Quality Time with the Kids ー 子供と充実した時間

One of the perks of being your own boss is being able to spend more time with the kids. 

When I was in Tokyo, I didn’t get home until after 7:00, which after eating dinner left very little time to do anything else with the kids. 

Now, I’m at home when the kids get back and can do lots more things with them. I’ve started teaching my daughter phonics again – after an 18-month hiatus. And recently, I also discovered this great app called Epic, which has thousands of picture books in English. My older two love it when I read stories to them on my iPad. 

個人事業主として一つの役得は子供と過ごせる時間。

東京に住んでいた時は毎晩7時以降帰ってしまい、一緒に晩御飯した後に他にほとんど何もする時間がなかった。

今は、子供が帰ったら、既に家にいるから、一緒に色々できている。最近は長女に英語のフォニックス(単語の読み方)を教えるのを1年半ぶりに再スタート。また、Epicという数万冊の絵本を持つアプリも発見して、子供達に毎晩英語の読み聞かせをしてる。子供も私も大喜び。

Why I’m really looking forward to today (Part 2)

After writing Part 1 this morning, I went to wake my wife up and give her her anniversary present. As the 7th anniversary in the UK is wool, I decided to go with the American convention: copper and bought two tumblers for us both. Now that we are in April, I didn’t think my wife would appreciate a woolly jumper. 

  

My wife surprised me with a really nice brown leather bag, which my daughter helped her choose. I like brown leather and it will really go well with some of the other brown items I use or wear for work. 

  

After a fairly slow and leisurely morning, where I used rain as an excuse to not run, we went out at about 11:30.

We enjoyed a nice Japanese lunch at Aqua City in Odaiba and then took a look around a few of the shops.

By 2:30, we were ready for our main event and went to the fourth floor of Decks to get our picture drawn. 

  

As with every year, the artist was different again and so we looked forward to how it would come out.

I must be honest. When I first saw it, I wasn’t so thrilled. But that has happened many times – and after a while, I get used to it. Caricature is often like that and this time is no different. In fact, I’m already getting used to it. 

  

Our kids look sprightly with their rosy cheeks. They are both looking upwards in anticipation of something(?) while my wife and I look quite tired. 

I suppose it has been quite a demanding year, with lots of new things happening: a new job for me, and new schools for both kids. So it is probably a fair reflection. After all, an artist can only draw what they see, and a caricaturist’s job is to exaggerate what they see.

What I read from my kids’ expressions is that it is my job to help them learn and to navigate their new worlds. So it should be another exciting and probably stressful year ahead. I will continue to worry only about what I can control and not about what I cannot. 

The artist commented at one point that my hair looked green. Maybe I left some shampoo in my hair today. I had been more concerned about going grey. 

I would love to hear from you. What do you think of this year’s picture? How does it compare to previous years? Which is your favourite?

Why I’m really looking forward to today!

Today is my wife’s and my seventh wedding anniversary. I am really looking forward to it. 

Every year, we have our own little tradition that started on our first anniversary when our daughter was just two months old. 

You know when you go to tourist sights, you often see a line of artists: some drawing buildings, some doing portraits and others doing caricature? Well, I had always been an old stick-in-the-mud and avoided these like the plague – forever haunted by a comment outside Notre Dame in Paris in 1995: “Hey, big nose!” 

But finally on April 11th 2009 at Venus Fort in Odaiba, Tokyo with our daughter in tow, my wife persuaded me to take the plunge. Here’s the result:


 

I seem to have a little scowl on my face. I wasn’t scowling, I was just nervous how it might turn out! 

In fact, I was quite pleased with the result, though I did come out with a big nose. Don’t you think I look a bit French? Perhaps it was some secret pact between the Japanese artist, Hiro and the guy near Notre Dame fourteen years earlier. My wife and daughter came out well, don’t you think? 

 Year Two (2010)

The next year, we again had another drawing. We used the same company, Caricature Japan (which I can highly recommend). We always use them. They have several branches mainly in shopping malls around the Tokyo area – as well as in Kyoto and Osaka. We have been to their dedicated shops in Asakusa and Shibuya, but also to Odaiba (where there are a couple of booths) and Yokohama

The artist was different from the first one, as it has been each year since. This is all part of the fun and anticipation as we wonder how it’s going to turn out. 

2010 is one of my favourites as we are all actually smiling, and my daughter’s personality really shines through.

Excuse my photo of the drawing. I have cut off the artist’s name Shio and got a light reflection on the picture.

 Year Three (2011)

Exactly a month after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, we went to the Aka Renga Soko in Yokohama for this drawing. At a time when everyone was in deep sadness and the nation was refusing to spend money in a mass act of self restraint, the red-brick shopping centre converted from an old port warehouse was almost deserted.

The artist (Shokoii) captures the hope that sakura cherry blossom (a sign of spring renewal) was bringing back to Japan. 

 Year Four (2012)

We also went to Aka Renga Soko in 2012 but to a different booth (they have two there). This was when our daughter still hadn’t lost her “puppy fat”. I didn’t like this picture so much at the time because it made me start to think that I wasn’t such a good parent for letting my daughter get too fat. 

Year Five (2013)

Our first Family of Four portrait. Our son was just three months old at the time – even at this very early age, you can see mischief waiting to break through! 🙂 This and the next one are another two of my personal favourites! 

 Year Six (2014)

This one was drawn last year. While some pictures take a while to grow on me, I loved this one as soon as I saw it!

And so today, we’re off to Odaiba again to have our picture drawn. I am really looking forward to seeing how it turns out!