My phone rang a couple of hours ago. It’s quite unusual for anyone to use my landline. Must have only rung about 10 times these last 9 months.

It was a family friend, known through the Waldorf School, and the person whose husband introduced me, about 6 years ago now, to John John, the reality-defying John John whom one never quite knows which country is in at any one time.

John John is a man of a thousand tales, from the times he hitch-hiked around the world in the 1960s, to when he was an ambulance driver in the Australian Outback …or when he was meeting VIPs in any number of exotic countries.

For the last few decades John John has been ‘based’ in Japan, and his apartment in Tokyo, the legendary Umenoki Manshon (Plum Tree Mansion) has served as a safe base for me to retreat to during every one of my five trips to the country. John John has always welcomed me to his home, asking me to treat it as if it were my own; without him there I really don’t know how I would have made it through the very tough times I’ve had over there.

Without John John my Japan would be a very different place. Not only did he introduce me to people who have since become an integral part of My Japan, but also, it was through the bicycle tours of western Tokyo that we used to take together that I first began to put together the jigsaw of Japan in my head and heart. I have an awful lot to be grateful to him for.

Today, my friend updated me on John John’s condition – he was hospitalised last week having returned from Tokyo with suspected Pneumonia. Unfortunately it is not good news – he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I spoke to him earlier today, he sounded pretty genki, considering all that hospital food he’s having to eat. I’ll be going to see him soon. He’s certainly not leaving us yet, he has to finish his book first, extracts of which I’ve heard and loved, and you will too.

Hmm, well, certainly puts things in perspective eh.

love, joseph x