There are somewhere in the vicinity of 34 million people living
and working in the Greater Tokyo area, of which 691,000 (2%, according to my calculations) are non-Japanese. About 3% of these
gaijin freeloaders (ie. over 20,000) get married to a local and/or have kids. I know a bit about this because, well, I am
one of them. In fact, by the time this article is published I will be the first-time father of a half Japanese baby girl and
it is totally freaking me out. In a good way.
I have basically gone, in a really short space of time, from someone who
would stop calling friends who had kids to someone who knows tonnes of inane facts about everything to do with miniature humans.
I have also prepared myself for the likelihood that I am probably also going to lose most of my more exciting friends. That’s
cool though because I’m not really going to have time for them either.
The Japanese have some pretty out there
customs and when it comes to something like having a baby, they turn them on big time. Here’s a bit of a diary I’ve
kept of the experience.
Thursday Sept 1st
According to the Japanese, a pregnancy takes
ten months, not the predictable nine cited by the rest of the known world. This is because the Japanese count lunar months
instead of calendar months. So, today, at the Japanese nine months, my girlfriend Yoko visited her midwife and found out some
pretty disturbing news. The ultrasound, or “echo” as it’s known by the Japs, revealed that the baby was
the wrong way around. The midwife told her that she was going to have to do upside-down exercises, stick bizarre adhesive
incense sticks to various pressure points on her legs, and have her belly tightly bound in a 10-odd-meter cloth called an
iwata-obi for the rest of the pregnancy which, at the height of a particularly hot Tokyo summer, is pretty heavy.
Thursday Sept 8th
We found out today that Yoko was also an upside
down baby and that her parents turned a picture of a hen upside down to rectify the problem—which apparently did the
trick. As stupid as this sounds and as un-superstitious as we are, we will spend the next couple of days upending everything
in our apartment—books, furniture, posters and anything else that we physically can.
One traditional belief
states that Japanese women are not allowed to eat any seafood with claws such as crabs or lobsters, as it causes the child
to become a thief. Yoko doesn’t rate this. Another belief is that pregnant women should clean their toilet daily for
a healthy and good looking baby. Again, it’s totally ridiculous but imagine if we didn’t do it and happened to
have an ugly kid! Let’s just say Yoko is cleaning the toilet daily.
Thursday Sept 15th
It’s pretty difficult to afford everything
associated with having a baby in Japan as there’s nothing like the Medicare system, only private insurance which doesn’t
seem to cover anything that we actually need. Instead they pay the mother a “congratulations” fee after the baby
is born. I feel like all I’ve been doing is working but I took today off so we started reading a book which detailed
all the horrendous things that can happen to babies during pregnancy, from toxic-shock to dissolving fetuses. After hearing
myriad number of horror stories from this tome everything starts to seem really ominous and I am basically reduced to a nervous,
Friday Sept 16th
Today I got an SMS from Yoko. It says “Baby’s
upside-down has been fixed. Girl. I’ll buy princess blanket.”
BY ANDREZ BERGEN, SEPT. 2005