood up on its hind legs, and as it went back to all fours to regain its balance, the bear took a massive swing at him. It`s big claws cleaved right through his clothes and took off the very tip of his nipple.
He said that it didn`t even hurt, just had a few drops of blood. Pop!
I`m sure all the girls back home go wild over cool scars like that. Losing the tip of your nipple to a bear is gonna be the next cool thing. Forget tattoos. Boring! Everybody has em. Get a nipple scar from a wild animal.
It`s tough to get it right! Luck of the draw mate!
Send me photos!

This is a photo of the place I`m working, Minakami:

For your reference, that amount is ¥2700 or £18.

Now, depending on the country, doing your shopping for that much might be a real easy job, but in Tokyo, it ain`t easy.

You`ve gotta be a pokemon master to do this. You gotta know the best spots in the best places and best dealers, and you gotta be the fastest and the smoothest and the most patient.
You`re like an old african bushman who can`t rely on his strength or speed anymore, all you`ve got is a brain with a lot of space and every trick in the book.
That space is for new tricks. You`re never too old.

Personally, I`ve not lived in real poverty or been in a truly desperate situation, and that has been due to three factors: a loving and supportive family, my education and youth, and the persistent mercy of God that follows me every day.
But, there have been a number of times where, due to my own belligerence or lack of foresight, I have had to live on a tight budget.

The first time was when I had my bank account cleared out on my second week in South Africa, and I had another 2 1/2 months to go! That`s another story.
My latter experiences with little money have been here in Japan.

I brought savings with me to Japan, but here most jobs pay on a monthly basis, and I began my job partly into the pay cycle, so it would be almost two months before I received the first paycheck.

I didn`t save enough money for this, and by the time I realised I was running low, I had to live like Captain Cheapo Mc`No-dough.
I budgeted out my remaining funds, after deducting rent, and it came to ¥2700 a week, which is ¥386 a day (or $4.60).

Around this time, I had to become a real forager, a huntsmen for edible goods in my immediate vicinity. As it turns out, there was very little wild, edible, things around the town I was in (Arimatsu-cho), but, after plenty of foraging, I began to find the good deals.

Now, the first thing you look for in any new supermarket/store is the gram to yen ratio. You don`t want to buy anything with a gram to yen ratio less than 1.5, meaning you dont want to buy any item that gives you less than 1.5grams, of whatever substance it is, for 1 yen.
In a western country, this means carbohydrates, some vegetables/fruits, chicken and sometimes bacon/nuts.
In Japan it means roughly the same, except the primary carbs and vegetables are different.

Now, once you work out the gram to yen ratio of any given item in a supermarket, you have a value which will enable you to detect a good deal when you see one, and leap on it like a lion on a baby zebra, or a baby zebra on some kind of african fruit that it enjoys, or an african fruit on sustenance/water from the tree its hanging onto, or water on hygroscopic materials.

In my experience, the best deals emerge at the most antisocial hours, like rare forest creatures or exotic snakes, finally slithering out of the shopping aisles, baking in the early morning sun or rummaging around late at night.
Yep, most supermarkets have a fresh food section with ready made meals and other fresh produce, which must be sold! There`s no choice!
So, late at night, if you wait late enough, they reduce the price substantially. This can be a good short term fix, but its not a long term solution, and it might not always fulfil the rule of the 1.5 ratio.
In the early morning, you can find great deals on fruit and vegetables.
Most fruit/vegetables will be out of your price range, so I`ll just give you a rundown on what I first survived on:

Rice – usually a ratio of above 3
Rice is gonna be a staple for you, which is natural considering this is Japan, also the price is fairly similar across the whole country.
Protip: in Japan, often when you buy items in bulk they are NOT cheaper. If you are buying an item, and there is the same item in a packet of 10 next to it, work out the price of the single item in comparison to the pack, and often the price will be exactly the same, or sometimes even more expensive!! It`s ridiculous. But with rice, it is often (marginally) cheaper to buy a 10kg bag, which is the biggest.

Specific Vegetables – ratio of 2 or more
these are carrots, beansprouts, mushrooms, and sometimes other greenery.
Tomatos and capsicum are great, but often pricey and they don`t last long. Dream about them for when you`re a rich man again, or one day, or when you get to heaven. P.s – frozen vegetables can also be a great deal. Keep your eyes peeled.

Chicken – ratio of 2 or more

If you find a good supermarket, then you can find 1kg of chicken for 500yen. I currently have found a place that sells 2kg for 800yen. Basically PURE GOLD. If I put these into smaller containers, I could become a full time seller of packets of chicken tenders, making millions! But instead I`ll continue drawing blood from rocks by teaching English.

Peanuts – ratio of 1.5 or more

These saved my life. Because the peanuts were already salted, so I didn`t need to buy salt. You can find 200g bags of peanuts at all the 100Yen stores. Gold!

Tofu – ratio of 2 or more

I heard you like eating chalk flavour jelly! Me too! Get em here in Japan anytime! Eat em anytime! Preparation not needed! Tofu sandwich! Tofu dessert with Tofu sauce! Yes!

p.s – Tofu is flavourless mass. But it has protein and will also keep you alive.

Eggs – ratio of around 3.5

Let me tell you something about your ancestors, they all ate eggs. If you want to become an ancestor someday too, then you should eat eggs.

That`s right. The food of kings and dignitaries across the globe is available to you, and it also has one of the highest gram to yen ratios of any food in Japan. You can get a pack of ten eggs for 200 yen, and if you find a good place, then they will be ten large eggs. More gold! No need to go mining anymore!

Bananas – ratio of around 2

You can buy a bag of five or six for about 200 yen. No need to mention the good things, everybody knows bananas are good.

Fresh Noodles – ratio of around 4.5

What? Noodles? What am I gonna do with those? Is that what I hear you say?

Well, in Japan people sometimes eat noodles. Crazy right? Crazy! You can buy a 180gram serve of udon noodles for 40yen! That`s even crazier!! Giving it the best gram to yen ratio among all the other foods. Also, only buy fresh noodles, not the packets of instant noodles. The fresh noodles are healthier and heavier, often with wholemeal options, and many of them still come with packets of tasty flavouring. You just freeze the ones you don`t need.

What not to buy:

  • Coffee, Tea, Milk, Cereal, Spreads, Confectionary, anything with a ratio less than 1.

Now, that satisfies your basic needs. After you`ve bought those things, you will surprisingly have a little bit of money to play with.

I suggest you spend that little bit of money, especially in the first week, on flavour related things. In particular, flavour related things that have health benefits. This means garlic, ginger, tuna (a meat and a flavour! Gold!), miso soup (you can buy a big box of miso paste for about 300 or 400 yen and it lasts frickin ages), chilli, etc.

After the first few weeks of eating flavourless things, I quickly found out that edible without tasty, can sometimes mean inedible.


Anyway, those are my pro-tips.

I could have asked my family for money or my friends for a loan, but this was an invaluable experience that taught me how to budget, and how to cook with fresh food.

I recommend trying it, before it comes upon you.

If you want to know more or have questions, feel free to message me.

God bless,


Jamesssssssssssssssssssssss woooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Japan tales

Posted: April 29, 2017 in Japan, Non-Fiction

Starting this week, I`ve decided to be a little more proactive with writing things down. I`ve been in Japan now for a little while, and every week I accrue a number of stories.

I often tell these stories to the people I meet in real life, but very rarely do I pass them on to those who are not within 500 meters of my house.

So, I will begin today.

I live in a big share house in a suburb of Tokyo, called Nakano. Currently I live with about 30+ people, and we all sleep in the same room, in big boxes. Sometimes I feel like I`m being shipped off somewhere like a big bundle of bananas or an exotic animal.

In Japan I probably am a kind of exotic animal.

Anyway, it`s not as bad as it sounds. You can`t see each other, you get your own box, and a kind-of futon/mattress type of thing inside it which is pretty comfy. The only lack of privacy is that you can hear each other quite clearly. This means karaoke practice after 11pm is totally out of the question.

For a little while, this noise intrusion was a slight problem for me.

On either side of my box, two people had the sniffles. No big deal right? But in Japan, they have this funny idea that blowing your nose is very rude, but sniffing repeatedly, and doing anything to avoid blowing your nose, is A-OK. So these two guys would sniff and sniff and snort all frickin night for about a week. It was getting to the point where I considered murdering one of them.

Fast forward to now, everyone is alive and happy.

My house is pretty cool. Its a cheap place to live, because of the number of people, but it has a very spacious living area/kitchen, and the best part is a the big roof you can climb up on and see the Tokyo skyline. Apparently it used to be a Yakuza headquarters, so there are chandeliers, and these great big Chinese statues everywhere, too heavy to move or lift, really big statues.

Today I decided to go climb a mountain, which is one of my favourite things to do in Japan. I went to a place called Takao, and climbed some of the local peaks.

The place is supposedly home to these bird-demon-men called Tengu. They are a form of lower demon in Buddhist mythology.

It was an enjoyable hike and the view was gorgeous. But on the way down I walked a different path, down the other side of the mountain, coming out quite far away from the train station.

I found a little temple, which had been burnt down recently, and a variety of dilapidated and abandoned buildings. Even the larger, functioning, buildings seemed sparsely populated.

That is the harsh reality of life in parts of Japan. A rapidly decreasing population and an exodus of rural Japanese to the main city hubs, main prisons, cell blocks of choking smog and straight, square cement. Moving on up into cell tower 45B, getting slotted into their own special box. At night time the little box fills with sleeping gas, then wakes em with a shock exactly 6 hours later. The life of luxury. Robot toilet seats that warm your arse and clean it too.

Anyway, I`m walking down this other side of the mountain, and by this point I`m quite accustomed to coming across these ghostly buildings, all erected in the boom of the 70`s and 80`s now falling into decay. It fills me with a strange, sad feeling.

It has something to do with the swift passage of time, something to do with the fleeting nature of all things in this life, and something to do with being alone. It isn`t a feeling that makes anybody feel good, but when it happens, you savour it. You feel as though it is necessary, despite it`s sadness.

For a moment, you become close to the essence of life; to what is real.

Thats all for me. I`m a little drunk now, so my words will soon become gibberish. If you have any burning questions about Japan, questions that burst from your heart to the forefront of your mind, ready to pierce another human mind, then feel free to send them to me.

Love. Forever and always.


A poor, lonely, desperate Englishman, with nought but a dry bowl of rice and one chopstick has somehow survived a horrifying encounter with a ‘regular Japanese insect’. Unbeknownst to many foreigners coming to Japan, the monsters that appear in Godzilla movies of the 1950’s, 60’s and so on, are all based on factual encounters, and many of those inspirational creatures are still alive today.

I kid you not, the bugs here are pretty insano.

I like bugs, I have always liked bugs, and everybody goes on and on about how bad the bugs must be in Australia, and how scary they must be and so on, but here in Japan the bugs are so big that when you approach, you can literally see them turning their head around to look at you. Like a cat or a bird.
You sometimes see them in a field playing rugby or football, or digging holes or mugging/eating old people.

That is an exaggeration, but, it’s not too far from how I felt after first encountering one of them. The hot, subtropical environment of Japan, plus the varying degrees of radiation poisoning and pollution make this place the ideal incubator for giant mutated creatures. I don’t think Americans have realised that by using nuclear weapons to end a war, they have condemned the whole world to a far worse fate.

I was walking around a lake on my way to work, (a large-ish body of water) a pretty good lake too, filled with big fat carp and loads of turtles and ducks, and as I made it about halfway around, through the undergrowth to a clearing, a massive black thing flew past me. My immediate reaction was ‘WTF IS THAT’. I then tried to follow the creature. It was foraging around tree trunks, obviously not interested in me. When I got a better look, it seemed to be some kind of jet black bee or wasp. I’m not sure which. I was filled with a kind of wary fascination.

After that encounter, there have been more than a few occasions where I’ve stepped out of my front door into the blistering heat, only to leap back into the house at the sight of some small helicopter whirring around my tiny front garden. It’s always a surprise when there’s a helicopter in your garden, you know?
And like, the helicopter is still on. And nobody is going to get out, and the helicopter might not land anywhere and it might attack you too. It’s a very fast, erratic helicopter.
I realise all those things very quickly, and it is always a big surprise.

‘Woah there!’ I exclaim,’what are you doing in my garden?’
That’s how I react, except with more swearing, and more frantic searching for weaponry.

That black bee was just the first of many varying kids of massive beetles and wasps and bees and spiders and mantis’ and bugs that I would encounter. It is clear to me that Pokemon could not have been imagined in any other country. Even hundreds of years ago, a rudimentary version of Pokemon might have been a reality in rural Japan. You probably couldn’t get them to fight without one of them dying though. I can only imagine the fascination of the first explorers here!

As it stands, my bestiary is growing on a daily basis, but, I fear I will never complete it. Every foray into this dangerous new world is another roll of the dice.

One of the big bad guys here in Japan is called the Oosuzumebachi, which literally translates to ‘Giant Sparrow Bee’, or Giant Japanese Hornet, and it lives up to it’s name. Every year these big bastards kill 40-50 people in Japan. I’ve included a photo. Now you know what nightmare’s are made of.




Posted: May 20, 2016 in Japan, Non-Fiction
Tags: ,


Japan, or as the locals say, Japah; the place where I expected to find the craziest bunch of crazies that ever walked the big blue earth.

Turns out they’re not so crazy after all, but they do do some weird things.

I’ve been here for a while now, not sure how long. The first week was difficult. I quickly found that my usual preparations for visiting a new country were, on this occasion, woefully inadequate.
Without even knowing it, my travels had lulled me into a false sense of security, thinking, surely every being here on earth knows English by now. What a fool I was!
The places I’ve explored, they were merely former British colonies! Practically my own back garden.
I was not prepared for a place that does not use the Latin Alphabet, does not understand me or my noises or provide much assistance in doing so.
It’s taken me until the age of 28 to truly empathise with foreigners in my own country. I cannot tell you how isolating and lonely and frustrating it is to start a language from scratch, a language which shares no similarities with your own mother tongue.

After being dropped off at my place of residence by my new employer, with no japanese mobile phone number and no smart phone (in hindsight, not a smart decision), I was left to fend for myself, a task I have never found particularly difficult.

So, after a night of rest, I began my quest. The first thing I found was that my house was hidden away in back streets, and in fact, everywhere in japan is hidden away in back streets, even the cities and big buildings and trains, all in a muddled back street (unsurprisingly perfect for ninjas), and my house was difficult to find. It had taken my employer and me over two hours to find the place.

The reason for this was that the street numbers here make no sense whatsoever. The ward (like a suburb) I live in is separated into large square-looking areas, which have a given name, then within that area the houses are given seemingly random numbers, which do not relate to the house next door to it or the street. They seem totally random. There do not seem to be any street names, except for main roads. So, I was worried to stray too far from my house, fearing that I would not be able to find my way back. But, I had to get food, and on top of that, I found that there were no adaptors available for australian plugs that have three prongs. Some australian devices have two prongs, and there are adaptors for those, but my laptop charger for example, had three, and so I had no means of contacting anyone or finding anything or looking at google maps.

So, I picked a direction and started walking. I was tempted to leave a breadcrumb trail, but had no bread at the time. I walked for hours looking for a place to buy a map or a dictionary or a computer shop, (not knowing that there was a massive shopping centre 5 minutes from my house in the opposite direction). Eventually I found a place to buy a map, but all the names on the map and in the directory were in japanese script, and so, the map was useless. It took me the first week to find out where the hell my house was on the map of Nagoya. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I became lost many times and have had great difficulties due to not being able to read anything around me. It truly is crippling not being able to read.

Going to the supermarket for the first time was like going to a tropical zoo. I knew only a few phrases in Japanese, and one of them was ‘kore wa nan desu ka?’ which means, ‘what is this?’ I must have said that twenty times on my first visit to the supermarket.
Even now my supermarket trips take me atleast an hour as I try to figure out what the hell things are and whether I can or should eat them.

I live in a town called Arimatsu, which, as far as I can tell, does not get many foreigners. I figured this out rather quickly, due to the gawking stares and gazes of wonderment. I’ve had some rather extreme reactions though. I’ve had two occasions now where a person has seen me and fled, presumably for their dear lives. I’m sure it wasn’t the Godzilla t-shirt I was wearing. I’ve also had students who have burst into tears upon realising that I was their new teacher, and/or refused to enter the classroom.
I’ve actually got one class who have cried for the last four weeks straight. Every time they line up for my lesson they start to tear up. I’m really not strict or mean or anything, I’m just huge and white and terrifying!

You don’t have to spend much time in Japan to see the effects of the hundreds of years of isolation. For a long time the military leader of Japan, the Shogun, made it illegal to leave Japan, or for foreigners to enter (punishable by death), and this law only ended in the 1800’s at the intervention of the American navy.

One unpleasant experience I have had recently was at an onsen, or public bath. It’s quite normal here to go to the public bath on a regular basis, and my housemate was excited to bring me on my first try.

You strip off completely naked and get into a bath with a bunch of other dudes.

Me and my housemate, Dae Ho, went outside to the hot bath area, and I had two japanese guys sat on either side of me, not even trying to hide their awkward staring, and one nine or ten year old boy stood at the edge of the water staring down into my crotch. Previously I had been under the impression that everything down there was rather normal, but apparently not.
It was very uncomfortable, so I just had to close my eyes and pretend they weren’t there. Maybe I should have jumped up and down and shown them the dance of my people.

People in Japan are very polite, and will often try to help, and when you do meet a Japanese person who can speak some English they are always super keen to speak with you. The people are so polite that you can often find yourself having bowing/thankyou matches with shop staff, just seeing who can out-bow the other one. It’s a little ridiculous. Sometimes it is quite nice though, like, even people in cars will often bow to you while driving past you, and they often give way to pedestrians/cyclists. In fact, I’ve liked every Japanese person I’ve met here. But, you never forget that you’re a foreigner.

There is so much more to say, but I don’t get paid to stay up late writing long blog entries, so it will have to wait til next time. If you have any questions in particular, or anything you’d like to know, feel free to ask me and I’ll address it in the next entry.


Being fully sick

Posted: February 26, 2016 in uncategorised

I’ve been taking antibiotics now for three days. Effectively making me super strong, super fast, super smart and super powerful. It began like this:

I didn’t know what was wrong, nobody I knew had a big clue, so I went to see the man that knows these things; Doctor Han.
The doc is an insane WorldWar II scientist, locked up for his crazy but brilliant ideas. His work on supernatural and alternative forms of creating the ultimate super soldier led to the creation of skittles (the sweets), lego and the discovery of water. He now works at Manningham Surgery as a GP.
I went to see him, and listened to some of his mental ideas.
He reckoned I was sick.

He gave me some secret codes to give to the pharmacist, and showed me the secret wink, and the secret handshake; all of which would be needed if I wanted the cure.
He told me how long I had left to live; about 22 thousand days, same as normal. But he told me if I didn’t take the cure, then it could all go up in smoke. All those dreams of eating ten bags of maltesers in a row, of choking out a blue whale with an old Roman chariot, of shaking hands with the King of Atlantis under the sea, they would all go up in smoke. I couldn’t let that happen.

So I set out to the forgotten monastery in the realm of the damned, which happened to be one floor up from the
GP clinic, also known as the pharmacy.
When I got there the place was filled with the dead and dying. Some with only about 5 thousand days left, some with about 30 thousand, all on their way out. A dirty looking, but physically very clean, pharmacist asked me if I needed any help. When I showed him the passcodes, and did the wink and the handshake, he was aghast.
But then he smiled an evil smile, led me over to what I thought was a plain wall, he yelled something in Gaelic and the wall exploded. I followed him down into a dungeon of clanking chains, wheels and cogs, all spinning and grinding, when finally we came upon a chest, glowing red with devious intent.
The chest was the size of a car, but with the pharmacist heaved it open with inhuman strength. He told me to gaze inside.

At first all I could see was my reflection in dark water, but as I gazed a packet of antibiotics slowly rose to the surface.
‘Take it’ he said.
The packet had writing all over, none of which I could understand.
‘You must take one three times a day, eight hours apart, with or without food’.
I nodded.
‘Are you on any other medication?’.
I nodded.

Upon leaving Manningham Surgery I was filled with intrigue. I held the packet close and made the journey home, but on the way, I was sure I could hear voices in my head; calling me, daring me to rip open the packet, and claim my true power.

Three days later and I’m feeling pretty good.

Long story short is my mum got pneumonia, then I got the flu, and just as I stopped having the flu, I got a bit o’good ol’pneumonia too. My doctor is called Wenruo Han. He’s the bomb diggety. Pretty sure if he could go fight people’s illnesses hand to hand, inside their bodies, as a super powered white blood cell kung fu master, then he would.

I tell you what the funny thing is, he literally just called me 2 seconds ago as I am in the middle of writing this. Telling me about getting a checkup done and asking about symptoms and stuff. He’s a good doctor.

I hope you are healthy today too!



Posted: December 18, 2015 in uncategorised

Today I feel as flat as a pancake, as flat as a poorly drawn circle on paper. Like a long garment after being ironed.
You’ll have to excuse me if I sound depressing or down, because that is what I am.
About a month ago I damaged my upper back somehow, tweaked the vertebrae in-between my shoulder blades, but it was rather minor, and not all that noticeable. I figured it would just go away, so like a brainless ox I continued to go to the gym (a wholly futile exercise) and work as a labourer/removalist without ceasing.
Needless to say, the day after I went to the gym I could barely get out of bed, nor could I turn my head sideways or up/down. I took a few days off work and a week off of the gym, until the pain was minor again.
I had another visit to the gym, taking it easy this time, but the next day the pain was worse than before.
To cut a long story short I’ve been attending a physiotherapist and am still unable to return to manual work.

In fact, the physiotherapist has forced me to consider that perhaps I am not best suited to manual labour/removalist work. It is something I have always pretended not to know, as if it weren’t a fact. I am tall and slim, making me prone to injury and putting greater strain on my back than a shorter/thicker person. It’s pretty damn obvious really. I should have known, at how clumsy I have always been, that perhaps I should not be moving delicate things for a living. It is borderline stupid. I can only describe my attitude as blind, belligerent and destructive.
A complete reluctance to work at something I am naturally gifted in. Namely, writing. Of course you may disagree, and are welcome to.
It is like I woke up one day and decided that manual labour is the only way to prove you are a man (to the ever present mob of ethereal witnessess, the council of great dead men, vikings and generals, who watch from the skies to judge the worthy and the weak), so I should work until I am the only one left.
I did enjoy it though. I like working really hard, as fast as I can, and beating the clock. But to be honest, manual labour is not at all difficult. I would find it much easier to dig a moat than sit down and write a blog entry like this.

My spectral evil twin, armed with grim abilities and powers beyond the realm of the living, faces me at every turn. Hiding as a part of me, when in fact depression is an intruder, not welcome to dwell and grow, like a parasite, on failures, fears and regrets.

Before I moved to Australia I was confident in my writing, but at some point that confidence was replaced with doubt, and that doubt grew to become a great wall, towering over me, telling me that what I write will never be good, will never amount to anything, will never be finished.
I hope this does not come across as a request for some kind of affirmation, I am just thinking aloud.

I do not know what will happen now.
I long to be back in South Africa at the orphanage I stayed with. Every day not spent with the children there is a loss.
I even contacted virgin airlines and asked if they would sneak me out there with suitcases full of presents, just for christmas day.

I hope you have a Christmas that counts, don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter.



I’ve been in South Africa now for around two months, but haven’t written a single word about it, so I’ll share some thoughts about the last place I visited.

In summary: I’ve been volunteering at an orphanage in South Africa, ran by an old school friend, lived on a lion park for a few weeks, sat in the bones of a dead whale, been cut to pieces in knife self-defence classes, and had all my money stolen.

Recently, myself and my good friend Harrison Nash visited a place called Nieu Bethesda, to do outreach work with the local community there. It is around four hours drive north of Port Elizabeth, into what is known as the Great Karoo (an arid semi-desert plateau), and is about as close to an old western town as you can get.
The local gang in the township even ride around on horses.

As we drove there, the big trailer we were taking broke and snapped off, leaving me and Harrison by the trailer, and the rest of the team setting off to find assistance. It was just long enough to find a few scorpions.
All the roads pass through grooves in the mountains, which dominate the landscape. The Karoo has very few trees, some low lying shrubs and loads of different cactus, yet it is surprisingly colourful.
Despite an annual rainfall of 39mm, the land is teeming with life; big fat lizards scurrying everywhere, snakes of all varieties, leopards, baboons, rodents, small predators and wildcats, springboks and other game.
After spending the first day there getting settled, I set off to conquer one of the peaks nearby.
I’m sure the place already has a name, but after my venture, I have decided to rename it ‘Snake Mountain’. I’ve included some photos so you’ll have a better idea:


When I say it was like an old western town, this is what I mean: there were no street lights in the town, no means of paying for things except by cash or trade, and the town was split between the 60-70 permanent residents, on one side of the river, and the 1000 or so coloured people living in the township/informal settlement on the other side. The town was even complete with a strong breeze, and big gusts of dust sweeping through.

The mountains really were incredible to look at, and very enticing for a person such as myself. So one morning I left before dawn to make it up one that had caught my attention. I had been warned about baboons, and advised that they would approach a person walking alone, so I had plenty of time during my walk to contemplate how I would handle such a confrontation. Ofcourse, in my head, I always figured I could just beat one up if it came down to it, but having never seen them up close, I got myself a massive stick, and decided I could use my rucksack as a shield and try to find a hole/cave to defend helm’s deep.

Anyway, I got to the base of the mountain in just over an hour, but it was surrounded with thick cactus and I was not wearing a cactus-proof outfit. So I eventually managed to weave my way through, following the path of some sheep. The climb itself was not challenging, but the last 30m was steep, and complete with an intimidating sudden drop and stiff breeze. As I made my way up, I was deliberately trying to catch a glance of where I was putting my hands (to avoid snakes), and I got a glimpse of my first very dangerous snake here. Coiled up, 20cm from where I was about to slap my hand down, was a Rinkhal, which is a highly venomous spitting snake, similar to a cobra. It was jet black, with two white stripes behind its head. The snake seemed nonchalant.


I was under the impression that due to the time of year, snakes such as this would be very hard to find, but this guy was part of the Nieu Bethesda welcoming committee, and dedicated to his job.
I gulped and moved on, making it to the peak, and keeping a mental note of the space where I’d seen the snake. The view was incredible, and definitely worth it. I didn’t have a camera on me, but even if I did, I’m sure I would’ve taken a rubbish photo.

Upon my descent, two big black eagles rose on the hot air in front of me, about 7 meters in front of where I was. I couldn’t tell if they were waiting to see if I fall, so they could get a free meal, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. On the way down I disturbed a few other snakes, a baby puff adder and a grass snake. I decided not to tempt fate, and started walking back home.


The children in the town were full of life, and willing to play any game I could think of. In comparison to children in Australia or England, these kids were content to play the simplest of games. Even running for no reason whatsoever, not even being chased, just running around like crazy people. I didn’t see any men, and just assumed they were working or drinking. One game that they really enjoyed playing was a kind of monster game.
Basically, you are allocated a particular animal, and you must behave like that animal, and go and catch the other children. There were only a few animals I could say in Afrikaans, these would be – baboon (bobbejaan), crocodile (crocodil), hippo, leo (lion) and hond (dog). It usually ended up with all the children chasing me, or me chasing all of them.

There’s not enough time to say everything that’s happened, so I’ll have to write a few more things like this, especially about the kids I’ve spend the most time with, here in Port Elizabeth. God has been good throughout it all.

I look forward to telling you some more.