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