Friday, January 13, 2012

Summer Reflective Thinking and Not-So-Reflective Playing

15th August, 2010 - No... it wasn't the revenge of the killer whales; instead it was one of the great little pools in one of the many good childrens parks in Sapporo. And what better place to spend your summer afternoon (a hot, muggy afternoon at that) than to go splashing in the pool? This wasn't the first time we'd visited here. The park is known as Noushi-Kouen (check the link for a map), and L-kun, T-chan and her parents had visited in 2009. Of course L-kun remembered it very well.

Actually, we were here to meet up with some of T-chan's web-friends (from her blogging days) who lived in Sapporo. Let's just call them G-man (the Aussie) and S-chan (Japanese), with their son S-kun. Actually, it turns out that they were quite good pals of some of our Adelaide Aussie/Japanese couple friends whom had stayed temporarily in Sapporo a few years ago. Talk about a small world! And of course for L-kun and S-kun, none of that mattered. It was just a good excuse to go for a run in the pool.

And lets face it - when you're 3 years old (as L-kun was at this stage), pools are wonderous things.Water... so much water. And you can run around in it without a care in the world. Freedom to do what you want. Free, that is, to stick your head in the pool. Coz that's just the sort of thing that you have to do... though I'm not exactly sure why. In fact, I'm not sure that L-kun knew what he was doing at this point either. Water can be so attractive. Ah, for a child's perspective....

It was interesting to meet this family - for the first time. I have to admit that I'm always envious of people that have had a chance to live in Japan for an extended period (of course, S-chan was a native girl from Sapporo, so she was much more excited about Australia). The longest single stay I've had in Japan was about 2 months. I know it must be a very different experience visiting a city/country with your partner, than living there. And whilst I've spent a good amount of time in Sapporo, I can't claim to really know the city. But it's also a strange environment in Japan for foreigners - especially for mixed families (and mixed, or hafu, children). It sounds like it's a largely un-real experience, which doesn't quite follow the same rules as you would normally expect. And it can be a pretty care-free whirlwind experience indeed. And by the sound of it, after 10 years, it can be very hard to consider leaving. Imagine trying to re-build a normal life after a decade of being abroad without necessarily being able to directly use any of that employment history. It's a hard call - and it sounds like many gaijin in Japan struggle with the both the uncertainty and practicality - and possibly even fear - of returning to the everyday existence in their homelands...

The biggest impediment for us to move to Japan is my career... it's hard to consider putting a career (which you've spent a long time training for) on hold for 12 months - let alone 10 years. Yet, it's a sacrifice my wife made in coming to Australia (and more so, as she left behind her family). International marriages are often built upon such tough choices - where there is more times than not, no one right decision. We each of us have to muddle our way through, not only trying to pick the right course for ourselves, but also for our children. As a I write this, we are expecting our second child in about 5 weeks. More difficult choices are coming our way... but also many more exciting and amazing times. Home, after all, is not just where you hang your hat, but also where you raise a family. Wherever that is... and sometimes, that can be in more than one place....


  1. Hey Ben,

    just stumbled across your blog and nice to see another Aussie who loves Sapporo. My wife's from Teine and we take the kids back every year as well for a visit. Headed off in a couple of weeks again and putting our eldest into Japanese school. I'm a photographer and spend a bit of time working on assignment up there as well. I look forward to reading your latest instalments!

    Paul Dymond

    1. Hi Paul - sorry for the late reply (but what with work and a 3month old, it's been a bit difficult in recent months to get back into writing). Great to hear another Aussie familiar with Sapporo... and Teine's almost a neighbour!

      The schooling idea is something we've talked about... but not seriously yet. It has many advantages, but also so obvious difficulties. Would love to keep track of how things go. (not sure if this is the sort of thing you put on your blog or not).

      Anyhow, I hope to get back into blogging sooner rather than later. Timing is everything!... but thanks for your feedback (and good luck with your upcoming trip).