In places like Sunderland where the Japanese have been settling in large numbers, local organisations have made a sustained effort to help them find their feet. Sunderland Polytechnic's Japanese Studies Division has an Anglo-Japanese liaison office which answers queries of every sort, from finding a house to finding a dog kennel, and has run courses to help Japanese women to cope in a situation which none has any experience of, namely being mugged. Saturday schools have been set up where children can keep up their Japanese language study, while every July a kite festival, the Festival of the Air, is held, kites being a noted Japanese speciality, which helps to bring the communities together.
With the help of activities like these, Japanese living here who have a greater than average capacity for adaptation slowly find things to appreciate about the place, things which are not available back home: the pubs, the parks, the abundance of ethnic restaurants, the quality of television and the media in general, the absence of conformity, the relative freedom from social pressures of all sorts. But what is really making a difference for the 30,000-odd Japanese who live in London is the speed with which an infrastructure of Japanese-oriented services has sprung up in the past few years.
For the Japanese who prefers to retreat into a decent approximation of his "warm, nice, dark corner", London is becoming an increasingly satisfactory place to do it. He or she can shop in a Japanese supermarket, buy today's edition of the Asahi Shimbun daily (printed in London), last week's Shukan Gendai magazine or the latest bestseller from Books Nippon, near St Paul's; have a trim or a perm at Baron Yoshimoto's hair salon in St John's Wood; consult a Japanese lawyer, accommodation or recruitment agency; arrange to move house courtesy of Koyanagi moving services; have contact lenses fitted at a Japanese optician; eat first-rate sushi at any one of dozens of Japanese restaurants; and return home, tired but happy, in a black cab (one of the few details of London life which all Japanese recognise as superior to the Japanese equivalent) and watch three hours of peak-time Japanese TV, courtesy of the Astra satellite.
(Peter Popham is a staff writer on The Independent Magazine.)