The Narita Express! (I came) from a sleepy seaside town in England to a sprawling metropolis of concrete. It absolutely blew me away as the train neared Shinjuku station! I was so impressed by my new boss’s ability to speak fluent Japanese as he belted out “dо̄mo arigatо̄” (thank you) to the taxi driver. In 1999, very few train stations had any English and I was so overwhelmed, but I eventually figured it out!
“Get fit and give back.” Although it has not always been my motto, it has served me well since my 40s. (We) British are rather good at sports that involve sitting down (rowing, motor racing, cycling and so on), so I bought a bicycle to commute to work in Shimbashi. The Great East Japan Earthquake inspired the idea of a long-distance cycle ride to raise funds for displaced families. The rest is history.
Setting up a business 16 years ago with my partners in a very foreign country, which remains a going concern today. However, I glean more fulfillment from the Knights in White Lycra, the fundraising cycling team I set up in 2012 with some friends in my spare time. To date it has raised ¥73.5 million for local charities serving displaced, disadvantaged and abused children throughout Japan.
I am a lifer in Japan so apart from wishing to retire comfortably, I would like to see KIWL expand and to further improve the lives and prospects of marginalized children in Japan. I would like to encourage more people to get fit and give back through cycling, running, walking, futsal and other events. It is very fulfilling to see someone start a sport to help themselves and others.
Embrace the language, history and culture. I only wish I had been airlifted into a remote part of Japan on my first day and forced to really learn the language! I would have had a better and greater appreciation of this great country and culture. I hear many foreigners criticize Japan, but it is a very different country to their own. Different, not worse. I would however like to tell town planners not to build highways over rivers. Tokyo's aesthetics have improved in my time but there is still a long way to go! And one more thing town planners — more dedicated bicycle paths now, please! Visit our website for more information on getting fit and giving back.