Before my mother’s suicide the year I turned twelve, my father and I seldom saw each other. An engineer who became a board director at a steel-manufacturing conglomerate, Hiroshi traveled all over the country on business. Even when he worked in his office in Kobe, he left early and came back — if he came back — past midnight. My mother waited up, but he often called from some noisy bar to claim he was leaving on a business trip. Other phone calls, from women looking for him, made clear that my father had several girlfriends who vied for his attention. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that he was a liar and a cheat and that women were attracted to him all the same.
Since his free time was devoted to playing rugby with former college teammates, Hiroshi seldom joined my mother, brother, and me on family vacations or outings. He did once attend a family reunion — for his side of the family — at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Kobe. My brother, Jumpei, four years younger than me, was still a toddler. When we got to the restaurant, our relatives hadn’t arrived yet, the banquet room wasn’t ready, and my mother had to take Jumpei to the bathroom. I was left to sit at the bar with Hiroshi while we waited. He must have had to help me up to the barstool, but I don’t remember him lifting me or holding me on that occasion or any other. What I do recall is the woman behind the bar placing a glass of soda pop in front of me, smiling in an exaggerated way, and saying, “You look just like your father. How lucky for you. He is so very handsome.”