Being a Dad in Japan

  • Making the perfect packing list spreadsheet

    Trips big or small, it pays to have your packing list set right. Especially when you have kids. Things always end up last minute and in a panic just before launch. I haven’t forgotten a child at home, yet. Hoping not to pull a Home Alone on my children anytime soon and that’s why for a number of years now, my wife and I have been leveraging a master Google Sheet spreadsheet to make sure we don’t miss anything. Packing list for any kind of travel – adapt as you need Go ahead and make a copy of the sheet. Here’s how we use it: Make a copy of the […]

  • Using the Anyca car-sharing service in Japan and how it compares to Times Car Share

    I’ve used the Times car-sharing service for a number of years now. Times has the biggest network of stations (12,000+) and cars (27,000+) with the largest number of drivers (1.3m+) in Japan. I haven’t had any desire to purchase a car while living in Tokyo thanks to the amazing public transport and the vast network of Times cars. The competition for getting a car, however, has been heating up over the past year or two. In our area, it now feels more difficult to reserve a car, especially when you need something larger than a five seater. This has given me pause and making me rethink my no-car stance. So […]

  • Ski lessons in confidence

    Zipping over the snow with my son was a dream come true. Being on the slopes together was a long time coming. Age, viruses, and life had thrown up enough barriers over the years that I hadn’t been sure when we’d get in a trip. Finally, a break in the storm of life had emerged and my two oldest sons and I joined a friend and his son for a skit trip. I was torn between teaching my sons and getting them started with a ski school. After some reflection and swallowing my pride, I chose the ski school. It was the right choice even though the price made me […]

  • Precipice

    The fear and worry in her eyes is understandable. Her most beloved people in this world are all going on a trip. It’s not without risk, hence the worry. I empathize. I also recoil. It feels like I’m doing something wrong and doubt creeps in. I reassure her everything will be alright, but how do we ever know? I trust that the path I’ve set down is the right one. The kids will have a blast. We’ll come back all smiles. Like being on the precipice just before you drop down the chute. We fear the unknown and embrace the moment once we jump. We don’t leap without preparation though. […]

  • Split in two

    For a year, my middle son has been going to a half-day of daycare. He’ll be returning to full-day daycare when I transition back to work in the coming month. It’s bittersweet to know that our time with this circle of friends is coming to a close. We say we’ll meet on the weekends, we’ll find time to hang out, but life has a harsh way of moving on. Spending longer hours at the daycare, he’ll interact with kids of different age groups as they congregate in a single room in the afternoons. I like this aspect of the daycare and think our oldest son benefited greatly from it. Lessons […]

  • Feeding kids during a PTA gathering

    Four 2-year olds or younger are running around the house. The moms are all gathered in our living room on the floor laying out the plans for next year’s PTA activities. My toddler has spotted me from across the room and waddles over going “mam yam mam”. It’s a tad before noon and he’s hungry. If he is, then the rest of the kids will be too. Sneaking my child a few bits of bread and cheese (on the sly as you should always feed the guests first), I start in on making some lunch for the little ones. Nothing fancy. 10 minutes later the kids are all around the […]

  • Dirt between your toes

    You wiggle your toes in your socks. You can feel the dust just stuck there. You know it was a good day. Parks in Tokyo, Japan have a lot of bare dirt in them. It must be an American Midwest thing, but I’m used to a lot more grass. Winter in Japan is bone dry. Rainfall here is minimal and you’re lucky to get more than a day of snow cover for the entire winter. Perhaps I never really noticed the winter grass back in the United States because it was always covered in snow. Here, the grass dies and turns hay-colored. Sticks to you like crazy if you lay […]

  • Super Mario stars for the uninitiated

    Why can’t anyone but Mario get the star and become invincible? My son posed this question to me today. He’s never played Super Mario Brothers, we just happen to have a Mario-themed Uno deck. The star is featured on one of the cards and we got to talking. I wish I had a better answer than “That’s just the way it is” for him when he asked it. Something that would make sense to a kid. Getting across the idea of being invincible was also difficult. His first language is Japanese with a moderate understanding of English. I keep talking to all my sons in English in the hopes they’ll […]

  • Packing lunch for the park in Japan

    Our go-to to go food for parks. Tamago-yaki. Mix an egg or two with some salt and sugar and some veggies like spinach for good measure. Use the special rectangular tamago-yaki fry pan that gives you a great way to pan fry, roll, fry, roll and repeat until you get a baumkuchen looking omelet. Slice into bite-sized pieces. Tako-weiners. Slice the mini sausages you find here in half and then two cuts about halfway up at 90 degrees from each other. Toss in the fry pan or grill and watch at the cuts splay out and your left with an octopus (tako) looking sausage. Increase the cuts to four to […]

  • Sweet tooth for the dentist

    The boys can’t wait to go to the dentist. A tradition that started with my eldest son several years ago. Now, I shuttle two, eager boys several stations away every couple of months to get their teeth checked and cleaned. Their dentist has gone all-in on catering to children. Lego and Playmobile figures are arranged in glass cases that appeal to children and adults. Like a good Disney movie with punchlines for the adults, I also noticed some unusual minifigs amongst the collection today. A Stay Puft Marshmellow Man minifig caught my attention and had me thinking this dentist knows a thing or two about legos. The decor doesn’t stop […]

  • Little cities

    On the way to daycare each day, we pass by a house that lights up my son’s eyes and imagination every day. On the front of the house, perched on the second-floor balcony is an owl statue that makes me do a double take every time. That, however, is just a teaser for what lies around back. In a garden no wider than the intake fan of the air conditioning unit, a tiny scene plays out amidst a small cluster of plants. A triceratops is ambling close to a crane and dump truck that appears to be either building or raising a pair of Japanese houses. My son swears the […]

  • Staying in shape at home

    Japan never experienced a lockdown like other countries. There was a period in the spring of 2020 when kids couldn’t go to daycare or school. Days were spent working in the parking lot under the maple trees while the kids ran around. Despite the time in the shade and sunshine, I wasn’t moving. Too much time in the camping chair as I typed away on my laptop. I had experimented with apps or tried advice from guides on routines to follow. My longest streak was around 6 months, but I couldn’t get over that hump. After some time there would be something that threw me off, where I would lose […]

  • Shower intercom

    We fear what we don’t understand. Like my wife’s voice coming from the wall-mounted intercom in our shower. My toddler will be having a grand old time splashing around in the bath, smile ear to ear, and then the voice appears. The immediate spin of his head to face the source, his eyes going wide, and that slow but steady creep of the corners of his mouth towards his jawline as his bottom lip puckers out. A voice that he hears every day and, yet, he has no explanation for why my wife’s voice would be immitting from a box on the wall. You wonder, does he feel the same […]

  • Kids making tortillas and building trust

    It’s taco night and the kids are all helping to cook and prep. The toddler, kindergartner, and first-grader. While it’s tortillas, guacamole, and fillings on the menu, it’s a lesson in learning to trust my children that’s being served. We’re making tortillas again thanks to the simple recipe in The Taco Tuesday Cookbook. Both of the older boys are clambering to be the one to roll out the dough and grill them on the smoking-hot skillet. The toddler won’t be denied either as he makes his way up the well-worn path of kids chair to tabletop to countertop. When I’m not looking, he’s got the rolling pin in his hand […]

  • Raise your hand quick

    PTA work on the horizon. This is for the daycare and not the elementary school, so not as intense! I know I’m already going to be overwhelmed working full time again. Not looking forward to adding more stuff on top. A lot of the regular meetings are also held during work hours. Not so realistic for this day and age. There is a meeting next week where roles will be decided. I heard from one of the moms currently involved with the PTA this year that there is a position that would involve planning some of the games for parent-child event days and editing the videos from the performances. Everyone […]

  • Reconsidering the caged park

    I never played in a caged park until I came to Japan. Or had kids. Something like this would be unthinkable in the Midwest of the US. Big open areas are a specialty of that region. Why box anything in? I’ve discovered, however, that there are some nice advantages to having a caged play area. After my middle son’s first day of daycare in over two weeks, we headed over to a nearby park with friends from daycare. The majority of the park is nestled in a grove of towering zelkova trees, but one section is a three-story high cage made from wire and nets. Just some weighted, net curtains […]

  • A trot around the block

    It was his first time outside the boundaries of our home in two weeks. Should he use the scooter? His bike? Walk? He got his sweater on, pulled his cap on, and fitted his mask into place without skipping a beat. All the muscle memory spring back to life so quickly. But the light in his eyes and the spring in his step meant that this wasn’t any ordinary day heading out the door. After two weeks of quarantine in our home, it was such a relief to be able to get my middle child out and about. He had it the hardest of all of us, being confined to […]

  • Travel prep

    Even after we have all this technology to aggregate everything, it still pays to visit individual car rental websites in Japan to look for the best deals. I want it to be so much easier than it is. And please, let me put in my full name. Last names can be more than five characters. Going through this act of hunting for the best deal, however, does feel like getting ready to travel. Travel wouldn’t be travel without the hassle. Makes reaching the destination all that much more rewarding. I’m looking forward to the getaway when it arrives.

  • Heavy

    Covid-19. The ongoing conflict in the middle east. The new conflict in Ukraine. Global warming. A lot of hard to swallow news and realities hitting every day. My plate feels full just taking care of my family from day to day. But should I also be taking care of them by taking action against the things that will darken their days months, years, or decades from now? It is really hard not to feel oppressed by it all. And I’m in the privileged position to even be able to think about it rather than be affected by it on a daily basis. So many people out there where the struggle […]

  • Finding the time

    The family is glued to the TV and I’m glued to my Kindle. The last few chapters of book six of The Expanse, Babylon’s Ashes, are within my grasp. The whole series is a page turner, but these last few pages make it mighty hard to do anything other than gobbling them up. I found myself sneaking in a chapter or two throughout the day. This has me thinking, how often could I have other things on my list that I could use small pieces of time between chores and activities around the house? When it comes to a book like Babylon’s Ashes, I find myself yearning to get back […]

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