Friday, July 26, 2013

12 Years in Tokyo

Yep, I'm still a bit stunned—today is my twelfth anniversary of living in this country, so I've been away from Melbourne (my old stomping ground-cum-home town) for well over a decade now.

The plan was originally six months.

When I arrived on July 26th, 2001 the world was, cliché as it might sound, a different place.

It was the year Stanley Kubrick's and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was supposed to take place, but didn't.

That July the World Trade Center attack in New York was still over six weeks away, Junichiro Koizumi had just become prime minister of this country while George W. Bush had been kicking back in office in the U.S. for seven months. John Howard (shudder) had run Australia into the ground for six years already.

Wikipedia had been online for just six months, the first Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films were released and Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed Amélie. In 2001 Japanese cinema was also on a roll: the great Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) delivered up live-action deep-thinker Avalon, while anime-wise we were blessed with two brilliant films by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) and Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress).

Personally? I was still running my record label IF? and doing odd tracks as Little Nobody, but became more focused on local food, saké, travel and journalism. I found myself living in Shin-Koiwa here in Tokyo, in a place called "Hikari Mansion"—named, perhaps with perverted jocularity, in line with
the Japanese concept of a ‘mansion’: myriad apartments thrown together in the single building, with each separate flat containing one or two tiny rooms and a more compact bathroom. 

I worked for the rather evil Nova franchise teaching English to pay the bigger bills, and did articles on the side for The Daily Yomiuri, an English language off-shoot of right-leaning Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.

Twelve years later I'm married and I have a gorgeous daughter in Grade 2 at elementary school—who recently did the bloody brilliant cover art for my latest book.

Some things have stayed the same, like the sticky late-July humidity that assails Tokyo every year, like now, but I'm today not going to whine. It is, after all, part of the charm of the place.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Big (Screened) in Japan

While here in Japan we're often forced to wait an absolute eternity for blockbuster movies from abroad to hit the screens — just as an example Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't arrive until 23 August, making this the last country listed on to screen the sequel, three months after even Iceland — there are some home-baked goodies to keep us entertained.

It helps, of course, if you're into anime and manga, which I most certainly am, and 2013 is bubbling with big-screen versions of some titles you may've heard of before.
For starters there's something out later this month (July) courtesy of the great Katsuhiro Otomo, the genius behind both the Akira (1989) movie and manga, and one of my favourite Japanese comic book short-story books in English: Memories.

If you've never picked up this weighty tome, you should, since it's a 250-page compendium of shortstories veer wildly from surprising twists verging on Twilight Zone to silly slapstick, but it’s the title-tale ‘Memories’ that always grabs me.

A space salvage vessel with a cranky crew finds a drifting Marie Céleste with plush carpets, chandeliers, empty books and homicidal robot watchdogs — not to mention a mummified cadaver reaching out from beyond the grave.

With his new film Short Peace, Otomo has negotiated with Shuhei Morita, Hiroaki Ando, Hajime Katoki and Kōji Morimoto to produce a four-part short story omnibus, apparently based at least partially on Otomo's 1979 manga of the same name.