Being a Dad in Japan

  • Tell me something funky

    My oldest son loves the word funky. He asked me how to define it once. I told him something a bit strange and cool. It’s his go-to adjective for when he wants an interesting story. “Tell me a funky story.” As a marketer, I love the challenge. Can’t say I’m nailing it, but I’m giving it a go. Children are often the toughest audience. The best to learn from. I’ve been struggling to become a better storyteller for my kids. I want to see them on the edge of their seats, in tears from laughter, or that sparkle in their eyes when they grasp something for the first time. I […]

  • What’s so boring about good news?

    Bad news spreads like wildfire. Good old gossip. At a party, online, at dinner, a bit of bad news captivates our listeners. Reading the Whimpy Kid to my children, there was a passage around how Greg always likes hearing about what went wrong with the vacations of his friends, rather than what went right. Gives him the satisfaction that it wasn’t him and confirmation that his choice of vacation was the right one. Is that what’s at the heart of this? We get a boost from telling bad news to put ourselves in a better light? Does sharing good news elevate someone else and diminish your own limelight just a […]

  • Working parents tango. Some tips and tricks to stay sane and close.

    Work has begun. With one full week of work under my belt, the inbox is starting to bulge at the sides, my todo list is growing like a toddler, and the calendar more colorful than a Jackson Pollock piece. My wife and I are now relearning the working parents tango. Here are some of the things we do to help us through. Establish areas of responsibility I always do breakfasts. My wife on point for our PTA responsibilities. Whoever didn’t cook dinner washes the dishes. She takes the kids in the morning. I pick them up in the evening. And a smattering of other items. Establishing these routines makes our […]

  • Turbulent first week back at work and why that was great

    Murphy’s Law was in full effect this week. After a couple of weeks at daycare with no sickness, the youngest came down with a bug and needed to stay home. When I had all the time in the world, he was healthy. As soon as I started back at work, the bug hit. Of course it would. I was ready for this. You have to be when you make the transition back to work from paternity leave and your child is just starting daycare. They are bound to come down with something. I thought I had given myself a little more buffer with him starting daycare towards the start of […]

  • Setting priorities and how that worked out

    I laid out in a post last week a list of things I could accomplish during my last week of paternity leave. Here’s how things netted out. Plan the family investing strategy – minimal Hang with friends – yes Get in one more ski trip – planned for next week Review my Marketing Seminar materials – nope Hike up a mountain or bike somewhere far – nope Eat more good food with my wife around Tokyo – yes Find a cafe or coworking place and zone in on some life planning – nope Batting about .400. Big takeaway for me was having a list to begin with. Even if I […]

  • Wrapping up a year of paternity leave

    Outlook is back on my phone. A few meetings are scheduled for next week. I’m thinking to just zero my inbox and start fresh from Monday. A year with my newborn has flown by and I’m struggling to feel the motivation to return. This phase of my life was precious. Spending the time with all three boys meant the world to me and, I hope, to them. I’ve seen them all grow physically, emotionally, and cognitively over the past 12 months. Of course, the biggest changes came with the newborn. Grateful to experience so many firsts. But also the seconds, thirds, and umpteenth times. The luster waned as the months […]

  • Dedicated play space

    Since having children, one of the greatest luxuries we’ve recently obtained is having a space for the children that is entirely theirs and a space that is not. Like any large city, but maybe more so than some others, Tokyo has a premium on space. When a square meter of your house can be used for more than one purpose, it will be. The traditional Japanese house did this to the extreme. Going back many years you’d find a central room within the house that served dining, entertainment, and sleeping purposes. The use of deep and wide closets kept the possessions out of sight while the room morphed between its […]

  • Outside plays feels far away

    Parent after parent shared what they remember playing as a child. We were wrapping up a parent-teacher conference at daycare. The prompt was to share what your child likes to do as well as what you did as a child. An overwhelming majority of them remembered playing outside. Some in the mountains. Others in rice fields. Others at their local shrine. Climbing trees, making mud balls, playing tag, making forts, or digging pits for their mother to fall into. And they all ended up in the city. Tokyo. The concrete jungle instead of the bamboo or pine one. The lure of the big city brought us all from the childhood […]

  • Listen to this, I’ve got an opinion

    The proceedings were like previous parent-teacher meetings at the school. Then we got to hearing about the school slogan or mantra. The principal started by saying that the core slogan, while not being modified, was needing some further explanation or context and the school board had come up with a solution. I was excited to see the result they presented. In addition to the slogan, it is now preceded by or underpinned with やってみよう (let’s try). When we got to the homeroom the changes weren’t done. At the front of the class are three sayings or slogans that the kids are to abide by. The teacher explained that two of […]

  • A golden week before the golden week

    The kids are now all going to daycare or school from morning to late afternoon. My days and hours of caring for a child from wake to sleep are over for now. Work doesn’t start for another week. These next 10 days are so are the freest I’ll be for a long time. Some ways to make the most of it: Plan the family investing strategy Hang with friends Get in one more ski trip Review my Marketing Seminar materials Hike up a mountain or bike somewhere far Eat more good food with my wife around Tokyo Find a cafe or coworking place and zone in on some life planning […]

  • Cheap cheese in Tokyo

    The cheapest cheese I’ve found in Tokyo has been at OK スーパー or OK Supermarket. It doesn’t look like there are a ton of them around in Tokyo, but if one is close to you, check it out. オーケー株式会社 | ディスカウントスーパーマーケット ( Go there for big blocks of cheddar, gouda, and the like at discount prices. Definitely a luxury in Japan where cheese always goes at a premium and way more than I was used to back in the US. The pizzas at OK Super are also worth giving a go, especially for the price you can get them at. We’ve had many a house party where we picked up […]

  • It pays to have a bigger family in Japan

    With three kids, your lifetime expenses are going to be larger than if you had two kids or one kid. Maybe orders of magnitude larger. However, the Japanese government does try to make things easier for you in the early stages. Here are two things that will help out in the first few years. First, you’ll get an extra couple of points awarded to you on your daycare application. That might not sound like much, but in Tokyo where the competition to get into the daycare you’d like can be daunting, it can make a big difference. In my neck of the woods in Tokyo, nearly all families with two […]

  • Professional chef in your home

    Looking for a way to have a restaurant-level dinner without having to worry about getting the kids to sit down or not blow bubbles in their drink? SHAREDINE (シェアダイン) – 食の専門家による出張シェフサービス The platform matches you with professional chefs that will come to your home and cook for you. You’ll need to pick the cuisine, the chef, and go back and forth with them to decide on what will be cooked. You can decide to do the shopping yourself or have the chef do it. Then, there are three main approaches – course dinners, party food, and pre-made dishes. If you go with the last one, you’ll have food for the […]

  • Big day of firsts and lasts

    First day back at school in a new grade. First day back at daycare for the middle child. And the big one. First day of daycare for the youngest. It all happened so quickly this morning that I’m just now feeling it. The youngest hoped out of the nest for the first time today, away from both my wife and me for a whole hour. I thought I would be more choked up when dropping him off. Instead, the process of signing my name on the check-in paper, getting my son’s jacket and helmet off and greeting the teacher for the first time all preoccupied my mind. Before I knew […]

  • Returning

    When planning a vacation, the longer the vacation is the better it will be feels enticing. There is a sweet spot, however, when the allure of your own bed, kitchen, and surroundings starts to sound better than another gorgeous buffet or urban stroll. Pre-vacation, I’m longing to break out of the routine, see something new, and have someone else cook my meals. Now it’s those same routines that seem to be calling me back. The travel adventures have formed all kinds of new memories. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. That said, it will be nice to see home sweet home again.

  • Bed time stories in another language

    When I was 7 years old, I didn’t dream of speaking Japanese. I dreamed of building roller coasters. Designing of roller coasters didn’t work out and I’ve now found myself telling bedtime stories to my children in Japanese. The moment felt surreal and natural. My son wanted to hear about where I grew up. I told him about where I used to build forts and hang with my friends. There was no creative arc and by the time I started talking about Playmobile, I could hear his breathing had slowed. Along with his cousin’s. I normally talk to my children in Japanese. Being with our cousins, however, means all communication […]

  • Cooking for the relatives

    Eight children, ranging from middle school to high school. Half had never had Mexican food in their life. The other half had since they are my kids. I rolled the dice here and the results came up mixed. The menu wasn’t way out there. Tortillas and taco shells with a mix of veggie fillings and the standard cumin-flavored taco mix meat. Salsa and cheese to complete the picture. It didn’t really matter what was being cooked, however. It was mainly the act of cooking that mattered. My distant relative here has been the solo cook in her house of four kids since she married. She hadn’t had tacos in forever […]

  • Car taking the wheel

    Cruise control on long road trips is a blessing. Having the car also take the wheel for you is otherworldly. Exiting and entering big cities in Japan means you are going to hit traffic. 5km,10km, and 15km traffic jams are not uncommon. Not a good place for cruise control, I thought. Renting a Nissan Serena recently, I saw the “Pilot” option and gave it a whirl. I was expecting it to maintain the speed I set, even to use radar to sense how far away I am from the car in front of me. I wasn’t expecting it to also take the wheel and keep the car within the lane […]

  • Family magic for the kids

    It’s truly magical to see your children get together with your relatives’ children and they just click. Both sides know relatively nothing about each other. They meet in the afternoon for the first time or years since they last saw each other and by bedtime (which is absurdly late of course) they want to share the same bed. Is it that the parents know each other so well that they instinctively trust their distant cousins? Just luck? Children watch and absorb so much of what we do that I feel like they can sense it. They see us let our guard down, relax, settle in with those we grew up […]

  • Electric assist bicycles enabling parents to go further in Japan

    Each day after daycare the ritual of deciding which park to go begins. Sometimes a stone’s throw away. Other times, kilometers away. With our bicycles loaded with backpacks, today’s crafts from daycare, 1, 2, or 3 children, and outdoor sporting goods, it’s a wonder that we can go anywhere more than 100 meters away. That wonder is the electric bicycle. Rarely seen a decade ago, it’s the standard for nearly all parents ferrying their children back and forth from daycare in Japan these days. I’m extremely grateful for the bike as it must have opened up the variety of parks we can go to by a great amount compared to […]

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