Dear All,

I trust this edition of our newsletter finds you all well. This is the last newsletter that will be dropping into your “in box” for a while, the next one you’ll receive after this one will, all being well, be on the first Friday in September; and with that very much said, I would like to wish you all happy and very safe summer holidays: what with the world as volatile as it currently is, we all need to be just that bit more aware of the terrible things that could happen to us at any given moment, whether on holiday abroad or just enjoying a night out in your own country with your friends you just cannot be sure if you’re safe. Unfortunately, the recent incidents in Europe, in particular Germany, as well as here in Japan, inform us all that the world is very much a dangerous place and there’s no way it’s going to become safe anytime soon, which is deeply saddening.

It’s easier said than done, and the same has been said a hell of a lot of times now, but wouldn’t it be great if we could all just get along reasonably well with each other on this permanently slow spinning spherical thing we all call home. A good way to start would be to accept and respect each other’s own unique values, principles, cultural idiosyncrasies if you like and religious beliefs; it would also help if we were less judgmental about others or even about ourselves. Finally, before leaping in and interfering in something we don’t fully understand, and more often than not causing the trouble that we thought existed, which prompted us to leap in in the first place, wouldn’t it be refreshing if we just asked some basic common sense questions, just enough of them to allow us to make well informed decisions on how to deal with whatever issues need attention – it all sounds soooooo simple but it’s not, it’s actually very complicated. As already mentioned, in order to realise a more harmonious and safe existence we all need to understand each other in a better way and work together as a team, but apparently many of us don’t like each other enough to want to take that step. However, to give credit where credit is due, some people and countries around the world are making great efforts to move towards world peace, and we can only hope that together with their efforts and the efforts that a lot of us are putting in individually we can at least get onto the path, even if it’s a dimly lit one to begin with.

Changing the subject quite a bit, I had a conversation a short while ago with the Japanese co-owner of a real estate company that is situated next door to the office I work in; I’ve known him for quite some years now, he’s a nice enough chap and always tries his best to speak in English to me because he knows my Japanese speaking ability leaves a lot to be desired. Anyway, we found ourselves in the washroom, I went in there to wash up a dish I’d used to eat my lunch off and he was in there puffing on a cigarette; after an exchange of one or two pleasantries we got talking about what each of us was going to do during the summer vacation. Apparently he is off to his wife’s hometown, which is what a lot of Japanese people do during the Obon period: for those interested in finding out more about the Japanese Obon holiday, please click onto the link attached https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Festival. I found out that his wife’s hometown is in Iwate in the north of Japan, so I mentioned that it would be cooler up there than here in Tokyo, but he didn’t seem to think so. He asked me how long I would be on holiday for and what I had planned, and I told him I would be taking my children away for two or three days at a time over a period of a couple of weeks to different places within the Kanto region, Kanagawa mostly, places like Hakone and Tanzawa: I told him that I had a plan to go camping, which he thought was a great idea and wished me a good holiday, I wished him the same.

At this point I’d finished washing up my dish and he’d finished his smoke and as I was leaving he said “ Enjoy your family service” and then laughed, I laughed along with him: I know of the expression, but it’s the first time anyone has ever used it with me during a conversation and it just didn’t sound right at the time. I honestly don’t look upon spending time with my family as an obligatory service, and I don’t talk about it as such, although in many respects it is, and he’s not wrong, but away from Japan I do believe it would not be referred so directly as “family service”. We think about it as a patriarchal or fatherly duty, rather than an obligatory service: you may find a British man talking with his mates over pints in a pub either before going on holiday or after, saying things like “ Oh, I was pleased to get back off holiday, I would have gone crazy if I’d stayed another day with my family”., but to listen to him talk about it directly as a “family service” would I think be quite rare. I find that a lot of arrangements, whether they are personal or family related are done very much in a formal business-like manner in Japan, as I’ve said it’s not wrong, I understand them because I live here and I am familiar somewhat with the culture and traditions, but for someone coming here for the very first time it is guaranteed to be quite an eye opener. See you next time.