Collected Writings of J.A.A. Stockwin: The Politics and Political Environment of Japan

By J. A. A. Stockwin | Go to book overview

Introduction

'HOW DID YOU first become interested in Japan?' This is a question I am asked fairly often, especially but not only from Japanese friends and acquaintances. I tend to give an enigmatic answer and then observe the reaction it elicits. The answer is: 'Because I went to Australia'. Equally, though, I could answer: 'By chance'. My experience of life suggests that chance plays a huge role in many of our most crucial choices. So far as Japan is concerned, there was very little in my background predisposing me to an interest in that distant country.

Let me explain. One fateful morning which must have been in May or June of 1959, shortly before taking final exams at Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, I walked out of College before breakfast and bought a copy of the Manchester Guardian. There I found an advertisement for PhD scholarships at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Over that summer I applied for several jobs and various scholarships, but with little success. The application that I put in to the ANU was more a matter of routine than in pursuit of a clear ambition. Indeed, the fact that I had applied was something half-forgotten when, about three months later, I received a two-line acknowledgement on a postcard sent from Australia by sea mail. But a few days after that I took a phone call from my Oxford politics tutor telling me the ANU was offering me a scholarship.

At that point I was just about to start a job working for a shipping research company whose offices were in Piccadilly. I moved into freezing and uncomfortable digs in Highgate, run by an ancient, chain-smoking French landlady who refused to believe that Canberra was the capital of Australia because she had been taught at school that the capital of Australia was Melbourne (as indeed it was, when she was at school). I stayed two months at the Westinform Shipping Service, then left before Christmas to prepare for a new life. Audrey and I were married at the end of January 1960 and a week later We set out on a leisurely honeymoon on the SS Orcades bound for Australia.

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