Rodger Swan

It was with shock and sadness that tonight I heard that Rodger Swan had passed away. Whilst I had never met Rodger, like many of those who followed his life in Japan through his videos, I was very fond of him. It was impossible to not like the guy (read more by a close friend of his).

His death, following a sudden illness yesterday morning, serves as a powerful reminder that ultimately, what matters is loving, caring, sharing, and being true to yourself. And doing that today, not tomorrow.

The honesty with which he shared his life was touching. I found his attitude inspiring, and comforting too – knowing that this good person was out there.

When working in the media or living a networked life, striving to achieve business goals or chasing ‘success’, it’s only too easy to get swallowed up by pretence, and to sacrifice the practice of things that really matter for the sake of reaching superficial goals.

What matters at the end of the day though? I think it’s love, compassion, and being true to yourself.

And that’s what Rodger’s death reminds me.

Rodger, you shall be missed.

Rodger posted his last video 3 days ago.

3 weeks of my life in Twitter Speak

Howdy punks.

So, it’s been about three weeks since my last update here – shocking how cavalier I am towards my blogging responsibilities.

Mind you, in that time I have posted 3 Audioboos, done a fair bit of livestreaming for myself and now for Metropolis Magazine, taken a tonne of photos with Danny Choo on Coming of Age Day & around Shibuya (now viewed almost 300,000 times), and have sent 240 tweets.

I’m also extremely busy in my new job at the moment, as we’re just launching our new Audio walking tour of Akihabara – I’ll be blogging about that soon.

Marathon training is going ok, although I’m behind. Today we ran the furthest we’ve ever run – 29km – and did so in pretty good time. Map and stats.

*Twinkle*s doing great – recovered from when she was taken to hospital with stomach pain, as mentioned in tweets above.

Bulbs are poking up out of the soil.

Anyway, here’s a selection of those tweets in reverse chronological order, starting with those sent today (basically all tweets since Jan 1st excluding @ replies). Gives a good overview of what else I’ve been up to. Sorry the links aren’t linked.

Snapshots like this make a good record for me though when I come to write the book and shoot the film.

# 1km to goal. Please prepare wheelchair about 3 hours ago from mobile web

# Every step is a personal distance record now! about 3 hours ago from mobile web

# Have run 25kn. 2.5hrs ish. iPhone died. iPod touch now tracking, playing abba! about 3 hours ago from mobile web

# Stretching for The Longest Run Yet. Shinagawa > Asakusa > Ginza > Tokyo Big Site. 29km. Please shout ‘Ganbatte’ if you see us about 7 hours ago

# Time for bed. Have to run for over 3 hours tomorrow morning. Will also use the opportunity to test viability of continuous live streaming. about 14 hours ago

# The most epic commercial for a shoe shop you will EVER see (via @asiajin) about 21 hours ago

# This week’s MacBreak Weekly is one big iTablet fest. End of the road for Kindle? 8:27 PM Jan 22nd

# Have found a way to have twitter messages read to me whilst running & livestreaming the Tokyo Marathon – will have live gps tracking too 7:04 PM Jan 22nd

# Tomorrow we’ll run 29km for #TokyoMarathon2010 training, furthest ever run. Google Earth map of the actual route here 6:28 PM Jan 22nd

# I mean, come on, paper maps in police boxes? That’s so Edo era! 6:56 AM Jan 22nd

# If anyone needs the Apple Tablet it’s Japan’s policemen, for Google maps. Could send the link to your keitai too. 6:55 AM Jan 22nd

# Thanks to all who watched our live stream tonight, great stuff! 5:53 AM Jan 22nd

# New York Minute back on stage. Live video streaming from Shibuya now at 4:19 AM Jan 22nd

# Broadcasting live now via 3G: The New York Minute – in concert in Shibuya 2:55 AM Jan 22nd

# Sound check for tonight’s live broadcast from Tokyo Main Dining – Shibuya (Broadcasting live at 12:44 AM Jan 22nd from Ustream

# It’s just under 5,000 yen per month for unlimited usage. Can provide wifi from 3G network for multiple devices. And it looks cute ‘n sexy 9:06 AM Jan 21st

# Very impressed by the emobile 3G>Wifi D25HW. “It just works’. Makes me feel like I’m living in the future again 9:05 AM Jan 21st

# Will be live-streaming video from a special live music / live art event in Shibuya Fri night 8pm JST – in aid of Haiti relief fund 8:54 AM Jan 21st

# I feel like such a sadist inserting toothpicks into avocado stones. “I’m trying to help you sprout!” – but they just give me that look 3:50 PM Jan 20th

# Just listening to Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream having been given her CD for my bday. great! @mikierihara looked after her here in japan 9:12 AM Jan 20th

# 募集:Tumblrでは、日本語のサポートをしていただける日本に住む日本人の方を探しています。パートタイム。時間は柔軟に対応できます。高給。メール 8:25 AM Jan 20th

# Important message: (not safe for work) 9:44 PM Jan 19th

# Video: The Social Media Guru 9:37 PM Jan 19th

# BBC Radio4: 1 year on, why Guantanamo remains open 5:53 PM Jan 19th

# Tongue-in-cheek response to claim that publishers lose $3B/yr to piracy;they lose $100B to lending! (v/@iA @timoreilly) 2:55 PM Jan 19th

# ah, bum, i forgot i was supposed to run about 13 miles tonight. Mind you, only 12:15, the night is yet young! #tokyomarathon2010 7:15 AM Jan 19th

# Japan Trends Blog: @CScoutJapan’s Michael Kerferl interviewed by a certain @tamegoeswild 6:51 AM Jan 19th

# JAL. We Are Here To STAY! (v/ @FrankieBit) 4:49 AM Jan 19th

# There’s an old granny waiting too, who refuses to be quiet. Her 50yr old son is desperately trying to make her shut up, but she’s half deaf 8:16 AM Jan 18th

# Sitting in Hiroo hospital as *Twinkle* has further tests for mysterious & severe stomach pains. Place is almost deserted. 8:15 AM Jan 18th

# British man arrested for making joke on Twitter (v/ @m000sh) 4:00 AM Jan 18th

# Company in Tokyo looking to recruit ‘skilled’ bilingual US male. Mail me at joseph [at] for more info 4:26 PM Jan 17th

# Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a guy who cleans fish poo from someone else’s fish ponds all day? (v/ @InvisibleGaijin) 3:21 AM Jan 17th

# Marathon training in this temperature is not fun! Ganbarimasu☛ 1:34 AM Jan 17th

# Earthquake off to east of honshu today at 15:05 felt over a wide area, but not very powerful 10:13 PM Jan 16th

# Hospitals diversify: register usernames for Twitter, Facebook, Google, Skype at same time as registering birth of your child 1:40 AM Jan 16th

# Consider search engine optimization when naming your baby – give theme a unique name for future front page google results 1:15 AM Jan 16th

# Photos from today’s Samurai Armour show – check out the 3rd one – he’s got a snow shovel for a helmut! 1:00 AM Jan 16th

# Need samurai armour? showcase event runs till tomorrow at Marunouchi building. Event site: photo: 12:34 AM Jan 16th

# Charlie’s overdosed on grass again 8:01 PM Jan 15th

# Good idea to keep warm in this weather 6:32 PM Jan 15th

# I never thought I’d want to get married but it was actually the cleverest thing I ever did. 7:26 AM Jan 15th

# Bloody hell I’m glad I’m married. Leaving roppongi now. 6:50 AM Jan 15th

# I like SEO. Especially when random strangers send me $50 for linking a single word on a 2007 archive blog post to their site 4:23 PM Jan 13th

# Just had our free hotel stay from HSBC upgraded to the Four Seasons! Nice birthday present! 4:39 AM Jan 13th

# Sipping English tea and eating Scottish shortbread with *Twinkle* to celebrate my final 2 hours of being 31 5:04 AM Jan 12th

# Woah! Sakuraya (electronics) announces closure of all stores! v/@hikosaemon (site inundated now) 3:26 AM Jan 12th

# In case you were wondering, there are over 150 Japanese words than can be legally used in Scrabble 9:08 PM Jan 11th

# How everyone should cycle round here 8:35 AM Jan 11th

# Student drives 7km with 80 year old woman halfway through windscreen in Tochigi 7:43 AM Jan 11th

# A bit disturbing: man turns personality of friend lost in 9/11 into ‘World’s 1st Sex Robot’ v/@jcayzac 3:00 AM Jan 11th

# Oh shi*t I just did my 5,000th tweet and forgot to take my clothes off to mark it! Oh well, I’ll give you an extra big treat at 10,000. 2:44 AM Jan 11th

# I didn’t know that in Japan today it’s also ‘Dog Day’! (01月11=ワンワンワンday) proof 1min42sec into this video 2:02 AM Jan 11th

# 7 tweets to 5000. Feel I should do a live Twitter strip show or something. That’s what people do, right? 11:25 PM Jan 10th

# When we returned to Hachiko after the coming-of-age ceremony the communists were doing their demo. A lot more civilised than right wingers! 11:17 PM Jan 10th

# Apple store Shibuya has a new window display @dannychoo 11:03 PM Jan 10th

# Broadcasting now from Shibuya with Tokyo Stormtrooper @dannychoo, NHK and girls in White fur 7:55 PM Jan 10th

# Foreigners OUT! anti-gaijin protest in Shibuya 7:00 PM Jan 10th

# 1 month ago I lost my favorite hat. I knew if I waited it would come back. Today I found it on someone’s gatepost quite a way from home 🙂 4:12 AM Jan 10th

# New Interview out: CScout Japan’s Managing Director Michael Keferl on Trend tours, Puchi Puchi and eco consumption 3:42 AM Jan 10th

# Okey dokey – let’s watch it burn 6:56 PM Jan 9th

# Ready to burn – T minus 15 mins until new year decorations go up in flames 6:45 PM Jan 9th

# Water pump thing set up ready for the big fire – will live stream now at 6:28 PM Jan 9th

# …Ah, re. that last tweet, not exactly a ‘live burning’, unless some folks hung up their children or grand parents as new years decorations 5:27 PM Jan 9th

# Live burning of all the local New Year’s decorations happening in the park outside at lunchtime. Will live-stream it 🙂 5:26 PM Jan 9th

# ok, enough pissing off friends… 🙂 5:10 PM Jan 9th

# I soooo need an anti-4square filter for twitter…. It’s like that mafia wars thing, or farmville on facebook, or email spam >< 12:39 AM Jan 9th

# Submissions now open for Otacool 2 on Available for pre-order from (where I work 🙂 12:22 AM Jan 9th

# Two diddy ships from Tokyo Bay’s Rainbow Bridge 10:26 PM Jan 8th

# Hey! I’m live on Ustream from my iPhone – 9:22 PM Jan 8th from Ustream

# Ok, sorted out my settings. Live video starting in a moment here: 9:18 PM Jan 8th

# Next tweet should be URL for live video stream as I cross rainbow bridge on foot 9:11 PM Jan 8th

# Video: Sea Shepard’s anti-whaling stealth boat has bow sliced off by Japanese whalers 5:24 PM Jan 8th

# Personal podcast: the magic of make-believe 4:51 PM Jan 8th

# How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You via @gustavokishi 4:19 PM Jan 8th

# Very ‘cool’ satellite photo of Britain from above this week 6:22 AM Jan 8th

# Going to be presenting at next (Tokyo) Pecha-Kucha night 6:21 AM Jan 8th

# Tokyo Snow Club giving away two nights in Hakuba 9:32 PM Jan 7th

# 50 ladies signed up for my ‘Englishman in Japan’ talk now – will have to learn how to be a gentleman 8:37 PM Jan 7th

# Having my first Japanese lesson of the year with Sensei @namynarmy. Going through the changes to #jlpt 4:36 AM Jan 7th

# Populating my iPhone (and mac) address book with people’s photos is probably the first useful thing the Facebook app has done for me ☺ 2:19 AM Jan 7th

# iPhone Facebook app now has push – Profile pic to address book sync too! 2:06 AM Jan 7th

# Re-listening to the wonderful 20 hour audiobook version of Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. Magical. 4:26 AM Jan 6th

# Hard day at the office, and it’s only 10:18am! 5:20 PM Jan 5th

# Authorities admit to planting explosives in passenger luggage on flight to Ireland via @shinpuren 4:53 PM Jan 5th

# You’d be surprised how hard it is to record bubble wrap being popped without the rustling getting in the way 8:51 AM Jan 5th

# Free heater – bought 1 year ago and barely used – can send to anyone in japan – model: 4:14 PM Jan 4th

# Perhaps only in Japan could someone known to have killed and eaten someone become a TV personality 3:57 PM Jan 4th

# With Apple announcing new tablet I now have to think of a convincing reason for wifey as to why I ‘need’ one 3:53 PM Jan 4th

# So who’s taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this summer? I am! #jlpt 3:42 PM Jan 4th

# Woke up with a HUGE lump of air frozen to my nose – THAT’S how cold it is in Tokyo this morning 3:08 PM Jan 4th

# A 160 floor building? That’s just nuts! 9:00 AM Jan 4th

# Good to be back on track with doing stuff that I kept on putting off in 2009 🙂 means less time for Twitter though! 8:20 AM Jan 4th

# Time to get this 2010 show on the road. Did first training run this morning, #TokyoMarathon now T minus 7wks 6 days 4:17 PM Jan 3rd

# Loco in Yokohama, on losing Aiko to cancer, age 25 4:23 PM Jan 2nd

Washing machine has finished, so I’d better hang stuff up.

Talk later!

Ten years of life in 2000 words

Hello 2010. Hello new decade!*
Looking back at my 2000s, I’m very happy with what I accomplished. In a way, the millennium celebrations don’t seem all that long ago, but then, if I think of where I was and what I was doing, and how young I was in 2000 (22/23), it seems like another lifetime.

King of the lens-placers

This time ten years ago I was working at Nortel in Paignton, UK. The internet was really taking off, and the Canadian company was experiencing a boom in demand for its network devices. Within a couple of years of moving into the seaside town the workforce had increased to well over 5,000, bringing a much needed boost to the local economy. These weren’t consumer products being manufactured, but rather the kinds of things used in undersea cables.

My job was to glue lenses into devices that converted electronic data signals into light signals. Working in a cleanroom, I’d be sat at a rig all day, applying glue to the underside of tiny little (4mm) lenses, before lowering them into position using a miniature clamp. I’d then attach some electrodes to the device – this produced the red pin-prick of light which I then had to align with a mark on the side of my rig by making minute adjustments to the position of the lens.

I was one of the most productive staff there, breaking the all-time record of producing 50 devices in a single day. When I announced that I was leaving I was called into the managers office, and begged to reconsider my decision. They asked me how much of a raise they could give me to make me stay. I went home and thought about it, calculating the impact that staying so would have upon my life. Due to difficulties with my partner at the time, doing so would result in a not insignificant increase in living costs, so I went back to my manager and told him I’d stay in return for a 100% increase.

The following day my resignation was accepted. I still have the pen and pencil I was given as a leaving present.

Only a year or so later effects of the bursting of the bubble had filtered through to Nortel; they closed overnight, leaving thousands without jobs.

The first big break-up

Having bought a house, I became DIY man. Here I am with my sander.

My reason for leaving was basically a failed relationship. I’d been with my first serious girlfriend for a couple of years, following our meeting in the USA in 1997 where I’d been working as a counsellor on a summer camp for disabled adults. Looking back on it now, I see the relationship as having begun due to my then recent discovery of sex, and, well, all the excitement of a relationship. The odds were stacked against us though. Her father was a bishop of the mormon church in the north of England, and naturally completely against our relationship. I was referred to as ‘That boy’, and on the one occasion I did stay overnight at the family home was woken by a CD of Moses lecturing about no sex before marriage booming out from the kitchen downstairs. In the end we actually ran away – to a caravan on a farm in France. That was pretty tough, very cold, and the work wasn’t all that pleasant. During that time I nearly ran over the owner with a tractor, and all the rabbits that my girlfriend was looking after, died.

Thus, it was inevitable that we’d eventually go our separate ways. I was too fearful of the consequences to make that decision myself, so left it to her to make the move.

To complicate matters we’d bought a house together. It was decided that she would stay there – I’d sell my half to her for 1 pound. It took me 6 months to get her to pay up…

Back to Switzerland

I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in those familiar surroundings without her, so made the decision to move to Switzerland. I’d worked there before (in 1996/1997), had family there, and felt that working on a Swiss dairy farm would be good therapy.

And it was. I spent long days making hay, chopping wood, feeding and mucking out the cows, driving 24-gear  mountain tractors. I was also seduced by a local girl who also worked on the farm. It happened at a bus stop, and then again in the workshop. I felt bad about that.

First trip to Japan

Later that year (following my returning to work at the same Swiss hotel I’d worked at before) I made my first trip to Japan. My first stop was a community centre north of kuchiro, where we used to dress up in devilish costumes with a doll called louise, and then drown her in a local hot spring. It was a memorable 6 week holiday, and when during that time I met a special someone in a youth hostel in Kyoto, my connection with Japan was cemented.

It was then back to Switzerland, where I soon broke my collarbone in a skiing accident. With 6 weeks paid leave ahead of me, I decided to travel Europe by train. It was a pretty fun adventure…

About a year later I returned to Tokyo with a working holiday visa. I lived with my partner in Koenji. Those were happy days. I was in that gaijin bubble. I had few friends, content to spend all of my time (when not at work at the company I’ve actually just left for a second time!) with her. I spoke virtually no Japanese, and was very dependent, but it didn’t matter at all. It was a carefree lifestyle.

The second big break-up

My own fear of commitment then led to me to leave her and move to Hokkaido. I worked on a pension (Bed and Breakfast). I made breakfast, I made beds. I taught traditional English country dancing, as in the photo). I broke the gearbox on the mini digger. I lived in a dungeon. I grew increasingly lonely… and so began the most difficult year in my decade. I’d made (what I perceived at the time to be) a huge mistake in splitting up with her – but it was too late, the damage had been done.

I went to crazy lengths to get her back. I won’t detail what I did here, but a year later I had spent just under 18,000 pounds (US$30,000) on trying to save the relationship. Looking back now I see that actually, I was just trying to apologise for all the pain I had carelessly caused her – once I had been forgiven, I was able to let go.

Whilst I am very sorry to have hurt someone else so badly, thinking about the horrific pain that I also felt (it really was like an unending nightmare at times, especially when we lived in Italy) I now feel that that was one of the most valuable experiences of my decade. The same goes for my split with my first girlfriend. Those two periods taught me more than entire years of happiness.


Soon after we first met in Sheffield

The desperation with which I wanted to stay in Japan drove me to do something that I had, until that time, swore I wouldn’t do – apply for university. Thus, having declared bankruptcy, half of my decade (2003 – 2008) was then to be dominated by education. Having dropped out of my ‘A’ levels halfway through, I had to complete an Access to Higher Education course before entering the School of East Asian Studies in Sheffield.
This was perhaps the best decision I made in the entire decade. University provided me with so many opportunities to develop various skills, come to be happy with who I was as a young adult, learn Japanese and of course, meet *Twinkle*, who turned out to be the biggest blessing of the decade.

It was just before I met Twinkle that I spent a summer in Japan, working on organic mikan farm in Shikoku and a charcoal farm in Tochigi.

A Year in Japan

The Blisters, the Long Legs and support team at the finish

As a part of my course, I spent a year in Japan as an exchange student at Rikkyo University, Tokyo.  That served as a fantastic break from the hard slog that my course had begun. The curriculum in Japan was comparatively easy, whilst a government scholarship meant that I didn’t have to worry about money.

During that year I did a fair bit of voluntary work for Oxfam Japan – including organising two teams for the Oxfam Japan Trailwalker – 100km non-stop from Odawara to Yamanakako, the lake at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

That challenge also happened to lead to the discovery that I could actually control my epilepsy with organic vitamins and stress management, thus finally allowing me to stop taking the prescription drugs I’d been on since the age of 17. I remain fit-free.

Spiritual growth

It was during my university years that I started reading ‘success literature’. Well that’s how it started. Somehow Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad led onto Wayne Dyer’s There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, which had a profound effect upon me. I started to make a big effort to live in accordance with what my spirit / inner voice said was the right way to live. I decided to trust in the universe, to appreciate that we are not acting in isolation from one another or the world around us, that we’re all a part of a greater energy. Whatever happens, happens at the right time and for the right reasons (even if we never come to know what they are).
The thing was, the older I got, the more I saw this truth played out in my own life. Relationship breakdowns, visa application denials, illness …they all had what was ultimately a positive role to play.

This belief system has continued to develop over the past couple of years. These days, I can much more easily accept a ‘surprise’ change of circumstance as something only to be expected. Indeed, I attach such trust to things working out for the best that in some circumstances I find myself almost predicting the future. A very simple example would be the following the situation.
I’m in the office in which I worked until recently. I notice a report on my desk that I should have processed by the end of the previous month (a few days ago). In order to process it I have to walk across the office and get some forms out a drawer. But if my manager, who popped out somewhere and is due back any moment, sees me open that drawer she will know that I forgot to process a report by the end-of-month deadline, and will give me hell.

But it’s OK. Because I have this strong feeling that if I do it now, she won’t walk in. I have this feeling that she’ll only walk in once I’m back at my desk, because that’s what I need to happen.

I cross the room, open the drawer, take the documents out, return to my chair. Five seconds later, my manager comes in, right on cue.

Call it whatever you will, these kinds of situations occur on a regular basis, further strengthening my trust in things happening for positive reasons.

Halfway Around the world in 28 Days

When it came to returning to the UK following my year as an exchange student at a Japanese university, I decided to take the overland route. My journey from Tokyo to Hereford, which took 28 days, saw me cover more than 9,000 miles by ferry, train, bus, car, horse and bicycle.

By doing this I was able to get a feel for the connection between Japan and the UK. By always having taken the plane, I had been unable to place the two in the context of the world as a whole. Travelling across the East China Sea, then over land through Shanghai and Beijing, Mongolia, Russia and north-Eastern Europe, I was able to experience just how diverse the planet is, and how beautiful it is in areas where populations are low.

2008~09: Graduation, marriage and return to Tokyo

2008 was a real highlight. Graduation, marriage, return to Japan to live with *Twinkle*. The job I needed soon materialised thanks to this blog and friend / reader Orchid64. The job was sufficiently frustrating to drive me, in early 2009, to create, something I’m quite proud of (mainly due to the success of Japan Podshow).

Also in February 2009 I decided to do something I’d never done in Japan before: actively seek a social life. Ten months later and I feel blessed to have such a wonderful network of friends, many of whom I interact with on a daily basis via Twitter and facebook, and often meet in the flesh.

When the time was right, my manager did something to really piss me off at work, which led me to actively seek another job (something I’d been avoiding doing). My online activity and the reputation I’d gained amongst the Tokyo community helped me to secure my new job, which I’m loving.
So that brings us up to the here and now. Our marriage is a blessing, I have the challenges I need in my day job, and am part of a large community of good folks in Tokyo. My family in the UK are well. Things are very good. I’m happy with life’s progress.

If I could do all that in the past ten years, it’s pretty exciting to imagine what I could do in the next ten.
Anyway, I’d best sign off for now.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support over the past ten years.


*(It always struck me as a bit odd that some people start their decades with the ‘1s’ and opposed to the ‘0s’. It’s ten years since we welcomed the new millenium, ten years since the start of the 2000’s, so in my book it’s the start of a new decade!)