Pitch dark at 6am, rain.
My first morning in Fukuoka.
I walked pass Hana’s crib and she was staring at me.
“I know,” I thought as I walked to the toilet, “it’s 8am in Melbourne.”
It’s weird being the first to wake up in a house not your own.
Do you take charge and make breakfast for everyone?
Or be the lazy guest that expects to be taken care of?
I decided to baby talk with Hana.
When everyone was up, the rain turned to hail.
Chika’s sister was going to take me to a new local bread shop, but she said ‘maybe tomorrow’ since the weather was terrible.
I said ‘what if tomorrow never comes’ and volunteered to go alone.
She drew me a map.
After 5 years, the Yasui family finally trusts me with their car.
I grabbed the keys to one of their Mario carts and got on my way.
The bread shop was literally some young couple’s dream of renovating their living room into a relaxing space that sells bread. They even had that ‘this is your life’ poster with terrible kerning.
You see this a lot in suburban Japan.
A hairdressing salon, a boutique for indie clothes, a record store, cafe.
I can never work out the risk of starting a business like this.
But I know I’ve dreamed of doing something similar.
I stopped by a convenience store on my way back.
I bought those oden pack (soup with egg, fish cakes, and sausage with udon) because of the cold, and also a fat-burning, sugar-absorbing green tea, fully aware of the irony.
When I got home the family was going through an album with old photos of Chika when she was a baby.
I was happy to realise that Hana bears 95% of Chika’s feature.
I used the Google’s Photoscan app to record a few of my favourites.
She also showed me one poem she wrote in primary school:
The inside of my mouth is warm.
I wonder why?
My hands and my feet, they are cold.
But the inside of my mouth is warm.
I wonder why?
The other good thing about have a baby, is that time really flies.
By the time I played with the baby, replied to emails, loaded up some photos, Chika’s dad told me we should get going for lunch before the crowd hits.
He took me to Cocoichi Curry.
We sat down in a booth, he handed me the menu with 300 curry dishes and said he’s ready to order, what do I want?
If you’re ever in a similar situation, let me offer you a tip.
The thing about a system that caters to everyone, is that you don’t have to worry about what is on the menu; just focus on what you like.
So I said I wanted fried chicken with my curry, and a side of salad.
And sure enough, the waitress understood.
I even beat my father-in-law in spice level. (He asked for level two; me three.)
After that he took me to a fish market named ‘Fish Heaven’.
And of course like a tourist, I bought a bag of popcorn, a pack of strawberries and ground coffee from Fish Heaven.
Since I left Chika at home for lunch, she left me with Hana and went out for tea with the mum and sister.
I used the time to write, after I put Hana to sleep.
Dinner was fried pork, and I really overdid it with today’s lunch so I just nibbled on the strawberries.
After putting Hana to sleep Chika and I went to the local bath house.
I sat naked in a stone tub feeling envious of all the other men who felt nothing out of the ordinary bonding over naked baths.
When I was done I bought an ice cream from the vending machine.
On our drive back we realised it’s probably the first time we went somewhere together without Hana.
It was a mixture of joy, excitement, relief and guilt.
Of course, when we arrived home we were told Hana did not wake up at all.