Setsuo Kato is a Japanese photo-journalist. He has worked for Japanese and British media and published many books and articles about Britain and Europe. For over ten years he published his own newspaper.
On board the Russian boat “Baikal” at Yokohama in 1970, I said farewell to my family and a few friends who came to see me off to the unknown world. I was a Press photographer working for a British news agency’s Tokyo office. Japan was just beginning to get its confidence back after the success of the Tokyo Olympic Games and Osaka Expo. A radical Japanese author wrote a book called “Nandemo Mite Yaro!” (Be Greedy to See Everything!). I decided to explore the world and the final destination was set to be London. This is probably because I was working for a British company. However, about Britain, I only knew of the Queen, gentlemen and of course the Beatles.
After travelling through the Soviet Union and a few Eastern European countries for more than two weeks, I arrived in Vienna, then Frankfurt, Paris and the finally London. After the lengthy journey, my hair grew very long and as I did not bother shaving while travelling, I had a fair amount of beard and moustache. I was very nervous at Heathrow Airport. Would the immigration officer of the Gentleman’s Country accept me? To my surprise the officer at the desk had longer hair than mine and I found beards and moustaches everywhere.
I lived in the Angel, Islington and used to go to a local pub called the Island Queen. This pub was packed with customers every night. There was rock music coming from speakers on the wall but you could hardly hear it because people were loudly talking, shouting and laughing. The whole atmosphere was electric. Every weekend I was invited from the pub to somebody’s house for a party. I didn’t know who they were or what they were, but it didn’t matter as long as you enjoyed yourself.
The Japan I left, compared with this, was very poor and people were more restricted and felt guilty about having a good time. This was neither a religion nor a moral obligation. I think it was purely the result of the war. Japan in the 70’s was still suffering heavily from the war. I realized that I had come to the winners’ country from a defeated country
Those people at the pub didn’t seem to have any job but how did they make a living? To my surprise again, they were teachers, doctors, journalists, local government bureaucrats, artists, architects, etc. etc. They seemed to be enjoying themselves very much every night but during the day had responsible jobs to do. They knew very well their freedom and responsibility and I realized that this was the basis of the British life-style.
Today you don’t often feel the electric atmosphere of the pub. However, that essence of freedom and responsibility goes on and it was my job, through the media, to tell Japanese audiences about this British life-style. I have been doing this for the last forty years through Japanese newspapers, magazines, television, radio and books.