Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Touch of Kawaii... and Separation Blues

Just to re-cap for those who may come across this blog for the first time... first off, Happy New Year. Second of all - here's a quick re-cap. This blog really is just a series of memories of our family's trips to Japan, focusing on Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido. The last trip I just finished writing about actually took place in 2008... and was my fifth trip to Japan with my wife T-chan. It was also the first trip with our 1 year old son, L-kun (no... this isn't their real names).

This trip was very different from others before it... as it was almost entirely centred on us spending time with T-chan's family, and them spending time with L-kun. As I mentioned in the last post... our family thing is that T-chan will often stay longer in Sapporo whilst I return to Adelaide, Australia (our every-other-day-home). This trip was no exception. I left T-chan and L-kun in Sapporo.... feeling rather weird to be saying bye-bye to my son for almost 2 months....
Saying good-bye to my just-turned-1-yo-son in New Chitose Airport, Hokkaido

One of the things that is a tradition in Japan these days is the custom of taking your child down to get photographed... especially on big occasions like 100days, 1, 3, 5 and 7 years etc etc (basically just enough to ensure a comfortable existence for studio photographers in Japan). T-chan followed through with this age-old (well, it's actually a recent thing) tradition... and before you know it, L-kun was being whisked into and out of costumes faster than you could say "bum-fluff". It took a couple of hours all up, and cost... well... cost enough.

T-chan (and her family) went the traditional look... ok - apart from the bear (kuma) look above.

Nothing like having a photography festival... and at that age, just about anything looks super cute... or kawaii in Japanese.

Having said that, I'm not entirely sure that L-kun was as cooperative as the photos make out. From all accounts, he decided that he got photographed enough from his parents (thank you very much Mum and Dad) and took a lot of coaxing.

The Japanese (huge generalisation here) love cute. They live, eat and breath cute. And that's not just the girls either (though the men have to be a little more discreet about it... and will get their fix vicariously through their partners). It's a little strange sometimes to see grown-adults go soft-at-the-knees at something cute. I wonder if this isn't a case of finding a little slice of "kawaii-paradise"... an escapism into a cuter, more innocent world that doesn't have the same pressures and expectations placed upon it. Children photos are the perfect opportunity for parents to live out their wildest kawaii-fantasies....

For me, a very practical minded Australian male... well... sitting all the way back here in Australia.... well... I guess, I don't mind a little cute too... ... but of course, I have my limits too.

Then again... L-kun was not exactly neglecting a broader education either... and had actually taken up sitting with obaachan (Japanese grandma) to perform her morning prayers to her family ancestors. I guess he just liked spending time with obaachan, but it was nice to see him having some quiet time nonetheless.

I hope that Daddy was in his thoughts during these moments of quiet.

But all of the time he was just being good ol' L-kun. And I would be surviving on crappy wireless broadband (and I mean CRAPPY...) that barely could do any video skyping.... that and a steady stream of digital photos (thanks Picasa... you saved the day) to remind me of all those moments that I was missing. 

I guess it sounds like I was a bit sad about the whole thing. And in truth I was a little. I suppose you don't realise until you're apart just how much you need both partners and children. Part of me actually enjoyed the peace and quiet of not having a 1 yo around the house... but it was a very small part of me. Most of me was feeling at a loss. Nearly 2 months out of 14 months of his life we were separated...

And nothing made me feel it as much as when we finally were re-united at Adelaide Airport, and L-kun was visibly nervous (partly because of the whole air-travel, arriving at a new airport thing, but mostly at the sudden disorientation of seeing Daddy again). 
Re-united at Adelaide Airport - about 7 weeks later

It took a whole 10 minutes (in the car on the way home) before he suddenly smiled at me, and my heart finally relaxed, and I knew everything would be alright. Having a family that travels wide and far can be a very, very difficult thing... it brings me almost 100% joy, but also occasional moments of sheer heart-ache. I guess in this modern, complex world, most of us have something complicated about our families...whether it's geography, religion, wealth, sexuality, language, health problems, family difficulties, separations/divorces or just plain old finding-quality-time to spend with family as well as do work.

In this New Year, I guess I tip my metaphorical hat to all families out there - especially with lots of children - and I wish that you find your own little spot of kawaii-paradise in 2011.

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