We sat on a bench at the platform and waited for the train. Upon noticing the free wifi, Taiga said: “I should’ve brought my iPad”, and part of me died a little.

Puffing my cheeks and letting out a big sigh, I looked up and down the platform and saw every passenger with their bowed towards their glass screens, ears plugged, content in their transparent and singular environments. Of course he too wants to occupy his ‘waiting’ time. He’s learnt it from me. It doesn’t feel like one of the better lessons and I console myself with the thought he’s learnt it from all those strangers too.

What have we done? And is it ok?

The Wonka movie comes back to me and the lyrics to the song from the soundtrack ‘Pure Imagination’

‘if you want to view paradise,
simply look around view it
anything you want to do it
wanna change the world?
there’s nothing to it”

Imagination starts with a reflection and processing process. My fear is that if we insulate our days too tightly, too efficiently, whilst we might be more productive on the surface, can we breath? is there any air and light for new ideas to be nurtured?

Two decades ago, a well respected music manager (who worked with Stereophonics) said something to me that resonated deeply. “Audiences are interested in how you see the world. No one has the same perspective as you. Write how you see the world Dan. Tell your story.”  Writing what you see is not as easy as it sounds… it all starts with letting yourself notice things.

Of course, the glass screens of our communication devices can illuminate what we notice. It can act as a magnifying glass to learn more about aspects of this world and the imagined world we are drawn to. And we can flip the glass to magnify our own creations too.

Maybe the answer is just to do consciously plan reflective tasks into our days. There are things I do daily, like yoga sessions, walking, ‘morning pages’ – where I free write each morning, notating my dreams and thoughts.

Anyway, he loves that bloody Baseball game. Let him have some fun!

We stand up and join the queue that has formed to board the train. People stand within the neat lines painted on the platforms, and wait for all passengers to alight before boarding. Here in the land where so much is a little back to front to the British eye (they call buses ‘limousines’ and tiny apartments are ‘mansions’), this is a courteous trait we definitely should import.

Once we’re aboard I notice a middle aged woman with bright blue hair. Her blue painted finger nails wrapped around one of the blue metal hoops that hang from the ceiling of the carriage here, on the blue line from Sakura Chico to Yokohama.

In the same way that a good stretch is a common sight, people sleep in public. Folks seem to adopt this curious position I can only describe as one of surrender. Head down, they fold themselves up. Head on table is a typical look (see the photo).

This morning I woke in time to catch the sun worshippers. I don’t think they mind my haphazard and inconsistent appearances, though it’s a little hard to tell. It’s cold this morning, the temperature has dipped to 6 degrees (“That’s not cold!” I can hear you yelling from England) and this might explain why there are only 4 of us gathered at first, but more start to join, and one lady is spotted passing by and practically lassoed in by her friend midway through our little gig to the sea.

Post Insen scale, we do our ‘Radio Taiso’ exercise routine, and then a bit of informal chatting takes place. It was then that our leader (the man with the battery powered synth that conducts the choir) pulls the most interesting song chart from his bag and he and Tano treat me to a live rendition of an ancient Japanese poem (their own words). Listening to their weathered voices reading the song chart and then singing feels like an opening into another realm. Their music stirs something in my spirit, something buried, and so far from what I know and yet I feel connected to it. Like an archeological dig, we are here at the bay uncovering historical human stories and songs. “Can we do this all day?” I want to ask.

This belonging, this team spirit, this something-that-money-can’t-buy is really shaping my experience here this time round, in post pandemic Japan. It’s interesting how, when we stand in a circle and talk, despite being severely limited with what I can contribute in words, I still take so much from those shared moments, and it feels like an important lesson for me in keeping my mouth shut. (So much is said with body language, facial expressions, and just the energy we exchange.)

This brings to mind the Zoom call I was on back to the UK the other evening which, conversely, reminded me of my experience here during the pandemic, where real life human contact was non-existent and all interactions took place via the glass. The glass sometimes felt cold and cruel during that time. Like so many things, a bit of balance is the secret ingredient.

My Dad always told me to read all the newspapers.

Dan x