Japanese have little seats inside their showers and often wash sitting down. I felt tired/lazy and today thought, “When in Rome”, and proceeded to wash myself from a seated position.

Taiga was eager to shower too as we had an appointment; we’d booked seats to watch ‘Wonka’ at the cinema and so, rather than waiting for me to finish, he pushed the shower door open and stood over me, signalling my time was up. This position also allowed him a new vantage point of the top of my head “You’re bald!” he said… “I can see so many patches.”

“It’s just because it’s wet!” I replied, defensively, quickly followed by “Is it really bad?”

As I stood up and patted myself dry I took a breath and decided against diving into an existential crisis as I tried to make light of it all. “It’s a good job I’m taller than everyone here in Japan then, isn’t it?”

Seeing ‘Wonka’ was my first trip to the cinema here, and it was really interesting. Japanese cinema audiences remain seated until the very end of the credits, and no one claps (I was half expecting a mild mannered round of applause due to the strong American influence here).

The cinema was located on the top floor of a huge department store. On the way we pass a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlour and I am reminded they call it ’31’ here as that’s the shape the letters of their logo make. This, in turn, reminds me of the TV advert I saw last night for ‘Head and Shoulders’ shampoo, and how it’s simply called ‘H&S’ here. (You know you can count on me for fascinating insights in this blog..)

So… back to the cinema. It was Sunday afternoon, peak family time viewing and the cue for popcorn was guided by cordoned off rails like passport control at the airport.

A huge screen hung above the hall, showing trailers for upcoming films. I wasn’t watching it but my head turned when I heard one of the actors scream: “I’m so f***ing angry!” This blasted out from the PA system. It was a trailer for a new movie and surprisingly deemed appropriate viewing for all cinema goers! I can only presume that the F-word is lost in translation, as I didn’t notice anyone else flinch.

The ‘Wonka’ movie takes me by surprise and despite there being no golden ticket in sight (it’s a prelude to all that). Wonka is fantastic. He has memories of his mother making the most beautiful chocolate but when she dies without revealing her secret, he has to learn to navigate the world without her, showing great bravery and ingenuity to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles with ease. Driven by her promise of ‘being by his side’ Wonka is determined to make his Chocolate Factory dream a reality.

I can’t always be here in Japan at my son’s side. Visa restrictions, and needing to work (in the UK) limit my time with him. The story on the screen seemed to blend with our lives as we sat together watching it. I was overcome with emotion.

The film’s mantra is “Every good thing in this world started with a dream – when yours comes true I’ll be right there beside you.” That’s what we need, isn’t it? more good things? The world needs a whole lot more good things right now, so lets all get dreaming…

Afterwards we went to MacDonalds for chips and ice cream. I didn’t have anything (MacDonalds here don’t sell bottled water) and Taiga didn’t like the chips ‘cos they weren’t fresh.

But we stayed in a good mood, undeterred by our poor choice of restaurant! Good vibrations were still flowing as I find the soundtrack on my phone and we are singing along to the wonderful music. I explain to Taiga who Neil Hannon is and proudly tell him that my friend and sometime collaborator Eliza Marshall features on the recordings. This all helps the message of the fictional film to seep into the reality our surprisingly sunny afternoon in December here in Minatomirai.

We head to the park for a game or two before it gets dark. Once the kids arrive there they split into their voluntary (comfortable?) groups of international and local schools for a round of ‘Dodgeball’ – this doesn’t last too long and some wander off for their tea. We still have a little bit of daylight left when Taiga approaches and invites me to play ‘Hide and Seek Tag” with him and 2 mates. I inhale deeply as I am well aware of the physical challenge ahead! – a fast paced game darting around the park and climbing all of it’s furniture (stairwells, signage, seating areas etc). Giggling, screaming, chasing our way to dinnertime. We’ve had a good day and we’re going out with a bang. I’m in bed by 9pm and sleep until 7 in the morning!

I do wake up in the night though and receive two little pieces from the stream, a poem and a story. I shared the poem on my Patreon if you are curious, check it out: https://www.patreon.com/danwhitehouse

Dan x