One day Kei asks me: “Would you like to go to Kurokawa Onsen?”[1]

“Kurokawa? Of course, I would!” Deliciously impure thoughts fill my mind and I am barely able to contain my excitement. 

“No sex, though.”

“No sex? What’s the point in going to a hot spring if we’re not going to . . .”

“I meanit! No sex.”

“Okay, okay . . .” I say, doubtful this is going to work.

“But we can bathe together.”

“Well, now you’re talkin’!”


A week later Kei and I are in the mountains of Kumamoto prefecture, driving past the village of Kurokawa, where many of the more popular ryokan[2] and hot spring baths are located. She turns the car onto a gravel road that crosses a shallow river and continues on up into a thick bamboo grove. At the end of the road is an inn that looks deserted.

“Is it even open?” I say.

“Yes. I made a reservation.”


All the baths, we are told by the innkeeper, are “family type”, meaning—wink, wink—private. We collect some towels and a key, then walk down a stone path to a small wooden bungalow. Once inside, we get undressed, wash ourselves off, and then step into the bath. Kei has draped a wet towel over herself, covering but not quite concealing the beautiful curves of her body. The towel covering my crotch is propped up as if by a tent pole.

“You want some help with that?” she asks.

“I’d be much obliged.”

As Kei goes down on me, the chirping of the cicada in the surrounding bamboo thicket reaches a deafening crescendo.



Later, as we are reclining at the side of the bath, billing and cooing, Kei asks me why I hate my wife Haruka.

“It’s not that I hate her.” I know what Kei means: kirai, the Japanese word for “hate”, doesn’t quite carry the same sense of revulsion that the English word does.

“Well then, why do you want to get divorced?”

“That’s a difficult question.”

“Yes, but I want to understand.”

“I don’t know really. We’ve been married for two years, been together for twice as long. You’d think I might be able to understand someone after being with her for four or five years, but I can’t. I don’t know what she is thinking anymore or what motivates her. I can’t understand how she has come to accept our relationship the way it is, how she can look at it and still consider herself happy.”

“Why not? You do the housework, the shopping, the cooking. You let her travel abroad . . .”


“If we were married, . . .”

Kei and me married, now there’s a thought. 

“. . . would you let me go abroad all by myself like that?”

“Probably not,” I answer.

“Why not?”

“The reason I let Haruka travel is because I don’t want to be with her. If she asked to go to a four-year university in America, I’d say, ‘Sure!’ and start helping her pack. I don’t miss her when she’s gone and I’m not particularly eager for her to come back. As for you, I would miss you, and I would long for your return. I’d also worry that you might find someone else.”

“And Haruka?”

“I’ve been pinning my hopes on her finding another man.”

“You’re terrible, Peadar. What if I told you I was going abroad for a long time whether you let me or not?”

“Then, I would go with you.”

Kei kisses me.

[1]Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉) is one of the better hot spring resorts in Kyūshū, if not all Japan.

[2]A ryokan(旅館) is a Japanese style inn.

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”.