Manhunt in Minoh

It was a crazy start to the week with a 24-hour police manhunt for a certified insane violent man with a gun in our neighborhood. It sounds like a movie and something that rarely happens in Japan. It started on Sunday morning with a 33-year old man stabbing a policeman in the neighboring suburb of Suita and stealing his gun. This led to a manhunt all day on Sunday and into the evening. Our city of Minoh recommended schools close and people stay in their homes while the perpetrator was at large. This led to a lot of work for us alerting the community that our school was going to delayed if he was not caught before 6:00 AM and closed if he was still on the loose by 10:00 AM.

I got up early 5:00 AM and saw that he was not caught yet and so sent an email to the school that we were delayed until further notice. A little later on, I received a text message from a friend saying that there were lots of police in the Minoh Hills National Park near our house. I went out on my bike and saw the policeman below speeding towards the hills. The thundering sound of helicopters overhead made the ambiance even more gripping.

police on 171

I followed the sound until I saw a commotion at a small supermarket about 5 minutes from our house. In reading the reports later, the guy was caught sleeping on a bench in the national park. The gun was in a plastic bag below the bench and he was taken into custody without incident at 6:35 AM. We started school a bit later in the morning.

It was interesting to see the reactions of the Japanese, a society with almost no guns. People were very alarmed and frightened. A mentally unstable man with a gun with 5 bullets in it in the USA would describe a certain percentage of the population. But here in Japan, with guns so rare, it caused a lot of people to panic. There was not much traffic downtown Osaka on Sunday because people were really staying in their homes. It was strange that the guy was right in our neighborhood. We always go up into the hills for hikes and bike riding and have been on the bench where he was captured before.

News crews and police set up headquarters at a supermarket near where the suspect was captured

It was a double tragedy with the young policeman in a coma and the mentally unstable man in jail. His father called police to identify him after his photo was shared from a surveillance camera. It is nice to live in a culture without any guns. I don’t have any answers for mentally ill people.

A helicopter above our house

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the Great Northern Osaka Earthquake . It seems like every June, something dramatic happens in Minoh.

A Father’s Day Escape

A daughter-father Father’s Day

I had a really nice father’s day! Ocean and her two BFFs took their fathers to Escape Osaka. The girls planned it as a surprise and they were so excited! The idea is to use clues to figure out codes for locks that open up further clues. You need to go through a series of these to escape two rooms. It was very clever and a thoroughly enjoyable hour with our daughters. It really is a team effort, each of us making a different contribution.

The Victors Thanking the Monks of the art of Dark Zen!

After the escape room, we found a nice burger restaurant in Namba. Osaka city has so many great neighborhoods with thousands of restaurants and shopping areas. I will definitely miss this city.

In the morning I did some errands with Nadia as we continue to clear out our house in preparation for our move at the end of the month. I also did a quick workout of rowing and swimming.

The Clue Hunters

There was also some excitement in our part of Osaka. In the suburb next to Minoh, Suita, a man attacked a policeman and stole his gun. A manhunt has been taking place since it happened this morning. As I write this at 9:00 PM, he still has not been found. The city has ordered schools to close tomorrow. This is a rare event in Japan and the city was empty today as people are staying home. Sunday is a big day for driving and usually we get lots of traffic, but there were much fewer people downtown. Japan is a risk-averse culture and people are quite cautious here and are staying home until the gunman is found.

Owen & Oliver: The Brass Boys

Oliver & his Tuba

Both of my sons performed in the Senri Osaka International Schools Spring Concert on June 12, 2019. Music education is a focus of the school and is one of the best programs for international schools that I have seen. Many families in the community take classical music seriously and the school has produced many professional musicians through the years.

High School Concert Band Introduction

Owen and Oliver play brass instruments (trumpet & tuba respectively) in the winds program. The strong music program did not inspire them practice all the time, but they can sight read, play reasonably well and they have a stronger appreciation for music. The schools have different level of bands and both play in the intermediate levels. If we would have stayed, Owen would have been in the top level next year. Oliver took some time to find the right instrument, but eventually found the tuba and he likes it.

Oliver’s Turn

Girls On The Move

Nadia Awards a Medal to Ocean

Nadia annually leads an after school program called “Girls on the Move” (GOTM) with upper elementary girls. The idea of the club is to help girls build self-confidence by discussing issues that can negatively impact the lives of girls and women like body image, traditional feminine roles, discrimination, relationships, etc. They also train for a 5 kilometer run which is the culmination of the club. I see that the girls in the club learn they can overcome both physical and emotional challenges. This should help them as they move into adolescence and adulthood.

Oliver, Nene and I are happy we finished!

We hosted our final GOTM last Saturday at the school. It was nice weather for a run, cool and cloudy, but no rain or cold wind. The course goes through the beautiful Kita Senri Park to the Suita Fire Station and back. All the girls and some boys, too, made it back. It is a family affair with Owen, Olver and I playing support roles. This time I was the photographer and all of us were “running buddies” for the boys that wanted to join the run.

Alona, Ocean, Elina and Emma show off their medals

Nadia got a bit emotional during the award ceremony, which was good to see! She does a lot of good work for female students at the schools that we work in.

Ready to Start

Book Review: Inheritance from Mother by Minae Mizumura

During my bouts of insomnia, I finished Inheritance from Mother (New York Times Review) by Japanese novelist, Minae Mizumura. Having lived in Japan the past five years, helped me enjoy the book at a deeper level than a foreigner coming at it without an understanding of the culture and modern life in Japan. It is several stories in one, all centered around the main character, Mitsuki Katsura. She is a part-time French language professor at a private university in Tokyo. I work for a private university foundation here in the Kansai (west) region of Japan. There are many “part-time” workers, which are basically “hourly-wage” employees, doing the same job as full-time employees, but making much less money and receiving less benefits. There are a lot of people in this situation in a variety of fields. I am not sure how many exactly, but it is a way for businesses to save money and employ more people.

Mitsuki is in her mid-50s and facing a lot. She is taking care of a selfish and demanding dying mother, contemplating divorce from a husband she finds is cheating on her and plotting to divorce her and she is coming to grips with her own old age, both in a financial sense and happiness sense. I agree with the NY Times review in that the book drags on a bit, it took too many chapters for her mother to die. I think because the book was originally released serially in a Tokyo newspaper, it stretched out many parts, but fortunately, each chapter ends with a provocative little “cliffhanger” to keep people reading.

As my uncle and mom always say, “getting old sucks” and the book a good read for diving into the details of caring for sick parent. Mizumura the author, goes into the family background, giving an overview of each character through the generations of family. The book also gives insight to life here, especially the part that people outside Japan don’t know about. I also liked reading about long marriages. I’ve been married for over 20 years and feel lucky that I am still in love with my wife. Many marriages, and as I have been hearing from friends here, many marriages in Japan, older husbands and wives live separate lives and are together for financial reasons only.

The book does end on a hopeful note and it gave me encouragement that people can continue to grow and try new things even into their “old age”. I found the book in our school library and it was translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. I would like to thank the Japan Foundation for funding the publication of the book.

Beautiful Spring: Late May 2019 Journal

Journal June 1, 2019
Perfect roads, respectful drivers, beautiful scenery makes biking in Japan the best

The warm weather I think is hear to stay and with the longer days, I’ve been getting outdoors as much as possible. This is one of my favorite times of year with lots of fresh new green leaves, cool breezes in the evenings and mornings and bright sunny skies.

May ended yesterday and our time in Japan is winding down. We are leaving at the end of this month. The thing I will miss most about life in Japan is the ease of cycling here. Almost every morning I get out on the bike, at least for 45 minutes and it is so refreshing and a great way to start the day.

Journal June 1, 2019
Owen and Oliver keep Ocean’s booth active during the exhibition

In going through my photos to upload to Flickr, I notified photos from Ocean’s PYP Exhibition that took place in mid-May. She got a migraine during the performance portion and had to go home. After the performance, her classmates continued with their table demonstrations. Without Ocean there, her table was empty, but her brothers, Owen and Oliver, stepped in and explained her booth to visitors. It was so cute how they helped their little sister!

We are also saying our goodbyes to the community. Last Sunday our friends Sharon Almog and Cary Mecklem organized a farewell picnic in Kita Senri Park. I really enjoyed playing Ultimate Frisbee with the kids and laughing at some good conversation in the park. We walk through Kita Senri Park often to go to the train station or on Nadia’s run and we have a lot of fond memories there. It was also nice to spend the entire day outdoors!

Journal June 1, 2019
Surrounded by friends in Kita Senri Park

Farewell Tokyo!

Sumo Wrestlers Need to Go Out Too

This is my last trip to Tokyo, the largest metropolitan area in the world. During my five years in Japan, I’ve visited Tokyo on numerous occasions, both for work and fun. The immense size of the city, both in area and number of people is hard to comprehend. It is a nice place to visit but would not be a good place for me to live. It has a much different vibe than other world cities like London, New York, etc. In many ways, it is much quieter and closed due to the highly rigid and contextual Japanese culture. They do get a lot of tourists, but essentially, Japan is extremely homogenous and it gives the city and nation, a distinctiveness that you do not find in other places.

Akihabara – The Electronics/Manga District of Tokyo

For this visit I stayed in Akihabara, the district famed for electronics and manga/anime. Walking through the streets to my hotel, I passed many young girls dressed in maid or cosplay outfits, advertising various manga-themed restaurants and clubs. There were also many bright lights advertising gaming stuff. I had a quiet night, walking over to Ryogoku kokugikan, the sumo wrestling arena. A grand tournament is taking place there this week. I was rewarded for my efforts by seeing three sumo wrestlers getting a bite to eat in a restaurant district. In Japan they build restaurants and bars often underneath elevated train lines.

Sapia Tower

I love hosting meetings in Tokyo. Kwansei Gakuin University, the foundation that owns our school, rents offices on the 10th floor of Sapia Tower, a huge building that overlooks Tokyo Station. The offices are like a corporate board room and with the luxurious meeting space and huge windows overlooking the city, it gives educators the rare opportunity to see what it would be like to be in the corporate world instead of the non-profit sector. The school heads also appreciate the convenience of meeting steps away from Tokyo Station. Tokyo Station however is only the fourth most busy station in the metro area with “only” over 900,000 passengers daily.

I am leaving Japan next month forever, but will remember fondly my time in the nation’s capital and all of the people I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with during my five years.