September 1st

I received this email from Dad this morning:

“On this date, September 1, forty three years ago, you, Charles, and I U-hauled ass out of Silver Creek and never looked back. Good moves on the way out West. Never forget the slow climb over the Rockies. Cheers. Dad”

I’ve included an image of a similar 24-foot (7.3 meter) U-Haul truck that my Dad, younger brother, and I rode in during our 6-day drive across the United States from western New York to Northern California along Interstate 80, a distance of 2,527 miles (4,067 km). Much of our route…


Last month, my son entered his first year of high school in Japan. For those of you unfamiliar with the Japanese education system, Japan has 6 years of elementary school (required by the government), 3 years of junior high school (also required) and 3 years of high school (optional). A first year high school student is what in the United States is called a sophomore.

My son attends what is called a “free school”, which means that the school is free to choose its own curriculum outside of the prescribed Ministry of Education curriculum. Tuition, while far cheaper that what…


On March 29th, my wife got a phone call from her family in California: Her Tita (aunt) had passed away in her sleep. April 29th would have been her 88th birthday.

Death in the age of COVID is a strangely remote thing: We are not there to comfort the dying by their bedside. The dying die alone for fear of infecting the living, the living stay away for fear of infecting the dying. My wife’s aunt, I should make it clear, did not die of COVID. For her, a lifetime full of physical pain came to its merciful conclusion, freeing…


November.

Usually cold, usually grey, November is a month that I used to rush through when I was still living in the United States. Getting ready for Thanksgiving, getting ready for Christmas, winding up major work prior to year-end deadlines, November was an often ignored prelude to the glory of December. Holidays, time off, being with family — for better or worse — cemented another milestone in my life’s recollections.

Since 2013, however, November has taken on new meaning for me — time to remember how far I have come and to recognize and celebrate accomplishment in the face of…


Prime Minister Abe and Me

Yesterday, Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe, announced that he was stepping down after almost 8 years in office. This is not the first time as Prime Minister he has resigned due to health reasons. The first time was in 2007 after one year in office. I’ve detected a sense of derisive snickering among some of the reporters reacting to Abe’s announcement, ridiculing him for quitting due to a mere sour stomach or abdominal cramps. …


O-bon and Franz Kafka

August in Japan is the season of O-bon, when people travel back to their home towns to gather with family and honor their ancestors. It’s kind of like Dia de Los Muertos and Thanksgiving rolled into one and yes, it usually means packed trains and airplanes and jammed freeways.

Then came COVID-19 and all that changed. So what to do?

Well, it seems that the government of Japan has taken inspiration from Frank Kafka in providing travel advisories to its citizens:

1. Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet created a program called “GO TO travel”. Kicked off a…


Early last May, my mother, 83, took a fall at her home in California and broke her ankle. My father, 81, tried to catch her from falling but the two of them ended up on the floor in a tangle. Ambulance crews have carried Mum in and out of more ERs, ICUs, and SNFs (emergency rooms, intensive care units, and skilled nursing facilities) than my father could easily count or even remember while her condition steadily worsened. Her lungs filled little by little with fluid, her kidneys began to fail, and her blood oxygen levels fell dangerously. A couple of…


“You’ve got a match. A handsome little boy from Osaka. He’s eight years old.”

My mobile phone rang in the darkness of 3 o’clock in the morning on July 3, 2013. I was in Tokyo for a few days on a business trip which added to my sense of disorientation as I fumbled around trying to locate the source of the ringing.

I answered the phone. Aki Speed, our Japan adoption coordinator from BAAS, spoke these words which I will never forget: “You’ve got a match. A handsome little boy from Osaka. He’s eight years old.” …


A Wish for Mothers Day

To those who wanted to be a mother but couldn’t, whatever the reason.

To those who miscarried.

To those who carried babies in their wombs so that others could become mothers themselves.

To those who had their children taken from them, legally or illegally.

To those whose children were claimed by Death all too early.

To those who gave their children up for adoption.

To those who became mothers through adoption.

To all.


Children’s Day once more / sheltering, sheltering still / recall what is good

Andrew Neuman

An American living in Tokyo observes life in Japan.

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