Today, my wife and I brought our daughter to the park near our apartment for a little fun with blowing bubbles. The park is very well used. In the early evening, many dog owners meet there to allow their dogs to socialize, and many children play there in the late afternoon. There’s also a 250 metre track that’s great for joggers and walkers. Since we were with our daughter, several women approached us and couldn’t stop saying “kawaii!” They kept talking and talking about her. However, there was one person who approached me and wanted to talk to me.
She was about 8 years old, and with a Japanese accent, said to me, “Hello.”
I answered, “Hello.”
Then she surprised me and said, “What is her name?”
So I said, “It’s Tomoe.”
That seemed to satisfy her, and she went back to playing. Later on, as we were leaving, I made sure to say good bye to her. Our neighbours seem to be very kind and friendly. Even though our area isn’t the most beautiful, it does have some very nice people.
Japan is going through what many other countries are going through, a lower birth rate and an aging population. Women are less interested in getting married and having children in Japan, and are more focused on their careers or personal lives. But there’s something interesting that I’ve noticed. Japanese women are actually crazy about babies.
I see it all the time. Whenever women in Japan see babies, something comes over them, and they keep saying “kawaii.” While out today with my family, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard women commenting about how my daughter is cute. One older woman came up to us and our friend, who also has a baby, and touched their feet. That was a bit of a surprise.
But it happens a lot at work, too. Some students want to see pictures of my daughter, and even the high school students get excited and exclaim “kawaii!”
Does this happen this much elsewhere? I find that a lot of Japanese people tend to verbalize their feelings, especially about it being hot, cold or feeling tired. It’s summer now, and all I hear people saying is that it’s hot, stating the obvious. But you’ll hear women talking about babies that they see within earshot of the parents. I don’t recall that happening in Canada so much.
If any of you is a new parent, or remembers being a new parent, you’ll understand what I mean. Since my daughter was born, I’ve felt like my time has been completely eaten up. I don’t have a lot of time to do anything these days, and when I do get started, it’s interrupted by a crying, hungry baby. She’s asleep right now, but I imagine that’ll change in about an hour or so.
Well, that sure changed. As I was typing that last paragraph, the dog peed on the floor, so I had to clean it up, then take him out. And when I came back in, Tomoe was crying. It’s hard to believe that she’s already hungry. She just ate not long ago. She’s not crying now, just alternating between sleep and stretching.
Anyway, I do have plans to get back to posting pictures, as well as go on a few long walks this spring. I hope I can.
Just wanted to let you know what’s been going on.
Oddly enough, I’ve been reading a lot more than usual.
Japan is a country famous for gifts. People give gifts on many occasions, and I’ve received gifts from students so many times I’ve lost count. Usually, it’s food. But with the birth of my daughter, I’ve received baby-themed gifts. I like receiving gifts like this. On the other hand, there’s gift money.
Gift money is given to new parents by family and relatives. This is also done at New Year’s. Family gives gift money to children. However, by my definition, the Japanese gift money tradition is not really a gift. My wife and I have received gift money from her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It’s been quite helpful for paying for many baby related things, including clothes, supplies, and paying for the birth itself. Now that she’s home and the gift giving has died down, her family is expecting something in return. What they now expect is for us to use half of the gift money to buy them gifts. That’s right, they give us money to buy them gifts after we’ve already used the money during the most financially difficult time we’ve ever had. This is something that both my wife and I really dislike about Japan’s gift tradition. While we appreciate their generosity, as the money did help us a lot, it seems inconceivable from my cultural background that we are now required to buy expensive gifts for everyone that gave us money. Sure, it seems like it’s returning the favour as a thank you. But we’re in the middle of a difficult time financially, and we need to be able to save as much as possible for the coming months. Raising a child is expensive, and the last thing we need is to spend money on gifts for family. Maybe I sound ungrateful to some of my Japanese readers, but you have to understand the situation of new parents.
Here’s the most irritating thing. They want the gifts as soon as possible. They want it immediately. If we don’t give gifts in return, they won’t say anything to us, but they will complain a lot to my wife’s parents. We don’t want her parents to have to deal with angry relatives that want gifts from a couple of new parents who can’t really afford to give them gifts. It seems like it’s more important for my in-laws to get gifts than for us to have financial security.
Thank you very much, Japanese gift money tradition. You sure know how to screw over new parents. End of rant.
It’s rare that I post pictures of people on this blog. But this has been a very special week, and this picture deserves to be my picture of the week. It’s my favourite picture of my daughter at only 2 days old.
It looks like she's smiling.
Just a quick little post here. I want to refer you to my other blog, Foreign Dad in Japan, to read about my experience over the past couple days and meet my daughter!