The other day, Taiga lost a tooth. He told me about it when he got back from school but played it down. “Nah it didn’t hurt Daddy – it was shaking like an earthquake for ages anyway, and ready to come out”. I know they don’t share the tooth fairy myth over here in Japan, so I thought nothing of it and presumed we’d already experienced our final fairy ceremony anyway.

It was a full two days later when his mother told me that he had, in fact, placed the tooth under his pillow, and had just enquired about the whereabouts of his reward. She too had been caught off guard, but was agile of mind enough to come up with the killer line: “Oh don’t worry Taiga, you just have to wait, as the tooth fairy has to travel all the way from England.”

Brilliant! I love it! And he bought it.

I’m standing in the Starbucks waiting for my order, and I’m taken aback by this couple, the woman has her arm draped around the man’s shoulder, her fingers patting his left bicep in a gentle ‘piano fingers’ arpeggio like motion. They’re squeezing in to share something on his phone and laughing together. Nothing unusual there you might say… But it is! I realise this is the most intimate public display of affection I’ve seen since I arrived back here in Japan.

Friday afternoon came around and everything aligned for a fantastic freestyle park adventure. I love it when you don’t plan social things, but then it all rolls together seamlessly and today was one of those magic days. It was forecast rain you see, so we had moved his 1 to 1 football techniques training to another day and had braced ourselves to just stay in. It did indeed pour down for most of the day, but just as he was finishing school – the sun came out! “I’m going to the park today” he announced – gathered his ball and water, and was gone in a flash. I followed a few minutes later and upon arrival the park it felt like a festival – EVERYONE was there. All the local kids had excitedly legged it down to the park – this unexpected break in the rain aligning perfectly with the end of the working week and start of the weekend. “Daddy, lets make teams!” and I got to play football manager as we set up goals with cones and had this almighty match – entirely devoid of tactics and strategy, packed with goalmouth scrambles and hordes of kids chasing the ball.

Taiga found the whole thing hilarious.. It felt like just the thing he needed, after working so hard in recent times at the Liverpool Academy, observing his football stats, mastering the offside rule, developing his left foot, whilst also completing homework tasks, sticking to schedule with all that. Today I just encourage him to take the shackles off and let rip, laughing, screaming, joking, whatever the hell he wants to do. We all need that time, don’t we?

We stroll back to the apartment happy, and shift down a gear or two in time for his 6:30pm online maths tuition session. They’re putting up the Christmas decorations in the communal area of the flats and he asks: “Should I write my letter to Santa soon?” 

Another reminder I’m in the right place at the right time. Time feels so finite. I feel close to death. I’m sorry if that’s too dramatic. I mean, I just feel aware of how quick this all is, and it feels good to embrace this. I’m reminded of something I wrote the other day:

“treat each day as if its your last on earth
prepare yourself, know your worth”

When I was younger I often felt confused and frustrated by this ‘living for the moment’ stuff, and chose to translate it as getting wasted, ‘tonight’s the night’ etc. …don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for that and i’ve had some of the most wonderful experiences sharing alcohol with friends into the early hours. But nowadays I view the perfect day differently. It’s more like, “how would you plan your day if you had a flight to catch to your favourite dream destination?” What little things can you do to prepare? Build your strength up. Where are those tiny moments of joy? Exactly how much time do you need today so you’re not rushing/ flailing? What are you doing to feed your spirit? And… I still love drinking with friends, and long to do that more.

Midway through the park session I ducked out to the supermarket. I knew what I needed and didn’t take long to load my trolley and arrive at the cashier. They don’t have conveyer belts and she had to awkwardly stretch to reach over and grab my items individually from the trolley, before placing them into a basket. “What is she doing?” I asked myself. It was at this point that I looked around at the other shoppers and realised my mistake…you’re supposed to use both a basket and a trolley, as you shop, and then in a single swoop, lift the basket onto the counter when you come to pay. Feels convoluted but, who am I to say? Lesson learnt.

Saturday morning and we’re up early. It’s a school day… Taiga has to leave at 8am as normal, and parents are invited on site to come and view presentations from the kids. The theme is ‘Preparing for Natural Disasters to Protect Lives’. There are fire extinguishers full of water that kids are demonstrating they can safely use; hints and tips on the best non perishable foods and a make shift tent ‘black out’ area with scrumpled up paper to represent broken glass. Taiga and H deliver a presentation, and in my feedback I suggest they add ‘tins of baked beans’ to the list of foods. I daydream for a minute about introducing Japan to baked beans on a nationwide scale, could this be the way I make my fortune? Surely they’d be eternally grateful too? You could say it’s kind of my moral duty in a way, whilst I’m here.

Anyway, the highlight of the day for me was getting to see his Taiga-man art on display, on the wall. He’d sent me a photo of this masterpiece in the summer, and I loved it so much I got it printed on a canvas, but it was great to stand next to it with him today, and it was another little reminder i’m in the right place right now, my feet felt on solid ground (in spite of all the talk of earthquakes).