Saturday, 23 December 2017

With boots on

So I'm on a plane to Australia's capital of country music, Tamworth.  For work, not guitars, I'm afraid.  Cracking view of Sydney Harbour as we take off.  I remember Tamworth for many summer days spent with cousins, riding around the property on a tiny motorbike that felt pretty big at the time, playing backyard cricket with a taped up tennis ball, getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Some of Mum's relatives are still around town these days.  It's always nice to go back.

Masumi and the kids are in Tokushima.  Work is why I'm not there with them, and I miss them, though I have to admit I don't miss the bitter Shikoku winter.  Separated by 60 degrees of latitude, 40 degrees of temperature, and 9 hours of flying time, we're spending Christmas and the New Year apart for the first time since we got married.  Which is... over 9 years now!  How time and the world march on.  It hasn't been 9 years since I last blogged, but it feels like that long.  I know I shouldn't leave it to Christmas to make the effort, but sure enough, it's that time of year again already.  And I digress.

There's a 70th birthday in Tokushima, which is young by the standards of Masumi's grandmothers - yes both, both still with us - and not as auspicious as 77, but still cause for celebration.  And although the school year has wound up in Australia, our two eldest children are off to school in Japan, soaking up the language and culture and all that right up to Christmas.  All three kids are happy and healthy and loving it as far as I can tell over Skype.  When she's not thinking about the cold, I'm pretty sure Masumi's enjoying the catching up and the food, too.

Although I miss them all terribly, to be honest, I've been so busy travelling for work and playing the drums that, even if they were here in Oz, I probably wouldn't have seen much of my family these past few weeks anyway.  A slightly nostalgic day trip to Rockhampton, where we lived for a few years when I was very young.  Couple of trips to Sydney and Canberra, always good for building relationships in a business where relationships are sometimes an afterthought.  Taiko gigs in Brisbane and Byron.  Sunday drinks with old mates from school.  And we're gearing up for performances at the Woodford Folk Festival just after Christmas, so lots of rehearsals with the drum team right through this month.  I've never been to Woodford, but I've heard lots about it.  I'm taking gum boots and expecting to come back a changed man!


There's been lots of taiko, but not a lot of dancing.  I hope 2018 will change that.  In fact I'm sure it will.  I can't say too much, but if you're watching the ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games in April, look out for my shiny head somewhere in the crowd of volunteer performers.  We haven't given up on Awa Odori on the Gold Coast, by the way, though we're not getting any younger.  We just need somewhere decent to practice and get people together on a regular basis.  There's a couple of things in the works that may help on that front this year, too.

What else is there to say?  2017 has been another year filled with the joy and angst of raising our three darling children, the frustrations of commuting up and down the M1, catch-ups with old friends, and occasional wonderings about whether we'll ever move back to Japan.  It was punctuated in June by a couple of fascinating work trips to Christmas Island and Norfolk Island.  My job has taken me to corners of this beautiful country that I never imagined I could possibly visit.  Still so much to see, but I'm very grateful, for this and all the little blessings of my life.


And I think that says it all for me at the moment.  Masumi and I have our kids, family close by, good friends, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and each other.   We'll be reunited soon enough.  Plenty to be grateful for this Christmas.  And now that I own a pair of gum boots, I reckon I'm ready for whatever 2018 throws at us.  See you there.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


At this time last year, we sent out our Christmas wishes from Cairns – the tropical town we called home for about 7 years, where all 3 of our beautiful kids were born, and where we built our first house.

12 months later, we’re writing from our new home, the Gold Coast – the city where I grew up, where my side of the family still lives, and where we are nearly finished building our second house.

2014 has been a huge year. I look back on it in wonder at how our lives have changed. Having taken a bit of a leap of faith in leaving Cairns, I’m grateful that everything seems to be working out.

We’ve been on the Gold Coast for 8 months now, staying with my parents while we’ve waited for the build. We’ve squeezed 4 adults and 3 munchkins into a house that had never previously supported more than 4 people at a time, but we’re all still talking to each other. I can’t thank my Mum and Dad enough for their hospitality. And we think it’s great that the grandkids have had such good quality time with their grandparents. After all, family is one of the big reasons we moved down here.

Our new house is at Coomera. If you’ve ever been to the Gold Coast, you would know where Dreamworld and Movie World are located. It’s not far from there. I reckon we’ll be moved in by the end of January.

It’s a little bigger than our previous digs in Cairns. And we love visitors. So if you’re coming to the Gold Coast, or if you just need our new contact details, let us know.

A very merry Christmas, love and all the best for 2015 to you and yours, from all of us!









Saturday, 20 September 2014

Wet Wet Wet

I finished my last post, more than 10 months ago now, saying something speculative about it raining and pouring.  The downpour kicked off with the birth of our little boy, who hasn't stopped growing since he had his first feed.  But he was just the herald of a wet season.  It seems like it hasn't stopped raining since!

Ren was born in September.  I got a sniff of a new job in October.  Applied for it in November, won it in December, started it in Cairns in January.  Sold our Cairns house in February, promptly bought a block of land on the Gold Coast, put the wife and kids on a plane to Japan, and moved myself and our stuff to the Coast in March.

Got used to the new work environment through April.  Started negotiating with a builder.  Took a couple of weeks off in Japan myself over Easter and Golden Week, then we all came back together to move in with Mum and Dad in May.

Found child care for the kids.  Signed a contract on the house build in June.  Masumi went back to TAFE and construction started at the block in July.  Three trips to Canberra for work during August.  Now here we are in September - Spring is springing fantastically, Mum and Dad have just headed off for a long holiday in Mother Blighty, we've got the house to ourselves, and our not-so-little boy is crawling as he approaches his first birthday.  All of our kids are doing well.  It's a beautiful sort of mayhem for our family.

But I should elaborate.

First - the new job.  I'm still with the same department.  With the change of federal government last year, we got a new name, but it's the same business.  My old position was a pseudo IT and project management role supporting biosecurity operations in far northern Australia.  Now I've jumped into corporate IT, providing IT support and services to all of our staff and programs in the Brisbane area.  It's been a good shift - I'm learning new things, working across a broader cross-section of the department's business, and getting opportunities to do interesting work.  The only killer is the commute to Brisbane, but once we have our own house, the commute will be shorter and I hope to work from home more regularly.  See how we go.

Of course, it's also been good to move closer to my family.  After 5 years in Japan and 7 years in Cairns, I was looking for an opportunity to be closer to my parents, closer to my brother, too, and it makes a lot of sense for us to move before the kids start school.  Really looking forward to the Commonwealth Games here in 2018.  Japan was great, so was Cairns, and I miss them both, but it really feels like the right time to be on the Gold Coast.

Second - selling the house in Cairns.  We tiled the patio, did a couple of touch ups and spoke to a local real estate agent in November, just in case we had to move quickly.  When the confirmation of the new job in Brisbane finally came through in January, we pulled the trigger and put the house on the market.  We got lucky with our timing.  A shortage of houses on the market in that part of town, in our price range, led to a quick sale.  Within 3 days of placing ads on the web, we had a signed contract.  The agent hadn't even put a sign up on the street!

Third - moving house.  Masumi and the kids went to Japan - we missed each other, but this proved to be a great idea.  I didn't have to pack everything on my own.  A few work mates came over for a packing party, that part was sensational.  Problems only started when I was ready to go, I'd locked things in with the backloading company and taken leave on the day the contracting removalist was due to turn up... and they were a no show.  Dramas ensued.  In short, the backloading company shafted me and I had to get another reputable local removalist in at the last minute.  It worked out in the end.  Just.  I reckon everyone who has ever had to deal with removalists has at least one bad story to tell.  Now I do, too, but at least I'm wiser for it.  Next time, if I ever have to have a next time, I'll be dealing directly with whoever is handling my stuff.

Fourth - the new house.  As soon as I knew we were moving to South East Queensland, I jumped on a plane and went house-hunting.  Coomera, the suburb around Dreamworld, used to be the boonies, nothing but forested hills and rural properties.  Now it's the Gold Coast's next booming centre of development, with houses everywhere, a train station, all the schools and shops you could ever need, and a major shopping centre and Commonwealth Games infrastructure about to start construction.  I originally intended to just buy an existing house, but the few I looked at were nothing special and the other inspections I'd lined up just fell through.  The only thing that jumped out at me was a good block of land, in a nice pocket of a new development in Coomera, near a good school.  I was introduced to a builder who seemed to have the goods.  It was hard to believe that I was going to build another house, only two years after building our first, but it just seemed like it was meant to be.

The only problem, of course, was that we would need somewhere else to stay until it was built.  Mum and Dad came to the party.  It's a tight squeeze, four adults and three kids in a three-bedroom house, but now that the house is going up and we can see steady progress, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  And in many ways, for all the minor hassles of living under one roof, it's been great to see my parents and our kids enjoying so much time together.

Now that we're settled into life on the Gold Coast, I'm catching up with old acquaintances from school and uni.  I'm getting back into taiko drumming.  I joined the local team Kizuna and got on stage for the first time just last Sunday.  Some of the people I've met through the drumming scene have also been keen to learn Awa Odori dancing, so we've started a small group that meets regularly to practice.  Maybe by this time next year we'll be ready to perform.

And maybe I'll pick up my act and get more blog posts in by that time, too?  That all depends on whether it stops raining or not. :)

Until then,


Thursday, 31 October 2013


Our first two pregnancies were smooth sailing.  Number three was not.

Constant bleeding in the first half of the journey.  Regular hospital visits.  Categorised as "high risk".  Cancelled travel plans.  Gestational diabetes in the third trimester.  Further "high risk" sort of treatment, leading to an early induction of labour.  And a new sort of experience in the birthing suite, in terms of how it all went down.  Not least because we didn't know whether we were having a boy or a girl.

But I guess it's all relative, and now, with our newest addition to the family safely in the world, it all seems well and truly in the past.  For all our worries - and who doesn't worry about all the things that could go wrong along the way? - it turned out that my wife is a champion, the staff of Cairns Base Hospital are excellent, and our son is a survivor.

And of course, it turned out that we had a boy.

We've named him Ren.  A solid Japanese boy's name, but easy enough for Australians to pronounce.  Like his older siblings, a short name, represented by a single calligraphic character.  There's a little nod to our Awa Odori dancing history - our dance groups back in Tokushima are called Tensui-REN and Uzuki-REN.  But the actual meaning of the character we've chosen is "lotus", as in the flower.  It also has connections to a major set of Buddhist teachings about the path to enlightenment called the Lotus Sutra.  I certainly feel a little closer to understanding the meaning of the universe after all this.

In the moment that he forced his way into the world and cried with his first breath, I felt great joy and relief and renewed faith in the meaning of our shared existence.  Ren didn't give up on his chance at life.  We didn't give up on him.  Now we are five, not such a little family any more, and God and Google as my witness, I will never give up on any of my family, ever.  Thank you, Ren, for this and everything to come.

Five weeks later, we're all doing great.  Ren is already graduating into big nappies, putting on the pounds just like his older brother and sister did.  Ryo and Aya seem to be pretty accepting of the new presence.  We couldn't have gotten through this first month without the wonderful help we've had from both grandmothers.  We're on our own now, it's going to be a little mayhem (for the next 20 years?!?!?), but we're hitting a good rhythm and it should be all good from here.

I'm back at work, of course, and there have been some interesting opportunities coming up recently.  Will have to wait for the new year to see how it all really pans out, but you know what they say about it raining and pouring...

Until the next update, love,


Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Hidemi, sweetheart… why?? :(

I guess I’ll never have an answer to that.

And really, I don’t want an answer. There’s no answer that would change the fact of it being sad and wrong. You’re gone. I would rather just have you back.

All I have left are some of my most beautiful memories of Iya and Japan, wrapped around images of a lovely girl who laughed in my English classroom. Who hid from me in the gym. Who skied down snowy slopes beside me. Who shared meals with me, even shared the same birthday with me. Whose brother and sister were also my students and whose injured father I visited in hospital to chat with in broken English. A lovely girl who I watched dancing an ancient rain dance on a mountain top one Shikoku summer’s day. A lovely girl who cared to remember me.

When I caught up with you and your mother and brother in Kochi last year, eight years since I’d last seen you in the valley, I met a young woman who was fulfilling all the promise I’d seen in little Hidemi. Hard working. Devoted to family. Genuine. Beautiful in every way.

Almost a year to the day since then, I hear the news (via Facebook, how else?) that you’ve died. That you took your own life. And by the time I know about it, your ashes are already at rest. Shock, denial and anger all came and went pretty quickly. Now there is just helplessness, regret, grief.

Listen to me, writing as if I was an important part of your life. Your family and friends in Japan, dozens of people I’m sure, have more cause for grief than I. But there’s something about you, Hidemi, something about the cherished memories you are a part of, maybe the meaningless fact of our shared birthday, the relationship of teacher and student, the time I spent with your family in Iya… I don’t know. Whatever it is, Hidemi, I care about you and I was expecting to see you live and learn and love and grow old, as all people should.

So here I am, writing to you as if your eternal self might notice, sharing my grief with the world, doing what I can for now by laying a digital monument to your beautiful soul.

Google, if you or your algorithms are reading, please take my inadequate words and commit them to your ageless record of the passing world. Maybe this will help to increase awareness of the sad tally of youth suicide in Japan (and everywhere). Maybe Hidemi’s story will save someone else’s life. I live in hope.

Hidemi, sweetheart… this one’s for you.


It’s early
But rest well now
We’ll meet again