One month ago on 2 March 2.3.23 (I love these numbers!), I embarked on the next stage of my Albihon (best of England and Japan) life to divide my time more equally between the country of my birth and my host country for the last 15 years.
My previous work as a freelance coach in Tokyo saw a long pause during the Covid crisis, and during that pause I also reached the formal retirement age in Japan which diminished the prospect of securing new employment. Also, as an Englishman in Japan, I am often asked about and expected to be an expert on my home country, but not having lived there continuously for more than 12 years I felt I was losing touch. Having been confidently saying that “it doesn’t rain every day, nor do we eat fish and chips every day”, I was starting to wonder whether that was in fact true. So after discussions with family and friends in both countries, I decided to return to the UK for six months to re-establish residence.
Logistics in place, with arrangements made to ship boxloads of books back, those that my wife had been nagging me to ‘abandon’, and enough clothes for four seasons – in one day – see what I mean?, I left Tokyo for the 14.5 hour flight over the Arctic circle and 2.5 hour drive from London to my home in Market Harborough, Leicestershire in the English East Midlands.
Not to be confused with Akihabara (Tokyo’s famous ‘Electric Town’), despite similar pronunciation, ‘Harborough’ is a small (population 25,000), historic market town on the border with Northamptonshire, the county of my birth. So this was also a return to my roots where I would be a lot closer to my blood family.
However, it’s also important to remain in close touch with my Japanese connections and this soon happened. My wife and I are keen cinema goers and a couple of weeks before my departure we went to see Avatar, The Way of Water, in the splendid Toho cinema in the Kabukicho entertainment district of Shinjuku. A multi-screen hi-tech building adorned on its roof by a model (at least I think it is!) of Godzilla, going to watch a 3-hour plus movie is a complete afternoon out. A sell-out showing to a mainly Japanese, fully-masked, silent but appreciative audience left me in no doubt as to my location. Since I was last in the UK, Market Harborough Cinema located in the Market Harborough theatre, has undergone a revamp with the latest Laser Projection technology which allows it to show films that are on general release across the country. Nevertheless this not for profit, independent community cinema with a pull-down screen over the small theatre stage in front of the 117 seat capacity audience, most of whom knew and were chatting to each other as they arrived, is a complete contrast to the 13 screen, 2800 capacity, 3D IMAX Dolby Toho cinema in Shinjuku.
My first film was ‘Living’, starring award-nominated Bill Nighy, which I soon learned was based on ’Ikiru’ by Japanese film director Kurosawa, with Kazuo Ishiguro (https://jeremyjlhill.com/2023/02/09/noble-efforts/) enjoying writing credits as well. So, despite the approximate 10,000 km physical between the two cinemas I was re-assured that I would never be too far from the other half of my new 50-50 lifestyle.
I had this re-confirmed the following day wandering around the stalls in Market Harborough’s old market square.
Certainly not for the purists, but it did bring me just that bit closer to my other home