Taking Leave: the Book!


Published through Perceptia Press (Nagoya), Taking Leave: An American on Paternity Leave in Japan is currently available through englishbooks.jp in paperback/soft cover format (retail price: 1500 yen plus tax).

I’d love to say the book is available through Amazon; however, it appears that because my publisher is a Japanese publisher, the book distribution laws currently state that publishers can use only one distributor at a time. Meaning that as long as the existing contract is with englishbooks.jp, Taking Leave cannot be sold through Amazon.

This seems a bit weird to me and I’m sure there must be a miscommunication somewhere between the publisher’s and the distributor’s interpretation of Japanese distribution laws.

At any rate, englishbooks.jp does ship worldwide via EMS (Japan Post), so please check out their website if you are interested.

There’s also nifty online preview of the first six pages. Enjoy!

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“Japan should rethink gender roles”? Yeah, no kidding

On December 5th, I gave an invited lecture-slash-workshop at a university in Gifu, where conservative values reign and men and women think they can run the families like it’s 1899.

The very same I made the trek up there, an article came out in Japan Today, a popular online-only English news company based in Tokyo.

Of course, like most “news” companies these days, they tend to stea…I mean, “borrow,” from other news sources.

They also delete their content after a few weeks to save server space, so I tracked down the original article on Sora News.


Here’s a choice quote:

a panel of experts has just released its newest bath of suggestions, including one that exhausted wives and live-in-girlfriends would no doubt be happy to see become reality: men doing more housework and spending more time taking care of children.

This is in response to over 30-year decline in child birth rates in Japan.

Funny thing is, I already wrote about this very issue 8 years before the “expert panel” suggested that men try helping out with house chores.

What took these “experts” so long to catch up to the 1980s?

The kicker is, the article is headlined by a goofy image of a Japan business man wearing an apron, rubber cleaning gloves, and a feather duster (pictured above).

As if to say, “hey, guys, cleaning around the house is a girly job and only effete, feminine guys do this, you pansy.”

Way to undercut the entire article about gender roles. There’s nothing “feminine” or funny about cleaning. It’s a damn dirty job, and all family members should do it. I’ve been a professional cleaner. And a dish washer. And a cook. And a day care center worker. It’s work. It’s hard work.

And here’s another thing. It’s perfectly all right for all the top-level chefs on TV to be men…because they’re cooking for other people, I guess. But cook for your own family?

Run a hotel and clean guests’ clothing? Sure. Clean your own kids’ clothing? When I suggested that the men in the Gifu university do their own laundry, horrified and/or sullen expressions followed.

Suck it up, guys. There’s no such thing as “men’s” jobs and “women’s” jobs. Just jobs. And your own damn family.

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Ten Years of Taking Leave

Looking back, it’s amazing to me now that I dared to even apply for a year of paternity leave while living in a foreign country.

But I’ve never regretted the decision. As I told an audience of university students and teachers at an invited “culture and identity” lecture today in Gifu, it made me a better father, a better husband, and a better person.

And it started here, on this blog, ten years ago today.

Here’s looking to ten more years!

Posted in book, day care, education, gender roles, Japan, Japanese, Japanese culture, Japanese society, parenting, Paternity leave, school | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Year Wall (Part 2) – The (not-so voluntary) parent-teacher conference

jugyo sanken

In mid-April, I went to a parent-teacher conference. Actually, it was more like an enforced PTA committee, which one parent per kid had to attend. As a group. We sat at our kids’ desks (tiny!) and introduced ourselves.

This was after we watched our kids introduce themselves in front of their classmates (1stgraders) and learn how to use a Japanese dictionary (3rdgraders). But more on that later… Continue reading

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The First Year Wall (Part 1) – Gakudo and the Kid

IMG_0729.jpgThree weeks ago, our youngest daughter went to nursery school for the last time.

The following Monday, she started gakudo (学童, short for 学童教育 gakudokyouiku, which is usually translated as “after school program”). Since both my wife and I work full time, we were anxious about finding a safe place for our daughters after the elementary school day ends. This is part of the “first year wall” (小1の壁, shouichi no kabe) that is a huge obstacle for working parents to overcome. Continue reading

Posted in child safety, coming of age, education, Japan, Japanese, Japanese society, parenting, school | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

End of an Era: Goodbye, Nursery School

And so it begins. The end of the start of the rest of my children’s childhood.

By which I mean our youngest daughter graduated from nursery school / kindergarten.

Thinking back, we’ve been coming to our local nursery school every weekday (and many weekends) since April 2011. I still remember how thrilled and relieved we were to get the acceptance notice in the mail for our oldest, having been rejected the previous year. Continue reading

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Death of a Cherry Tree

This past Monday, city workers came to cut down a cherry tree near our house. It had been there for years.

We found out later that a neighbor had complained that leaves falling in her backyard were a nuisance to clean. The fact that local children (and adults alike) treasured the cherry blossoms each spring seemed to escape her.

And cherry blossom viewing season is just around the corner. What a shame. A waste.

More’s the shame, I only have two pictures of the tree in full bloom.

Fleeting moments, lost in time and memory.

My children wrote a heartfelt letter to the tree, and I taped it as best I could to the stump:

“To the Cherry Tree,

For always showing your cherry blossoms to us until now, thank you.

We miss you, but we’ll never forget that this stump is the stump of a cherry tree.

If this stump ever grows, we want to see cherry blossoms again.”

Stories are made by fools like me…


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How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Dying?

Last weekend we all had a great time. Swimming and piano lessons Saturday afternoon followed by dinner out, then all day Sunday at an amusement park/facility with another family, ending with an early supper and kids’ TV show before bed.

So when my youngest daughter, age 5, suddenly asked me at the Monday morning breakfast table, “Daddy, will I die?” I struggled for a response. What can a parent say to that? Continue reading

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