June 11, 2007

10th Anniversary

It's now exactly ten years since I stepped on the FinnAir flight from Heathrow to Kansai, marking my arrival in Japan. Quite incredible really.

When I first arrived, Blair had just been elected, and now he is preparing to move out of number 10. The Spice Girls were huge in Britain, and the nation's sporting heroes were Tim Henman and Damon Hill, with Glen Hoddle's England looking forward to going to France '98 with an exciting new striker by the name of Michael Owen.

On arriving in Japan I was totally thrown by being in a county where I was totally lost when it came to trying to communicate. Not only was I unable to speak the language, I was also totally helpless when it came to reading too, unlike in other countries I had previously visited. I was also surprised on entering convenience stores or izakayas (a Japanese style beer hall with food) at first, wondering if the staff were shouting out because I'd committed some heinous faux pas, completely unaware that it was a standard welcome. Nowadays I barely notice it.

Back in 1997, I remember that Ichiro was an exciting new baseball player and the football heroes were Kazu and Gon Nakayama, with some people thinking that a young midfielder called Nakata looked quite useful too. Namie Amuro was the pop diva of the moment and a girl group of teenagers called Speed were popular too.

On TV, you could see the boy band SMAP every Monday night, the comedian Sanma hosting various shows and a variety show called Hey! Hey! Hey! hosted by the comedy double act Downtown. Bizarrely ten years on, TV is still the same, and these celebrities as popular as ever.

The ten years to date in Japan have been great fun, and there is still so much more to see and do. Whether I'll still be here ten years from now or not is a different question all together.

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