The younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:13 ESV)

1) CJ‘s a Brit who’s lived in Japan for sixteen years. He’s a thirty-five year old father of three sons. He hates Japan, but loves it too. True ambivalence. I asked him why he doesn’t just go back to England, and he said that he can’t leave, because his ex-wife wouldn’t ever let him see his eldest son again. He informed me that Western men have no rights to their children once they divorce their Japanese wives. The men are foreigners, “gaijin;” the children, like their mothers, are Japanese.

CJ has had quite a history in Japan. He was imprisoned for practicing self-defense. He’s been stalked by an ex-cop turned mafioso, because the ex-cop thought he was cheating with his ex-wife. He was giving the ex-cop’s ex-wife private English lessons and the guy thought that a lot more than English grammar was going on. It must be his incredibly long lashes that made the cop irate. (I know I get jealous every time I see them). “What was going on CJ?”

He says nothing happened, but the cop couldn’t be convinced otherwise. He visited the ex-cop/ex-husband at his house one day to reason with him, but he wasn’t there. On his way home, a car pulled up to him, and told him not to worry anymore; the situation was “taken care of.” “Who were the men in the car?”  Unknown.

He wasn’t in love with his private student, but he did fall in love with a Japanese woman ten years his senior. She wasn’t interested in him. She thought he was too young. Maybe, she though he was too different. (I don’t know). He pursued her for five years, despite all her “Nos.” Maybe, despite her Japanese version of “Oh, hell no White boy.” He wouldn’t let up. She met another man, and was going to move to Hong Kong with him, but CJ sabotaged the other man. He got him fired, and the move to Hong Kong never happened. It seems horrible, but how could I not be impressed by the lengths he would go to for love. Love, obsession or passion? Whatever it was, he won. He’s now married to her, and they have two sons.

“Why are you in Tokyo CJ?”

“For the same reason everyone else is here. We’re all running away from something.”

“Are we?”

“Of course we are.”

It makes sense. Why move five thousand miles away from your family for a prolonged period? Why never go home? And when you go home, if you ever do, will it ever be the same again?

2) DL‘s a twenty-eight year old American who at first glance seems to be nothing more than a handsome playboy. He’s usually talking about some beautiful young woman who he has temporarily fallen in love with, had drinks with, partied with or turned from vegetarianism into a ravenous carnivore akin to Fred Flintstone. He changes women with his smile. He’s not charming and has called himself a jerk. He tells women, from the very first meeting, “I’ve just got to let you know, I’m an a-hole.” He said it to a good friend of mine, and still she found him magnetic. They all do. A mutual friend said to him recently, “I don’t know what it is about you and these women. I find you completely resistible.” It’s his spark. Some people are wet matches, and some people blaze the room every time.

He’s a divorced military man who claims to have built his house with his father. True or untrue? Undecided. He’s never been single, not even after his divorce, not even during his divorce. He told me the deal breaker, the end, was the mention of children. She wanted one, he didn’t. What did he do with his pain at the end of his marriage? Immerse himself in reading classics, Tucker Max’s blog, books on psychology and emotional intelligence, Norwegian Wood, alcohol, his university studies, Japanese everything: culture, food, women.

He’s been in Japan on and off for eight years and wants to leave. Maybe, he will leave one day, but Japan has a hold. For now, he’s improving his Japanese, and reading six books at once.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.   (Luke 15:20-24 ESV)

3) PO has lived in Tokyo for five years. He, also, hasn’t spoken to his father in five years. He longs to go home to Nigeria to see his brothers and sisters, to see his parents, to feel the sun on his head and eat his mother’s stew, but he and his father have an ongoing rift. He hasn’t forgiven his father for not allowing him to go to university in the United States. He took the SATs and got a high score, but he was told that he should stay at home and help out there. Go to school in Nigeria. So, he did the first thing that came to mind, borrowed some money and ran from home.

He worked as a cook in a restaurant in Roppongi for the first few months that he was here. He didn’t have enough money for a place or for food, so the restaurant owners let him eat and sleep there until he got on his feet. He learned Japanese at the restaurant. He told me that Tokyo’s simultaneously easy and hard for Black people. He said that we must be “small” here, fit in, not make too much noise. When I told PO that I’ve never had a hard time anywhere, he laughed and called me naive. (I am– thankfully). He says that Nigerians are maligned in Tokyo, so it was hard for him to get an apartment once he showed his passport. However, he loves Tokyo and wants to remain for a few more years; he loves the nightlife, the food, the friends he’s made. Yet, he wants to go home to Nigeria, not to live, but to hug his mother and be hugged by his father.

If I ruled the world, I’d free all my sons. I love ’em love ’em baby. – Nas (If I Ruled the World)