Live at the FCCJ

So this was a thing! On Wednesday last, as I type, I did an event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Japan. Hosted by Swiss journalist Christoph Neidhart, I did some readings from The Only Gaijin in the Village, and then we did a Q&A. The FCCJ is a pretty big deal and just getting invited sent my heart a-flutter – this is where the prime minister goes to hold press conferences with overseas media, and previous speakers include the Dalai Lama, Stan Lee and Donald Trump (who is listed as a casino owner, which made me laugh). They do an event called Book Bag, and previous guests include Kawakami Mieko and David Peace. Exalted company to be in.

The photo in the bottom right is Oe Kenzaburo, one of my absolute favourite writers.

It being the beginning of the fourth wave in Japan, and this being a long-delayed event, I figured there’d be a small crowd and it would be held in a side room somewhere, so I was pretty shocked on arrival to realise they were using the press conference room, that I’d be using the same stage as all those prime ministers (except Abe, who refused to come) and cultural deities. I’m not sure if it’s clear in the video above, but I am absolutely shitting it.

But it went well, everyone was really nice and supportive, and we sold some books which is, after all, the point of all of this!

Speaking of selling books, earlier in the day I stopped by Kinokuniya in Shinjuku where they have a massive English language section. We did a little signing of books, made a wee video for Instagram and I even sold a book then and there to a curious customer. It’s been over a year since I’ve been in a bookshop or been able to do anything to promote the book in the real world, so it was such a buzz being amongst the shelves again. So much so that I blew 15000 yen on books for myself and would have spent more if I didn’t have to head for the FCCJ.

It was all too short. I had to be back on the shinkansen by half eight and back at work the next morning. I could have done with a few days in Tokyo – the restaurants looked inviting, the people I met were interesting and I’d have loved to spend more time chatting. Christoph Neidhart turned me on to Per-Olov Enquist, the Swedish writer who died last year and who I had shamefully never heard of. I’ve missed experiences like that so much. Lockdown has been necessary but when you get a sniff of the things you’ve been deprived, it makes the loss all the more visceral. One day, hopefully soon, let’s all meet up and talk about the books we’ve read during the plague times.

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