What, a whole week? Yes, cue the conversation about how we get (and use) great holidays in Australia, whereas virtually no one would consider even asking for (let alone expecting) a whole week off work in Japan. Insert collective sigh of disbelief and game show buzzers!
But I digress. And for all the little differences, being back in Tokushima for a week was very familiar. There was dancing, rafting, sushi and shopping. We managed to catch up with just about everyone and generally have a good time, all in the midst of a beautiful cherry blossom season. The last time I'd done some hanami, Michael was touring Japan with me before I joined Happy Raft.
We'd have saved the journey for August and dancing season, but we're expecting to be a little busy this northern summer. You see, my beautiful wife is quite pregnant now. She's carried it very smoothly through the tropical summer and we're expecting to welcome a baby boy into the world in July. That's right, folks, I'm going to be a daddy!
Are we sure it's a boy? Pretty sure, so far as these things go, but you never know. In fact, I guess we were more sure before we went to Japan. The ultrasound in February seemed to be quite definitive. Last week we visited a temple in Tokushima to receive a blessing for a safe delivery. The timing was important - Masumi tells me that dogs are believed to have a positive influence over pregnancy and birth, and so the position of the dog in the Chinese astrological calendar influences which day people like to receive this blessing. Anyway, some of the paraphernalia that we get as part of that blessing is supposed to indicate the sex of the child, and apparently it's predicting a girl! Stay tuned to see whether technology or tradition will triumph!
What are we going to name him? We've got a list of candidate names that we'll take with us on the big day. They're separated into English and Japanese names. We're leaning towards a Japanese first name and English middle name. Having a long, double-barrelled surname like mine complicates things a little, as does the issue of pronouncing the names properly on both sides of the equator. Some candidates at the moment are Kousuke, Makoto, Ryou, Simon and Benjamin. Suffice to say that we'll have a reserve list of girl's names, just in case!
And just for the record, we're having the baby here in Cairns. Which is a great excuse for Masumi's mum to visit in July to help out. We'll miss the dancing in August, but we're already looking ahead to the next Obon season, where we'll be able to give our little boy his first taste of Awa Odori!
The joy in the Cooper household isn't confined to Cairns this year. As you can see from two photos on this page, we already have two new additions to the extended family. Masumi's eldest brother and his wife welcomed their third child and first daughter Aoi into the world in early March. I got some good practice in with her! Not far behind was my own brother Michael and his wife Lisa, with the first little Cooper of that generation, their baby girl Madison Rose. So cute! It's possible that our son could go to school in Australia with Madison, and maybe then in Japan with Aoi. Little ways to go before that comes about, of course! Suffice it to say that Mum and Dad are pretty happy to be made grandparents twice over in 4 months, and we're all full of the joys of growing families!
I'm still with quarantine, though I don't open bags at the moment, I'm doing some database work instead. I still play and coach chess. My kayak lies largely dormant... I might get a new paddle to encourage myself to get back out there. But the baby is the story of the year. Other than news of impending parenthood, there's really not much else to report from paradise. By the time I next get to writing, all the rest may well have changed, and I'm sure nothing will ever be the same again!
Lots of love,