Being a Dad in Japan

  • Just out of reach

    Or so I thought. The infant, soon-to-be toddler has been trying to teach me over and over and over again that things are within reach. I give him an inch and he’s balancing on his tiptoes atop the leg of an overturned chair or discovering that his finger tips now hit the microwave dial. The tenacity is truly inspiring. Too often I’ve thought something was beyond my reach. Someone told me no. I caved in. Took no for the answer. I need to take some inspiration from my children and learn not to underestimate myself. Besides, people appreciate the guts even if it drives them a little batty at the […]

  • Stay the course

    Tomorrow I can break out of this bubble. Will I? My middle child is still in quarantine until next week and it only feels fair that I stick it out with him and my wife. Grocery shopping may be necessary, but I’d try and keep it at that. After all, they did the very same thing for me when this all started. While they weren’t technically sick yet, they were stuck in the house with me as I ran a fever and tried to will away my headache. I think a trip to snag a few things to brighten their day would be one of the best uses of my […]

  • A fortnight feels a lifetime ago

    Health has always been the number one concern during this pandemic. We’ve been fortunate there. With the luxury of health, this fortnight of quarantine has been a challenge on a few fronts. First, my wife and I taking care of each other. We were fortunate enough to have our bouts with Covid overlap only a bit. It felt like the ultimate passing of the batons. I came down with Covid first and just about the time my fever started to subside and my energy coming back, the symptoms began for my wife. Just the physical effort of fighting the sickness and getting through daily life – cooking meals and cleaning […]

  • From head to toe

    The baby is addicted to books. That’s a good thing, right? The same dozen books, day in and day out. From Head to Toe. Hand Hand Finger Thumb. フクロウ。 Splish Splash Baby. Moo Baa La La La. いいへんじ。Barnyard Dance. Down by the Bay. I never did theater or performance art or improve. Maybe one of these days. This must be what it’s like to memorize a script and then head into that dip where you can know every line and the novelty has worn off completely. Like chewing the same piece of rice for a ten minutes so that you dicover new tastes or sensations at the end. Humming the […]

  • Recovering

    Things were going so well just a week ago. Then Covid decided to give our entire family a scare. The writing was on the wall. Nearly every day I was getting alerts from the school and daycare that another student or teacher had contracted Covid. It only felt like a matter of time. Even with the cases falling with the latest Omnicron surge. Keeping my fingers crossed that mostly we have to worry about first world problems here – plans we had to cancel, quarantined in the house with the kids for two weeks, blah blah. My wife is still going through a hard stretch right now and I’m feeling […]

  • Noodle this

    Is this the right path? A meltdown of epic proportions at dinner tonight. The middle child spilled his milk because he was concentrating on the TV. Overflowed and milk everywhere. I give him the, “you spilled it, you clean it up.” His head snaps back, tears well up in his eyes, his cry of anguish fills every nook and cranny of our house. My heart races and I scold him for not taking responsibility. I’m looking to put my foot down. He’s putting down his. Stalemate. My wife and I argue with him between sobs that he can continue balling or take 5 seconds to clean up his mess. He […]

  • Sleep or wake

    The hardest thing to do every day is wake up after putting the kids to sleep. Even harder when I’m not feeling well or unmotivated. That happened last night. I had a ski trip canceled and some news about work that made me feel pessimistic. There I was in bed with the infant drifting away and the older one just come in and say he was scared. Probably because of the dark. I held his hand while the infant rested his head on my forearm and the middle child snuggled close on my other side. He was already fast asleep after a full day. It wasn’t long before the eldest […]

  • Sticking with the family chat

    The family chat wasn’t a thing before the pandemic and now it’s a daily reminder of the big and small wonders that make up our lives. I’m thankful for the connection it has brought with my family in the United States as I was never the best at keeping in touch with my family in the States. Whether it’s a sunset, some fresh-baked bread, new accomplishments of the children, or new endeavors of my siblings, getting that small glimpse shortens the distances. The pressure to contribute something remarkable is there. As social media tends to go. Even when the audience is only a handful of people. Who gets the likes? […]

  • Taking a breath

    Caring for an infant is tough. You already knew that. My hats off to you. It also brings the most amazing moments. Like when they start communicating with their eyes, hands, gait. Holding on to these magical moments is so important. And how easy is it to be sucked into giving attention to the one climbing up to where he’s not supposed to be for the umpteenth time when the older ones look on and yearn for the same attention? The balancing act is so hard and I think I expect too much from the older ones. It’s natural to feel this though. There aren’t any right answers and I’ll […]

  • Finding parks in Japan where kids will have fun

    Finding parks in Japan where kids will have fun

    Japan has a love affair with playgrounds. Playground equipment scattered throughout Japan seems to date from the 80’s to the modern era and delights millions of children every year. I get a nostalgic rush with many of the playgrounds I’ve encountered around Japan. Seeing my kids exploring and playing on these classics is both exciting and nerve racking. The prolific use of concrete and steel does nothing to set a parent’s mind at ease, but children find creative ways of hurting themselves no matter the environment. Just give them some pillows and a bedroom and I’m sure they’ll end up with bruises. Heck, one of my sons needed five stitches […]

  • The big effort

    The big effort

    Seeing anyone punch above their weight is a thrilling experience. Seeing my middle son do it made it special for me. He started kendo almost a year ago and has been growing into it ever since. He’s the smallest of anyone in the group but doesn’t let his height affect his approach one bit. He goes at it with great determination and effort when his turn comes around and jokes, laughs, and chats when it’s not. This hard working clown is growing on the sensei I think. The sensei asked if anyone wanted to take the 100 challenge. A single voice shouted “hai”. It wasn’t until later that I found […]

  • Rage against the dad

    Rage against the dad

    Perhaps a tiny crack in the wall? Just the other day, I was picking up my son from daycare and one of the moms hailed me over and commented that I was looking a little tired. It was a welcome gesture and uplifted my spirits instantly. It felt like a small step from the outer circle to the inner one. Rewind 24 hours and I was with two elder sons at the park. When we arrived, the middle one dashed off to the slides and jungle gyms with his friends from daycare. We often visit the park with his friends as we get out of daycare at the same time […]

  • A day of firsts

    A day of firsts

    Do you remember your first homework assignment? Was it in the first grade? I’m trying to think back and cannot remember what was the first thing I brought home to do. I’m guessing some alphabet practice. That’s roughly where we are at with my eldest son. His first assignment was to practice writing the letter “い” a few times. Dutifully tracing an initial couple of examples and then filling in the remaining boxes on his own. So begins a long process of repetition to get one’s head wrapped around the hiragana character set and then a set of 80 simple kanji. The daily drill will be critical to master the […]

  • A new hope

    A new hope

    I’ve been second-guessing my approach to getting my kids comfortable with English for some time. They are growing up in Japan with Japanese daycare, Japanese-speaking friends, and a Japanese mother. The real kicker, they known I know Japanese as well. So where’s the motivation for them to speak in English? Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope. Enter Star Wars stage left and it’s like we’ve just hit the jump to lightspeed. I put episode 4 on the TV several weeks ago in a spur-of-the-moment decision and everything has snowballed since then. My eldest is now peppering me with questions around Darth Vadar’s extended family tree and the differences between a […]

  • Repackaged


    Pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, paper cups, construction paper. All staples of the American arts and crafts scene when I was growing up. In our daycare in Japan, the kids have a very different set of supplies. Packaging is an art in Japan. From paper to plastic, how something is wrapped in Japan carries a certain gravity. The simple act of unwrapping something from a Japanese department store or a gift from a neighbor feels like a whole experience and sets the tone for the item within, even if you are getting another necktie or some dried squid. This leaves a lot of empty boxes and containers in Japan that make […]

  • Safety city

    Safety city

    We called it safety city at my elementary school growing up. A grid of lines in the elementary school parking lot would undergo a metamorphosis at summer’s end. The police department would set up a fake town with tiny stop signs, buildings, and other miniaturized town stuff. On our bikes or big wheels, we’d inch along those painted lines now as glamorous and captivating as a 5th avenue or Broadway to our 4-year-old mind. Abiding by all traffic laws, of course. It was a rite of passage in those early years. Many townsfolk will get a nostalgic look in their eye if you mention safety city to them to this […]

  • Two Weeks In

    Two Weeks In

    I just started reading The Martian by Andy Weir and the journal entries are always count the sols. 5 sols, 23 sols, 100 sols since the protagonist lands on Mars. When I wrapped up work a coworker sent me the exact years, weeks, and days until I’m expected back on April 1st, 2022. From Mar 1st ’21 to April 1st ’22, that ends up being 396 days. So here I am at 12 sols into the full-time parenting thing. That’s a whole lot of numbers and I’m sounding very much like the grown-up that the little prince had some critical words for, Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about […]

  • Buying beer

    Buying beer

    “Let me get the beer!” says my 4 year old. Not sure if I’m doing this dad thing right. When we visit the local grocery store, there is a modest selection of beers that I’ve plundering more frequently over the past couple of years. My kids will often be with me when shopping and it has now become a routine where they b-line it straight to the cold brews as soon as we come in the door. It’s the first section you come across when you enter the store. On one hand, it gives me pause, guilt(?), that the first thing they do when flying through the sliding doors is […]

  • Odd man out

    Odd man out

    Sitting in one of my last phone calls at work last night, I looked around the participant list and saw I was the only man. Looking forward to the next year, it won’t be so different. Or will it? I have a hunch that the all-virtual environment of work gives us a wonderful anonymity where our emails, tone of voice, and use of emoji’s shapes us much more than our gender. It gives me great hope for the year ahead, in that I’m moving from one industry to another where I’ll be the minority once again. Perhaps the shift won’t be as big as I thought. The topics of conversation […]

  • Bystander and origins of boujin

    The online handle name I’ve gone with for some time is boujin. I started using it back in college many eons ago and have stuck with it. I can’t say that I ever had a an extreme interest in Japanese culture or language, but my wife and I were dating back in college and I started thumbing through the Japanese language dictionary. Remember those? I gravitated towards the word boujin as it encapsulated a feeling at the time that I was a bit of an bystander. In the dictionary you’ll see a couple of meanings for boujin depending on the kanji. You either get bystander (傍人) or dust filter (防塵). […]

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