Apologies for the lack of updates, but life has been rather busy with two significant milestones passing recently: 1) After ten years in Japan, I moved to Germany in February 2024, specifically Munich 2) reached the ripe old age of twenty in December 2023!

We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.

Marshall McLuhan

Ten years in Japan

When I first moved to Japan from Hong Kong in 2013, I had no idea how long I would stay and only had the barest impression of the country from a few previous visits. Much of that first year was spent at language school in Waseda, attempting to grasp Japanese before landing a job at a start-up (thanks to the inimitable Rob Liang), which allowed me to stay in the country.

Those early years were spent getting to grips with life in Tokyo. I spent a lot of time just wandering around the city, soaking it all in, marvelling at how things work so well in such limited space, expanding my taste buds, and getting to know new people. I could wax lyrical about Tokyo all day; it’s a surprisingly livable city for somewhere so dense. It has some of the most awe-inspiring and ambitious architecture set amidst a sea of mundane buildings.

Tengu no koru

It wasn’t until 2015 that I ventured further afield and started exploring the Japanese Alps. Rather naively, we dove straight into some aggressive routes without the right gear or supplies, which could have gone badly but taught us some valuable lessons. This kick-started our love for mountain hiking, although I will never understand why Japanese hikers like to start their days at 3 am in the pitch dark!

Start-up life was a period of rapid self-growth and excitement for a while before things took an abrupt turn, and stress caused both my mental and physical health to nosedive. Luckily, my now-wife noticed this change and supported my decision to resign in early 2016.

Somewhere circling the back of my mind was a newsletter written by Craig Mod about an old pilgrimage trail. Revisiting this led to my discovery of the 1,400 km Shikoku Pilgrimage. A week after concluding my job, I set out with my backpack and tent to complete a loop of the entire island, visiting 88 temples over 50 days. It was one of the most life-affirming things I’ve ever done and undoubtedly a highlight of my time in Japan.

Hanami in Komazawa Olympic Park

Post-Shikoku, I began contracting for a company which required regular trips to Hong Kong. It was ideal since I got to reconnect with old friends and spend time in one of my favourite cities, but it was a lot of air miles and time away from home. We lived in Jiyugaoka during this time, a swanky neighbourhood full of lovely shops and restaurants, making life very comfortable. I spent many enjoyable days working in cafes around Komazawa Olympic Park, watching the seasons pass.

Over the following years, I continued my relationship with the pilgrim trails by completing several shorter routes on and near the Kii Peninsula: Kohechi (2016 & 17), Shodoshima (2019), Ise-ji (2020), and the slightly terrifying Omine-okugake (2021). These walks showed me a side of the country rapidly disappearing due to its ageing population and allowed me to disconnect from regular life, at least for a week or so each time.

Overlooking Kamakura

During the pandemic, we moved to Kamakura in 2020. This was not originally in our plans, but it was a good decision as we had more space and access to the coast for windsurfing and the hills for hiking, all on our literal doorstep. We discovered a forgotten trail on a ridgeline above our house, and over several months, we cleaned up all the fallen trees blocking it to make our private route leading to a rocky outcrop overlooking the town.

Each spring, we waited expectantly for new bamboo shoots to appear and then watched them shoot upwards, wondering which would survive the race for an open patch of blue sky (and the baby bamboo rustlers!).

We came across an abandoned wooden pavilion in the woods that we cleaned up and used for barbeques and a place to chill out while Japan was still in its second Sakoku (“locked country”) period. Even though the country got through COVID less scathed than others, it was unsettling to know we were effectively cut off from the rest of the world for almost three years. Despite this, some of my happiest memories are from this time.


Kagurazaka Awa Odori festival

A theme throughout our time in Japan was attending countless fantastic museums, exhibitions, installations, gardens and festivals. Culturally, Japan is second to none, and there is something for everyone. I was particularly enamoured with the local summer matsuri festivals, which are an opportunity to see traditions passed down from generation to generation.

Teshima Art Museum

In Japan, the relationship between nature and aesthetics is deeply intertwined back to its animistic roots, which pay respect to the beauty and interconnectedness of all living things. This is evident in practices like tea ceremony, ikebana (flower arranging), Sumi-e (ink painting), haiku poetry, and the concept of wabi-sabi, finding beauty in imperfection. I think I will miss this appreciation for the inherent beauty of natural materials the most.


People often talk about how hard it is for foreigners to integrate into Japan. My own record is pretty mixed; we built a life where we lived in Japan, but we did not necessarily have much interaction with Japan. In some ways, it felt like we had the best of both worlds; in others, it felt limiting. Maybe we could have navigated this differently, but I have no regrets.

Lovers of China are thinkers; lovers of Japan, sensuous. People drawn to China are restless, adventurous types, with critical minds. They have to be, because Chinese society is capricious, changing from one instant to the next, and Chinese conversation is fast moving and pointed. You can hardly relax for an instant: no matter how fascinating it is, China will never allow you to sit back and think, ‘All is perfect’. Japan, on the other hand, with its social patterns designed to cocoon everyone and everything from harsh reality, is a much more comfortable country to live in. Well-established rhythms and politenesses shield you from most unpleasantness. Japan can be a kind of ‘lotus land’, where one floats blissfully away on the placid surface of things.

Lost Japan by Alex Kerr

Shortly after arriving in Munich, I read this passage written by Japanologist Alex Kerr, which struck a chord with me, having also straddled both countries during my 15+ years in Asia. Despite ‘Lost Japan’ being published 20 years ago, his generalisations still ring very true. In China, it always feels like the entire country is in a chaotic rush to move forward, while in Japan, the emphasis is on meticulous refinement and maintaining the status quo. I find aspects of both modes very appealing.

Our cute moving van

I will probably write more about this in the future, but for now, I feel very fortunate to have spent most of my 30s in Japan and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others considering a move.

Why Deutschland?

Some friends and colleagues have been confused by our move to Germany. Why would you give up living in such a magical place? It’s a fair question, but we knew we would have to leave our comfort zone sooner or later.

17th-century church in Kufstein

The question of where plagued our minds for years; New Zealand, Canada, and mainland Europe were all high on our list, but in the end, the combination of Germany’s attractive immigration policies and Bavaria’s proximity to the Alps made it a solid choice for what we were looking for.

My previous experiences of moving countries were comparatively straightforward since I was single and only had to carry a couple of suitcases. Being married and having a house full of stuff made the whole thing an ordeal (Brexit didn’t help either). Still, we managed to pull it off in about two months by breaking the whole thing down into small steps and taking the time to understand the bureaucratic processes required on both sides (it turns out Germany loves its paperwork as much as Japan).

Olympiastadion in Munich

We ended up leaving on an overnight flight from Tokyo to Munich via Beijing, so in some ways, it felt like going full circle back to where my adventures began in 2007. Of course, my relationship with Asia is far from over. In addition to friends and colleagues, I have left with family ties to the region, so I am bound to be back and exploring further in the years to come!

Twenty years of

Randomwire has always been a diary of sorts, albeit of a less personal nature. I’ve written it primarily as a record for myself, but have always enjoyed getting comments and emails from people worldwide. If you’ve been reading for a while and have never been in touch, I’d love to hear from you!

Twenty years feels like a long time, and the person I was when it started is very different from the one I am today, but I hope I still have the sense of curiosity and adventure that led me from the beginning. I can’t wait to explore Germany and Europe as a whole.

It pains me that I am not a particularly eloquent writer. However, I still enjoy researching the places I’ve visited, editing photos, and posting about things I’ve found interesting when I can. While I might not have as much time to blog as in the past, I have no plans to give up!

I don’t know what the next ten years will look like yet, and frankly, it’s quite scary even to think that far ahead, but my dream is to build or renovate a home somewhere off the beaten path with my own hands. I don’t know exactly where or when, but I hope to make it happen and document it here someday.

Memorable moments

As with the tenth anniversary in 2003, I’ve selected twenty posts that were particularly memorable or had some significance over the last decade:

  1. Murakami’s Tokyo Part 1 / 2 / 3
  2. Overlooking Cambodia from Preah Vihear
  3. Copycat Olympics
  4. Yatsugatake Camping
  5. Peaches of Immortality
  6. Day 8: Kamo-michi Trail
  7. Day 28: Naka-michi
  8. Day 36: An Unexpected Surprise
  9. Traversing Jiankou Great Wall
  10. Mt. Kumotori Snow Hike
  11. Yangchan Village
  12. Yakushima: Hiking through Heaven and Hell
  13. The Routeburn Track
  14. Fish fed, Plants watered
  15. Passages in Time
  16. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains
  17. Building The Enchanted Lookout
  18. Return to Hong Kong
  19. Enoura Observatory Revisited
  20. House of Light

Thanks again for reading! 🇬🇧🇨🇳🇭🇰🇯🇵🇩🇪

David avatar

6 responses

  1. John G avatar
    John G

    Good to hear from you David. I was wondering what happened.

    1. Sorry for the long radio silence John, thanks for your comment!

  2. Congratulations on 20 years!!! Your blog is one of my favorite things and it’s fantastic to see you on a new adventure. Best wishes to you both.

    1. Thanks Rob 🙏

  3. Congratulations on 20 years of this wonderful blog! I made also the move back home (France overseas) recently after 15 years in Asia and… I have to keep telling myself “it’s different” and not think big in term of better or worse and still, what is clear is that I miss Asia.

    1. Thanks Gui, seems like we both have reverse culture shock! Hope everything works out for you in France 🙂


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