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Human Parts
A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

Japan

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

Fiction

A short story about online dating, or something like it, with a broken webcam

Abstract glitch colored in pink, yellow and blue background.
Abstract glitch colored in pink, yellow and blue background.

Yui twisted her webcam. “Can you see me?”

Osamu tapped his microphone. “Can you hear me?”

That was how they began each online rendezvous. It was funny — since they could clearly see and hear each other. Perhaps they just wanted to acknowledge each other’s existence, make sure they were physically there.

These internet meetings were virtually the same every time.

Until one day.

“What’s wrong?” Yui asked, leaning toward the webcam.

Osamu lifted his mouse. “I think this is broken.”

“The batteries died?”

“It’s not wireless.”

“Maybe try unplugging and replugging it?”

Osamu did as he was told. …


Fiction

Parents aren’t perfect. And neither are children.

Closeup of young girl’s eye with concentric circles pattern.
Closeup of young girl’s eye with concentric circles pattern.

One of Mai’s greatest fears was to have a child with a birth defect — a cleft lip, Down syndrome. She never expected to suffer the opposite predicament.

The birth of her baby, Ami, went without complications. She was cleaned by the midwife, wrapped in a blanket, and placed in Mai’s arms. This was, no doubt, the happiest day of Mai’s life; she was cradling someone who’d been inside her. Someone who’d been part of her body. Someone she’d been eager to meet for eight months.

This marvelous moment was disrupted by an observation: Ami was watching her. It wasn’t…


Fiction

Food is love, all the way to the end

Once upon a time, my dishes got smaller and smaller. It all started when I returned from the kitchen one day. Eita had finished the rice, miso soup — everything except…

“How come you left these?” I asked, pointing at the plate that had held the tonkatsu cutlets.

He blinked at me as if I’d spoken in a foreign language. Then he lowered his head and said, “Oh, you mean the cherry tomatoes?”

I nodded.

“Well, they’re more of a decoration anyway.”

“They aren’t, but that’s not the point — you’ve never left anything before.”

Eita put down his chopsticks…


Mixed race people don’t often get the acceptance that everyone else takes for granted

I knew when I started my degree in Japanese and International Relations that I would spend a year in Japan. Although I didn’t grow up speaking my father’s native tongue, I still imagined that as soon as I landed, fluent Japanese would flow from my mouth. Sadly, that’s quite far from the truth. For me, as someone caught between being Japanese and British, returning to my father’s homeland has been a complex and challenging experience.

While the friends I’ve made have blissfully enjoyed Tokyo’s many thrills and sights, my identity issues have bubbled up to the surface. This is not…


Five months after an earthquake shook Japan, I visited Tokyo — and witnessed how a country copes with tragedy

The fishing village on Japan’s northeastern coast existed until a few minutes past 8 p.m. on June 15, 1896, when the people inside their wooden houses opened their eyes to darkness — and a rumbling noise drowned out the sound of dogs barking, the crackle of fires settling to ash.

Four months later, an article in National Geographic described what happened next:

Only a few survivors on all that length of coast saw the advancing wave, one of them telling that the water first receded some 600 yards from ghastly white sands and then the Wave stood like a black…


I once knew a guy who touched a woman on the platform at Shinjuku station. Groped, maybe. He said he never meant to do it. Told me it was all a big misunderstanding.

“Look,” he said, “it was a busy morning, and the train was running late, but the commuters kept coming, and we all got squashed together. It just kind of happened.”

Later, after a few beers, he also said, “Look, okay. Okay. So she was beautiful, too. Gorgeous. And yeah, her curves were the kind of curves a guy like me admires. Covets, even. Curves like that? …


For Hiro, it started in the fifth grade, on the mountain paths of Tonodake.

Bored and restless, he began throwing stones at passing hikers. In a fit of rage, his parents left him at a small wooden bench between rest stops, some three hours up the mountain.

The plan was to return an hour later and collect their tearful, repentant son. Instead, Hiro wandered into the forest, believing himself abandoned and alone.

He was found three days later, dehydrated and delirious.

He said he was following a white cat.

For Sachiko, it started in junior high, in the bedroom of…


Takeshi called his plan to get a girlfriend, “Operation Fateful Encounter.”

He said it was an investment. It took time. It required effort and patience. Planning. Hard work. Timing.

And a certain amount of unavoidable luck.

“But matters of the heart,” Takeshi said, “they’re always something of a wild card.”

When I asked him how it was going recently, he said he was retired.

“Too many failures?”

He shook his head. Smiled like a wily veteran remembering a hunt gone awry.

“No,” he said. “It was the perfect success.”

Takeshi spent his mornings jumping train to train.

He started at…


Of buying, selling, loving, and losing

I had a friend who worked at a nandemoya — a kind of buy anything, sell anything store — in the suburbs of Musashikoyama. It belonged to his parents. My friend said he fell into the job — he wasn’t much for study, and he wasn’t much for hard work, either. He said it was easier than university. Easier than job hunting. Easier than bothering with life in general. He said it gave him time to think.

The nandemoya was built into the first floor of a thin, two story-house, with a faded sign out front. His father sometimes talked…

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