fforest chiefs return to Japan after 40 years

On New Year’s Day 1978 I boarded a plane at Birmingham International Airport for the first flight of my life. I was wearing a beaten up suede jacket, first generation Converse All Stars, Levis and a white t-shirt. I had £40 in my wallet and not much in my bag. I was a spikey haired, post punk 20 year old art student going to live in Japan for a year.

I had been offered a job in a little design agency in Osaka between my 2nd and 3rd years of a design degree at St Martins. I was stepping into the unknown. I was to stay with the family of my employer for a month, after which an apartment would be found for me for the remainder of the year. After a month, Takeshi, Hiroko, his wife, Timomi, his 9 year old daughter and Takeshi’s grandparents asked me to meet them for what I thought was goodbye. In fact, what they wanted to do was ask me if I would consider staying with the family for the whole year.

I experienced the beauty, culture, architecture, design and food of Japan with eyes wide open, but most incredibly I was able to do this whilst being treated like a son by a Japanese family who had been complete strangers. That was a year that changed my life.

Over the years, bringing up my own family, I’ve told lots of stories about my time in Japan. Last November I was 60 years old. I decided the only way to celebrate was to take my family for a month to experience some of the things that I had loved in a place where I had been loved and looked after.

Thank you to Takeshi, Hiroko, Timomi and grandparents Fukuda.

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