New Year’s lasts one night of drinks and one day of college football in the US, but in Japan the holidays lasts for three days. Actually, for many the New Year’s holidays start on December 29th, giving the typical worker a six-day holiday. In fact, for many this is the only extended holiday of any kind.

For my family, the holiday meant starting with a year-end “o-souji” 大掃除 — basically a “spring cleaning,” but in the coldest time of year. Seems odd from an American perspective, but in a way it makes sense. Especially in central Japan, where the high humidity and lack of central heating leads to mold everywhere (particularly concentrated in rooms on the north side of the house), ending the year with a good scrub is essential for surviving the rest of the winter with catching a major illness. Also, since traditionally no cleaning or cooking is done during the New Year’s Three Days, there’s a lot of food preparation to do on the 30th and 31st of December.

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Posted in eating, entertainment, family outings, festivals, food, hobbies, Japan, Japanese, Japanese culture, parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking Leave: 2015 in review

Hello, readers!

It’s almost 2016, so I thought I’d take a look back at this year on my blog about childcare leave, parents and children, and related social issues.

I haven’t blogged this past year as much as previous years, with most of my attention in the early part of the year centered on Amazon Japan’s persistent refusal to remove blatant child abuse images and materials from their sales. We may have to try for a follow-up in a couple of months, to see if things have improved (sneak preview: not likely).

In February and March I was focused on publishing and promoting my first novel, Approaching Twi-Night (see my blog at http://mthomasapple.com for more details!). And from April through the summer I was working…

…and finishing off the long-awaited book version of Taking Leave, which finally debuted this past November.

Anyways, I took advantage of a nifty feature of WordPress that prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog. Check it out below if you’d like.

Thanks for reading in 2015, and see you in the New Year!

Here’s an excerpt from the stats report for 2015:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in book, book signing, child abuse, child safety, Japan, Japanese, Japanese society, parenting, Paternity leave, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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Summer Festival: Beat your own drum!

Four months ago, we gave away our long-used/abused baby barriers. Yesterday, we helped our children celebrate their nursery school’s summer festival. Time flies…


Once again, my wife volunteered to be a member of the Ai-go-kai (愛護会, literally “love protection association,” but basically the PTA…without the T). So she had lots of meetings on random Saturdays leading up to the festival itself. Of course the teachers are there—they help organize the opening and closing performances, and even have their own dance routine and/or cosplay of a folk tale or movie scene (this year they did Peter Pan, complete with flying fairies and Captain Hook with a gigantic metal hook). But the parents are in charge.

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Posted in education, festivals, Japan, Japanese culture, Japanese society, parenting, school, summertime | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The barriers go down…with the past…

IMG_3541As I recently posted on my Facebook page, we took down our “baby gate” this past weekend. We also finally stacked up our “baby barricade” and prepared to donate everything to a nearby city-run child-parent center. It’s the end of an era for our family. Continue reading

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More updates on Amazon Japan’s child porn and abuse images

I previously posted in October about the child abuse images and pornographic materials being openly sold on Amazon (also on Rakuten and Tsutaya). An online protest was started shortly thereafter, and Amazon Japan responded by (partly) removing the most offensive items. But they didn’t go far enough, didn’t explain anything or apologize to the public for posting the items and breaking the law, and in essence tried to ignore the situation or pretend it never happened. To no avail. In January, the police raided Amazon offices in Tokyo, and revealed that they had in fact already been looking into the situation for several months (perhaps, we like to think, partly encouraged or jump-started by the fuss we raised through various online media sources).

Now it appears that they have begun “investigating” two suspects in connection with the case. Continue reading

Posted in child abuse, child safety, international hub, Japan, Japanese, Japanese law, Japanese society | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“International” kindergarten open day

Today we went to “open day” at a nearby “international kindergarten,” where our oldest daughter has gone for two years to Saturday classes. The previous week, our youngest daughter joined the four-hour class for the first time, but we were not allowed to watch. There were about a dozen kids ranging in age from 3 to 6, but they all seemed to enjoy singing in English, playing English card games, and responding to simple questions like “What’s your name?” and “How old are you?”

When talking about this kind of program, I always put “international” in quotation marks, because the term is still sort of a marketing catch-phrase in Japan. Continue reading

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