Tony and I know each other from school, and quite randomly we both ended up living in Tokyo. Having mastered Japanese, being a professional journalist, photographer and all round rather clever chap, out of all the (non-Japanese) I met in Tokyo, Tony is one of the most knowledgeable about and closest to cracking the enigma of Japan and the Japanese.
So without further ado, over to Tony:
What brought you to Japan/Tokyo?
I worked as a English teacher, a proof-reader, then got into journalism during a year at a Japanese newspaper in London. The original plan was to be here for six months.
Briefly describe a typical day in your life?
Being physically assaulted by my three and five year old sons while still in bed. Tokyo commute. Writing/editing/photography/speechwriting. Tokyo commute with added knackered. Dinner. The Gruffalo, Where the Wild Things Are, or possibly The Cat in the Hat.
What do you like most and least about Tokyo?
Most: The food. The people. That Tokyo is a photographer’s paradise. There’s a shot pretty much anywhere you point your camera.
Least: The sheer number of people, and the fact that you can barely do anything without spending money. (I know you are working on the latter).
What’s your biggest expense?
Traveling to the UK. Rent. Camera kit.
What do you blow out money on (i.e. what’s the fruit of all your cheapo savings)?
Nikon lenses. Eating out.
What are your top three Tokyo cheapo tips?
- Don’t run a car: use public transport. It’s cheaper, safer, better for the environment, healthier and often quicker. You can always rent as necessary, and it looks like car sharing may take off here soon.
- (For writers and other freelancers). Join the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Yurakucho. It makes a great central Tokyo base and only costs 4,000 yen a month if you are a ’young’ member (under 35).
- (For photographers) Buy second-hand kit. The used camera shops in Tokyo are incredibly good and you don’t need the newest cameras and lenses to take good photographs.
I would recommend old film cameras, which are ludicrously cheap. But developing costs make film a luxury these days. (If you only plan to wear the camera around Harajuku it’s OK though.)
What’s the best bargain you ever found in Tokyo?
The rent on a student dorm I lived in was 8,000 yen a month. The room was so small that the bathroom sink swung on a pivot. When you wanted to use the toilet you pushed it into the shower, and vice-versa.
Do you have a website/social media account we for people/stalkers who’d like to find out more about you or your work?
There are certain times in the year that can make your visit to Tokyo less than idea.