Big in Japan (2): A defense of Starbucks

It’s hip to criticize Starbucks. Starbucks is seen as the epitome of all that’s evil in the world, a huge multinational company that squeezes out the small local establishments, a place that doesn’t serve coffee so much as serves warm milk with a hint of bitter coffee taste. That’s not how I see Starbucks. For me it’s a safe space, and comes close to the ‘third space’ that it promised

Big in Japan: on clothes

Japan is definitely not designed for someone of my size. I am over six feet tall (nearly 2 meters) with pretty broad shoulders. I am not particularly fat—although I’ve put on a lot of weight since my diagnosis of depression, a side-effect of antidepressants, and being inside a lot due to the pandemic—but I am most definitely too large for Japanese spaces. Of course buying clothes has been a challenge

Britain: A nightmare

I don’t know the country I grew up in anymore. Not just because I’ve been in Japan for so long, but because I don’t recognize how Brexit happened. I don’t recognize how the politics I thought I knew turned into the bile I see and hear coming from the mouths of British people. Or perhaps more realistically, I simply failed to notice that what has transpired now was always around

Coming out

It’s a cliché that you don’t come out once, but you come out several times, sometimes to the same person, sometimes even to yourself. It’s also a cliché that as part of the coming out story, you report that you “have known since I was…”, and give an age. In my research career I have conducted a lot of long semi- or unstructured interviews with people about their life histories.

First impressions of the USA (notes from 2004)

Not long after I moved to Japan in late 2003, the research centre that I had joined started planning overseas business trips to exchange information. At the time I didn’t realize just how research budgets work—and fortunately I wasn’t in charge of them—but the Centre paid for several of us researchers to go to the United States in early 2004. The very idea of going to the USA to me

Books on my shelf: Become a well-read Witch

Witchcraft in the West has gone through periods of being fashionable and lulls in popularity. Basically there have been three booms in Pagan Witchcraft in modern times: 1970s to 1980sAlthough modern Pagan Witchraft developed through the 1930s and 40s and really came into being in the 1950s, it was in the 1970s that it became popular, building on the counter-cultural trends of the 1960s. So there are books that were

Our familiars

I’m writing this on my phone and wondering if it’ll work. Anyway, today has been a day of ups and downs with the afternoon overshadowed with depression. Or rather I’m overshadowed by a black cloud. So I thought I’d write a short post to introduce two creatures that help me through these tough times, our familiars, Celt and Pict. Both rescue cats and sisters, they can’t stand each other, but

A Doctorate in… Witchcraft?

I have two libraries of books, one in my office and one at home. Their contents are different and it’s been this way ever since I moved to Japan after completing my PhD. My office books are the public face of my research: I came to Japan to research science policy and the social studies of science and technology (STS). Gradually my research shifted after I moved departments to focus

Problematic friends

Friendships emerge out of combinations of contexts, networks and histories. They can be short-lived or can last for decades. But what to do when those friendships become, well, problematic? I’m talking about those friends who hold views that are antithetical to your own, but (presumably because they know your views) they don’t say them out loud, instead couching them in humor, their ‘ironic’ jokes just on or over the line

What is a hometown?

Is a hometown the place where you were born, or where you were raised, or where you most felt ‘at home’? If it’s the latter of these three, then I would definitely say my hometown is the city of York, in Yorkshire, UK. In fact, when asked by students I frequently give York as my answer, thinking that perhaps they’ve heard of it over the place where I was born