June 2012

I’m back in the UK, jetlagged and discombobulated but very happy. Waiting for me in my stack of post was this:

It’s the new Hungarian edition of Crawlers, translated by Zubovics Katalin and published by People Team Millennium under their Pongrac imprint as a very handsome hardback. I particularly like the font the publishers chose in the text for the clock that ticks towards doom all through the story, and the cover pic strongly reminds me of one of its original inspirations – namely this:

London Bridge Sewer, by Steve Duncan. To see more astonishing images from his explorations click here.

I’m always delighted and thrilled and amazed when my work is translated into other languages, but I’m all those things and more right now because this is the first time this has happened for Crawlers. Here’s hoping Maszkak finds hordes of Hungarian readers – and horrifies them. HEE HEE HEE!


…is a Daruma. Once you start to notice them you’ll see their determined expressions all over Japan – in murals

…on buses

…even wielding spatulas outside monjayaki restaurants.

Of all Japan’s denizens the Daruma might just be the most powerful. This is because they help make wishes come true. Here’s how:

A new Daruma has blanks where their eyes should be. I was confused by this at first because I think that eyeless Daruma look a bit frightening, but in fact it’s part of their power. What you do is, when you make your wish you paint on one of their eyes.

You then place your Daruma somewhere you can always see it, so it reminds you of your wish, helping you to focus on the steps you need to take towards making it happen. When the wish comes true you paint on the other eye.

After what followers of my blogs might know has been a bumpy couple of years for it, my writing is back on track: I’ve now written nearly ninety thousand words of a brand new book, I’ve got ideas for two more, and I have various other exciting pieces of story news that I hope to announce in due course. So my wish came true. Here’s another new Daruma, for yours:

On Monday my time as a guest in this wonderful, fascinating country comes to an end for now. Although I’m ready to come home I’ll be sorry to leave.

Thank you, Japan.


In Japan anything can be kawaii – ‘cute’.

Cuddly kappa who would never dream of drowning you…

Seafood you want to make friends with as well as eat…

From a pamphlet about recycling and waste reduction, look at our poor planet! Let’s save it!

I want to make trees happy!

This ink cartridge isn’t just going back to its manufacturers to be recycled: like me, it’s coming home!

And – aww – look at these builders on this sign about roadworks! 😀

This week on TBM, a manga classic by one of the founding fathers of the form: how I came to love Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka.

I like the way the Japanglish words on this Shimokitazawa building sign go together:

On a related note, here’s a pic I took of my latest favourite Japanese band as of Saturday night – the wonderful and terrifying Zibanchinka.

This week on Trapped By Monsters I recommend Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto.

Of the many things I’m going to miss when I leave Japan, the one I miss most might well be Noh.

I knew next to nothing about Noh when I arrived and had never seen any before, but over the last six months I’ve become something of an addict.

What I love about Noh is hard to explain. It’s partly the stories, but they aren’t really the main point. Nor – individually – are the music, the dancing, the costumes, the masks, the staging or Noh’s deliberate, ritualistic pace. It’s the way all these things combine.

There’s a Noh play called Michimori. It concerns an old man and an old woman who are ghosts. In life, married and very much in love, the couple were reluctantly parted on the eve of a battle. The man died in combat. The woman, consumed by grief, drowned herself. Now they spend eternity reliving the final, miserable hours of their earthly existence – again, and again, and again.

Their story is told and sung in a mesmerising, slow vibrato. Accompanying the characters and chorus are a pair of drummers who make eerie whoops and groans and howls throughout and a flautist whose instrument mourns, keens and stabs like an icicle through your heart. The costumes are gorgeous; the movements are hypnotic; the masks are, frankly, bloody weird. The overall effect, on me anyway, was a creeping miasma of gloom, a quintessence of dismal – a delicate, dreamy ecstasy of dread.

My words don’t do it justice. Photos during Noh performances are forbidden, so all I’ve got to show here now are flyers.

This is a wonderful, unique artform and I feel very lucky to have experienced it.