Life in Japan can be strange at times

I’m reprinting my Tokyo thriller, At the Sharpe End (it’s available as an ebook already). Strangely, my first two books (Beneath Gray Skies is the other) are the last ones that I have republished in print, following the demise of Inknbeans Press.

The book is about technocrime, fintech, and spies and agents insinuating their way into the lives of a very ordinary British expat scratching a living in Tokyo. It’s a little far-fetched in places, but there are some rather interesting predictions and coincidences in there.

However, looking through the text to reprint it, I’m still quite pleased with the adventures of the eponymous hero, Kenneth Sharpe. Tokyo is a strange place to live, and strange things do happen to those who choose to live and work there. I’m not saying that the exact interactions and events that happened to Sharpe also happened to me, but strange and bizarre things have happened in the past.

As a relatively mild example, I remember being presented with a bunch of flowers for singing a karaoke version of “You Are My Sunshine” at a Shizuika village matsuri (festival), where I ended up having taken a Japanese friend to the local hospital for a sprained ankle (he sprained it while jumping up and down on a rock to shake the water out of his ears after swimming in a river). Later, the flowers were taken from me and presented to the official star of the evening, a rather sexy young enka singer. I returned home alone and flower-less, and with a little too much alcohol in my bloodstream for driving comfort, if I remember rightly (my only such offence, and the statute of limitations has run out, m’Lud).

Anyway, I’d like to know (in your comments here) what strange things have happened to you in your time in Japan (or other countries where you have lived which are not your birth country). Here’s a bit of Kenneth Sharpe to start:

Confidences passed to him by strangers seemed to be part of his life now. People he’d never met before kept coming up to him and telling him the most amazing stories of their lives, or those of other people. It didn’t seem to matter whether these people were Japanese or not. And it didn’t even seem to matter about the language. Once a little old Japanese man came up to Sharpe and started talking earnestly to him in what seemed to be some Eastern European language he couldn’t recognise. This went on for a full ten minutes, broken only by Sharpe’s “Da”s of incomprehension (it was the only vaguely relevant Slavic word he could remember at the time).

And another time, an elderly Japanese lady sitting next to him on the Tokyo underground train had spontaneously launched into a long story in Japanese of how her son had been eaten by an exceptionally large octopus, the recounting of which had lasted from Naka-Meguro to Akihabara (Sharpe was pretty sure it had been that way round—the octopus doing the eating, that is—but then again, Japanese is a notoriously vague language, and Japanese cuisine features quite a lot of octopus, so it might have been that the son had died while or after eating an octopus. Sharpe didn’t really care either way).

An ex-girlfriend had disabused him of the notion that he had a kind sympathetic face, when he’d mentioned this phenomenon. “Sometimes when you’re not concentrating, you look kind of stupid, and people think you might give them money,” she had explained.

So let’s have some of your “interesting” experiences…