So, Haruka flies off to America in June, leaving you to your own devices for the next three months. You are “single” again and couldn’t be happier than a dog with two tails, which once more begs the question: 

Why didn’t I just get divorced?


As you well know, I did eventually. 

But not for several more years. Wouldn’t it have been better to be single all that time?

I can’t really say. Do I want those years back? Yes, of course I do! I wish I had still been in my early thirties by the time we got ‘round to divorcing and I’m pretty sure Haruka would now agree. But was that feasible then? Not really. And more importantly, would getting divorced sooner rather than later have changed where or who I am today? I doubt it. Besides, I am happier now than I have ever been—albeit dead tired most of the time—thanks to my three little boys. I tell myself that if the price of becoming as happy as I am today was having to endure those years with Haruka, then it was well worth it.

I guess that’s one way of rationalizing your indecisiveness. 

It’s not a rationalization!

Okay, okay. No need to get your knickers in a twist, Peadar. So, you were a single man again, right? How did things go for you this time?

Quite nicely, actually. 


Kei and I ended up spending a lot of time together that summer. Thanks to her work—she was a nurse . . .

I know.

Well, what some may not know is that nurses in Japan—those at the larger hospitals in particular—often work a variety of shifts, meaning Kei would sometimes have weekdays off or, even better, get off work at around midnight. 

How could that possibly be better?

It made it easier for her to stay out late. We might meet at a yataiaround midnight . . .


It’s a kind of outdoor food stall. They’ve all but disappeared from most Japanese cities, but in Fukuoka yataiare still popular places to eat and drink. Kei might, say, text me in the evening and ask if I was free. I usually was. And we would meet at one of our favorite yatai, eat and drink until three or so in the morning, and then I’d walk her home.

You’ve said that you didn’t often sleep with Kei. How about during that summer?

That summer was the exception. We were spending so much time together, meeting two or three times a week, that something of a “sexual nature” was bound to happen every now and again. But so much more important than the sex we were having was the nourishing affection we shared: the holding of hands, the hugging, the caresses, the kisses—all the things I had been starved for after marrying Haruka. That summer Kei and I made a lot of memories.

Such as?

It’s not that I did anything different from previous summers. I went to the same fireworks displays, had the same barbecue parties, saw the same summer blockbusters. What made it different was that I was sharing these moments with Kei.

[1]There are about 200 Yatai (屋台) in Fukuoka, with most located in and around Tenjin, the city’s busy shopping district. While yatai were once fairly common throughout Japan, only Fukuoka still has a large number of them today. Most of the yatai serve either yakitori or rāmen or both.

The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.


You met Haruka at a bar.

A nightclub, actually, in Nakasu of all places. When I would tell people that I had met my girlfriend in Nakasu, most assumed that she was a hostess.

But she wasn’t.

No, Haruka was what the Japanese call an O.L., an “office lady”, with a major apparel maker. The night we first met, she had been out drinking with co-workers. I myself had been knocking back overpriced whiskey-and-waters at a “snack”, a hostess bar, earlier in the evening when another customer suggested we go clubbing.


“Sure, why not?” I say, finishing my drink.


You laughed.

Yeah. It just occurred to me that none of this would have ever happened if only I had declined the guy’s offer. Where on this planet of ours would I be today? What would I be doing? And who would I be with?

It’s hard to say. Fate can be a fickle little devil.

At any rate, I know where I was that night, what I was doing, and who I was with.


I’m here at Keith Flack for no more than fifteen or twenty minutes when a cute young woman only eighteen or nineteen years of age walks up to me and says: “You live in Aratō, don’t you?”

“I do, yes.”

“That’s what I thought,” she says. “Me, too. I often see you in the morning.”


“Would you like to join us?”

By “us” she means a group of women, including Haruka, who are sitting on the other side of the room.



That was certainly easy.

It certainly was.

So, you ended up drinking together and . . .

You must remember that this was back in the mid-nineties. It was still early days for the Internet; hardly anyone had cellphones, let alone an e-mail address. There was no such thing as Facebook or Mixi[1] or Twitter or Instagram or . . .


So, nothing happened. After a while, Haruka and her co-workers stood up and said, “Well, we’ve had fun, but . . . you know, last train. Good night.”

Fortunately, Fukuoka is a small town.

More so than I could appreciate at the time.

A few days later, you went downtown, into Tenjin[2] . . .

It was in the middle of the Golden Week holiday[3] and I was heading for the station—I was going to visit a friend living in Kumamoto City—and who of all people should I happen to bump into, but Haruka.

The two of you couldn’t have helped appreciating the serendipity of it all. What do the Japanese call that, again?


That’s right, gūzen. A million plus people in the city and here you are bumping into each other twice in one week.


So, did you get her phone number then?

No, I didn’t. I had been more interested in her younger co-worker, actually. You know, the one who had come up and talked to me in the first place. But Haruka and I chatted for a few minutes and she asked if I often went to Keith Flack and . . .

You said, “Almost every Saturday” even though you had never been there before.

Yeah. Funny that.

You went to the club every Saturday after that, though, didn’t you, Peadar?

I did, yes. I’d never been into “the club scene”, but that was where the girls seemed to be. And they weren’t shy. So, . . .

Those were the days, weren’t they? You just sniggered. Would you like to count me in on the little joke?

Life’s funny is all. You happen to go to a club one night and meet someone who will play a major role in the next ten years of your life. A few months later, you’re waiting for that person on a street corner and you end up meeting another person and playing a major, if not fateful, role in that person’s life.



I’m at the club a few weeks later when a friend of Haruka’s, a girl I’ve never seen before, taps me on the shoulder and, without introduction or formality, shoots me the question: “So, what do you think of Haruka?”

Slightly flustered, I reply that Haruka seems like a “nice” girl . . .

It’s not that Haruka is a knockout—far from it—but she does have a cute face, a friendly smile, warm eyes, and the hint of something substantial under her blouse . . .

“So, why don’t you go and talk to her?” she says, taking me by the hand and pulling me in the direction of Haruka. “The only reason she came here tonight was to meet you.”



That surprised me.

Why should it have?

Like I said, it was a low water mark in my life. I didn’t have a hell of a lot of confidence.

And so, you sat down with Haruka and talked.

I did. We ended up having a rather nice conversation, talking about everything and nothing, and before I knew it, two hours had passed.

Did you take her home?

No, no, no. At that point, I still wasn’t all that interested in her as a potential girlfriend. I think that if I had been, I would have blown it. I mean, women can smell it when a man is desperate. A married man will always be infinitely more attractive to women than a man who’s never been laid.

It’s the way they are wired.

Faulty wiring then.



[1] Mixi, founded in 2004, was once the leading social networking site in Japan. It had about 80% of the market in Japan until smart phones became ubiquitous and people switched to other sites, such as Facebook, Line, Twitter, and so on.

[2] Tenjin (天神) is Fukuoka City’s main shopping area and de facto downtown.

[3] Golden Week is a string of public holidays, starting with Shōwa Day (昭和の日) on April 29th and ending on May 5th, or Children’s Day (こどもの日).

[4] Gūzen (偶然) means “accident, chance, coincidence”.



It was ages ago, so long ago you probably don’t remember exactly when, but you do remember the day alright. You were waiting in the rain for your girlfriend to arrive when someone called out your name:




I turn around and find an attractive young woman, petite with long black hair, her large feline eyes looking up at me.

“Peadar, right?”


“We met at Umié . . . Do you remember?”

If I tell her the truth, why, there will never be anything to write home about, she will continue on down the road and perhaps find someone else, someone much better than me, but . . . No, I have to say: “At Umié, yes. Yes, I do remember! How have . . . you been?”

“I’ve been good, really good,” she replies, combing her hair behind her right ear. “Been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“A long time, indeed!”

“Waiting for someone?”

“Y-yes, I, uh, I’m going to the movies with, um, . . . with a friend.”

“Movies? Sounds nice. Wish someone would take me to the movies!”

And there is my opening—as open as a trap, they say—but I won’t realize it till much later in the day after I’ve had sex with that “friend” of mine. So, I ask the woman where she’s off to, and she replies: “To work.”

“In Nakasu?”[1]

“I’m not a hostess, Peadar,” she says with a laugh. “I work over there at that boutique.”

“Over there?” I say, craning my neck to get a good look down the street.

“On the corner.”

“Oh. I never noticed that a clothing store was there.”

“Few people do. It’s always so quiet, I’m surprised we haven’t gone out of business.”

“Do you still hang out at Umié? I haven’t been myself in quite a while.”

Umié is no longer there,” she says matter-of-factly.


“It was busted by the cops a long time ago.”


“Shō and Hiro were dealing marijuana.”

“You don’t say!”

“Trust me, everyone knew about it. I’m only surprised the police didn’t catch on sooner.”

And then my “friend” shows up.

“Well, I gotta get going,” the young woman says. “Come by and say hello if you’re ever in the neighborhood.”

“I will . . .”


“Excuse me?”

“It’s Akané, by the way.”

“Akané! Yes, yes. I knew it! Bye now.”

“Bye, Peadar.”


[1] Located on a small island between the Naka and Hakata rivers, Nakasu (中州) is the largest red-light district in the western Japan after the Tobita Shinchi in Ōsaka. There are over three thousand “adult” entertainment establishments, ranging from high-end restaurants and members-only cabarets to hostess bars to “soaplands”. (I’ll let your imagination run with that.)