Monday, 6 September 2010


How do you blog about the funeral of a friend?
Can't really.
Last year I blogged about the funeral of my father. Shit, that event was a year ago this week.

So, now Flemming.
My first boss in Japan. A guy who taught me the difference between the Past and the Past Perfect (I think he'd learned it the day before).
He let me stay in his home for free until he'd paid me enough for work to move out on my own. Then he introduced me to roommates, two women who have gone on to be the sisters I never had as an only child.
He probably took me to my first karaoke, he was there at my first earthquake....we got drunk together, he introduced me to the writer Dean Koontz, hiking, eating, Japan's silly side....he was often noisy, abrupt, rude, dismissive and uncommunicative....but he was Flemming.

This weekend I flew down to Shin-Koshigaya in the northern sprawling suburbs of Tokyo and met up with Flemming's wife Yukie-san, their children Mai and Ken, and so many old friends and students. Kids who I taught when they were tiny are now full grown young people.
And we remembered Flemming, who died of breast cancer last Tuesday in a hospice after a final two weeks of struggle with it all. His daughter Mai got back from school in Denmark in time to see him, and his sister and niece came too.
We cried and talked and ate and drank. A Japanese funeral is in two parts: the wake and the funeral....and then usually just family at the cremation.

The wake on Saturday night was in a funeral hall. The open coffin and many, many sunflowers, messages, photographs, letters, memories in one room - and sushi and Sapporo beer spread out on tables in the other. Crying in one room, gossip and laughs in the next.
It's a great way to see someone off.
Flemming and Yukie started an English school in their apartment more than 20 years ago, then it grew, they built (literally because Flemming was a designed and carpenter) the next school, they employed foreign teachers, they taught generations of kids in their home area, they expanded to another building....they built a house. They raised two great young people Mai and Ken.
They made a big  difference to many lives.

Funerals make you think about many things in life. What is important. What is just fluff of the passing days. Who is important to you.

On my way home I used the computer at the airport for 10 minutes. Read an e mail from my step-mother saying that my step-mum isn't so good...the nurses and doctors don't see much improvement.
I feel another farewell coming.

Here in Sapporo Yujiro is trying to coordinate Okaasan into an approaching hula dance performance - making sure she has all the right things on the right day. Her grip on what day of the week it is getting pretty weak now.
As I travelled through the airports this weekend I tried to imagine what it will be like when Okaasan is doing this later this month....I can't. All those oh-so-attractive-shops-selling-stuff!!!! Maybe she'll disappear into the Haneda Airport Triangle and never be seen again....I think Okaasan's heaven will be one big department store, never ending shopping....just hope we don't lose her into it sooner than expected.

Am I mean?


  1. Sounds like a nice funeral - if that is at all even a word you can use to describe a funeral. I'm glad you went. what a sad week for you though :(

    kampai to your friend Flemming from Oita. Sounds like he did indeed touch on many people's lives.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss, he sounds like he was a really great man, I'm sure his family and students were so grateful you could make it to say goodbye.
    Take care!

  3. Thankyou both.
    He was a funny, crazy guy...sometimes maddening in his Silent Modes...but ultimately generous of spirit and time and energy.

  4. Hi Dear Oyomesan!!!

    It was very nice to see you again even if it was a very sad reunion anyway...
    Like I said there, because of him my life has changed too.
    Life short isn't it?

    By the way, this is my blog
    It's only Japanese but come visit when you have time.

    OH!I stole a picture you take for this blog because I did not take any at the day.
    Forgive me(^^ゞ

  5. It's only in Japanese???
    Oh no!! All the best blogs are bi-lingual now!!!

    I'm so happy we met up again and cried and laughed together.
    Would you like some print pictures?
    I'll look for your home address and print and send them to you.