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Friday, November 18, 2016

A Glimpse At Japanese Dads & Myself

Write what you know, they always say... or b.s.'em. This is the former.

In my three years in Japan, I can honestly say I saw maybe three instances of Japanese dad's taking a keen interest in the kids.

Once I saw the mom and dad helping their son learn how to ride a bicycle. Beautiful.

I saw a dad late after school  - 9PM - at the school track teaching his son how to be a better runner. I was out there every night jogging... starting at 1600 meters (4 laps) and then adding one lap every single stinking night after that until I got to 10 kilometers. That kid and his dad were there every night, too. Beautiful.

One of my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education - Kanemaru-san, would take both myself and my girlfriend Ashley out with him, his wife and eight-year-old son on near-weekly excursions around Tochigi-ken.

Granted that was usually a Sunday because he worked six days a week, but the fact remains he did it. I love him for including me with his family time. Beautiful.

Obviously not all Japanese dad's are absentee dads... many, I am sure take a keen interest in their kids.

I didn't mean to imply they didn't when I wrote yesterday's blog about Japanese dads not taking advantage of the 52 weeks of paternal leave offered them when a newborn arrives.

I do stand by my statement that men - and Japanese men - are pretty useless when it comes to needing to be around during those initial weeks of a newborn's life.

I can recall how when I arrived in Japan as a 25-year-old who had never lived on his own before.

New country, new language, new social customs.... combine that with not knowing how to cook, shop, do laundry and pretty much damn near everything else... well... I was a mess waiting to become a bigger mess.

Upon arrival at my fantastically large 3-bedroom apartment with two balconies et al... the men of my office gave me the tour of my home for the next , as it turned out, three years.

They showed me all of the cooking implements... and then as we all looked at everything quizzically, they promised to bring over some of the women from the Board of Education office to teach me how to use them.

They came over the next day... and told me how to use such things as the washing machine... the stove, the rice cooker and much much more.

Unfortunately, not one of the women spoke English, and the men were lounging around in my living room not caring to learn what the women were doing, so I had no one to translate what they were saying into English.

I bought a lot of prepared meals in Japan, as well as fast-food. It's why I took up jogging 10 kilometers a night to get the newfound fat off.

Through osmosis, I suppose, I did have an inkling about how to make chili con carne... something my mother would make for us once every couple of months back in Toronto. Somehow, my brain seemed to have been able to take in how she made it in the kitchen, despite me sitting at the dining table pretending to do homework.

I never wanted to learn how to do anything when I was younger. Lazy bugger. Ignorant, even. I kick myself now at all of the lost opportunities.

My dad... my dad was one of those early computer gurus in the late 1960s/70s... and as such, he was very much in demand... and worked a lot of late nights...

But, to say he wasn't around would be misleading. He refereed a lot of soccer games... usually not my own, to avoid favoritism. He told me that when I was eight-years-old, and I accepted it as the truth. Being a ref is tough enough without having to make calls on your own borderline-dirty kid.

But... my dad was closer to being a Japanese dad... working hard and late... and as such, I never wanted for anything.

Good right? No. I think I would have rather have had my dad around.

It's why I am around for my son. Coaching soccer, baseball and hockey... I don't go out with friends... I'm around, because to me... it seems like the right thing to do. And being an older dad... who knows how long he'll have me around, right?

Still... for most Japanese dads, taking part in the family and in the life of their kids is often relegated to a single day a week. It's why I hope they don't regret it... or cause their kids to regret it.

They probably won't, though... because almost every family in Japan is like that.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Ugh... two hours to drive home last night. The wife's car broke down on the highway, so four hours for her. Then we had a parent-teacher school meeting... where they were running late... but had a good time there for 20 minutes longer than scheduled. I was supposed to have set the time on this blog for midnight... but... forgot... Sorry. 


  1. Oh good ... you published. For a moment I thought I would have to figure out a way to avenge ... whatever happened to you ... hee, hee! ;-)

    All the time you spend with your son is worth every minute ... even if he tells you otherwise as a rebellious teenager ...

    1. Ha! I knew you would try and avenge me! Thanks!
      It's already getting to that point where he would rather do stuff with friends - which is good. But... yes... I know it's worth it... even after I'm long-gone. I'm just hoping to pay it forward the best one can. That's all you can do, FFF. That's all you can do.

  2. I could never chose work over time with family. Not because it's the right thing to do but it's more cause I'm lazy.

    1. I here ya... but if you were raised in a society where you had to do what everyone else did, you would have done it like the Japanese do. It's not right or wrong, it's just the only way you learn how to be.
      The foreigners in Japan messed that up for Japan... plus the influx of westernized viewing available... you can see that that there are other ways to do the same thing... and sometimes, the Japanese themselves question "why" they do things they way they do things... it's how societies have always progressed or fallen.