2021 in Review – A Difficult Year with Some Positive Highlights

Much like 2020, 2021 didn’t really work out as planned.

When I look back at 2021 the over-riding memory is of losses. First, my father, Peter Hood, and then also friends, most notably Masaaki “Mick” Yamada. But there were other losses too – such as Shin’ichi Iida, fellow-Blade David Wainwright, and Salti (the owner of local café, Bon, who had also helped my daughter with her studies about food hygiene). My mother’s cat, Sooty, also had to put down due to illness, and a local cat, Leo, which went by the nickname “Visitor” when he paid visits to (and in) our house and had provided much entertainment over the years used up the last of his nine lives. May they all, and all the others who lost their lives this year, rest in peace.

2021 is also the first year since 1999 that I haven’t got to Japan at least once during the year. Since I first went to Japan in 1989, this is only the 3rd calendar year that I have not got to Japan (the others being 1991 and 1999) and the first of the Riewa Period that I missed. It is particularly frustrating as I had plans and funding in place for a research trip to work on the update to my book Japan: The Basics during December ’21 and January ’22. Hopefully I will get to Japan in 2022 to work on this as well as my research about Visual Packing Culture.

Despite the bad sides of 2021, it could have been much worse and there were good things too. I still got to have a couple of great holidays – one on a ‘staycation cruise’ around some of the UK, and then a trip to Madeira (albeit the stay there was extended due to Covid for some of the family). Other highlights of the year include getting to see the incredible “The Shark is Broken” play (related to Jaws) and seeing a concert that featured Altered Images, Tom Bailey, and The Human League.

On the sporting front, I got to the two NFL games in London this year – as I wrote about in a post about the issues of nationalism and use of military at sporting events. Although, neither game featured my team, Cincinnati Bengals, they were very entertaining. At the time of writing, the Bengals have been going from strength to strength. Hopefully, they won’t mess it up as my teams are often known to do. Hanshin Tigers, the Japanese baseball team that I support, being a particular case in point as they managed to throw away a massive lead in the league that put past disappointments in the shadows. As for my football team, Sheffield United, after the problems of last season and the first part of this season, they may also have turned a corner. I got to see them at Cardiff City in early December in one of my favourite matches I have ever been to & the first United match I have been to since our amazing season back in the Premier League and when we beat Norwich with an incredible header from Billy Sharp just before the first of the lockdowns. The Cardiff match was the perfect example of why going to matches as an away fan can be so much fun – the atmosphere can be much more intense than home games, particularly when the team is playing so well, with the team scoring three goals in a short period. With no derby games this season as the other lot are down in League 1, a match in the city you live is perhaps the biggest fixture of the year. That it was won so convincingly was a real joy. The game also showed how you can tell that the FIFA game by EA Sports isn’t realistic as the commentators keep saying before Cardiff games that the atmosphere there is always good. For the away fans, maybe… but otherwise, as we sang at the match, it’s like “watching football in a library” due to the lack of atmosphere from the home fans.

On the publication front, this year I published my third novel, FOUR, and, on the academic front, the Japanese version of a chapter on Contents Tourism and transportation in Japan was published. As noted above, this year I also agreed to do a second edition of Japan: The Basics and made great progress with some research I have been planning for many years, which has come together under the term ‘Visual Packing Culture‘. I have also been continuing to work on my book Frankie Fans Say about fans of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I had hoped to have this completed by the end of 2021, but with everything that happened this year, this has been delayed until at least early 2022 – although this had the benefit of including an extra visit to Liverpool to see Nasher perform “The Power of Love” at the British Music Experience. Without doubt one of the highlights of the year was getting to Liverpool (three times – albeit for one, we were stuck on a cruise ship and didn’t get off) and meeting Nasher (Brian Nash) during two of those – sometimes it does work out well to meet your heroes, despite what the saying is. I also got to meet my favourite author, Mark Edwards, for the first time this year which was also amazing.

My site continues to see a growth in visitors (over 18,000 views this year from 12,000 visitors, about double last year) – and this is one reason why I have done a number of training sessions now on “Blogging and Social Media: Impact and Reach“. Below is a list of some of the most popular posts from my site in the last 12 months (not all posted originally this year):

There were many more posts, so do have a look around my site – using the tags, categories, or search function to help you find things that you are interested in.

The cover of FOUR (which accompanies this post) features a graphic showing two different meanings of “shi” in Japanese. One means “four”, while the other means “death”. In some ways that one word can have two different emotions depending on where you view it from also reflects what 2021 was like – but I suppose most years can be like that.

Also, there are ways in which most, if not all, of my books had relevance this year. 2021 was when the Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place – the event which provided the inspiration and backdrop to my novel Tokyo 20/20 Vision. With a variety of disasters, whether large scale (including COVID-19) or smaller and more personal, Dealing with Disaster in Japan and Osutaka both took on additional relevance. The shinkansen (‘bullet train’) still garners much interest internationally, and there continues to be much interest in my book Shinkansen due to that, as there is in my first novel, Hijacking Japan, which is partly set on a shinkansen but which also has a key political theme which at times feels scarily believable with themes that develop from my study of nationalism (as well as other issues) within the Japanese education system. Of course, Japan: The Basics, which helps people not only learn about Japan but consider what to do when studying Japan, continues to be relevant.

So, there you have it. That was 2021. Now on to 2022.

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