A close friend of ours, Seiji Nakayama, died in Urawa this January, aged 47. The funeral hall was over whelmed with mourners. Approximately 700 school friends, students and soccer teammates waited outside on a cold dark February night to pay their respects to his wife and family. He drowned rescuing his son and his friend. The extremely cold water caused a heart attack. Difficulties exiting the water, taking over 40 minutes, resulted in Seiji’s death.
I urge you to be very careful around innocent looking water. Seiji was a sensible man and wouldn’t have put himself in needless danger. This is a residential water spot in Higashi Urawa, a very ordinary area of water. Take some time to learn about the effects of hypothermia and how to treat it.
Our friend was a kind, funny, family man. He taught my son and numerous other children. He and his lovely wife Peco helped coordinate and run our Summer camps, and Halloween/Christmas parties. He was the reassuring face kids would run to if they had grazed a knee or lost a bag. Seiji was unfailingly patient, the affable uncle for all the kids.
He was also an excellent footballer. We would often duel at futsal. Selfishly, I loved having him as a friend because of his natural English abilities. Despite having not studied abroad, his English was perfect. He worked closely with the founder of Coerver soccer coaching in a translation capacity on his annual visits to Japan. We would gossip as we warmed up before soccer; sharing my travails supporting Everton FC, or asking about our kids' soccer progress.
Now that he’s gone, I ask myself why hadn’t we become better friends? I loved his relaxed, easy company and I think he liked mine. Why hadn't we invited him and his family over to our house occasionally? Why hadn’t I dropped into his workplace adjacent to my kids futsal court for a cup of tea before my kids’ soccer?
Japan is a busy place. Schedules are full. But shouldn’t we take more time to embrace our extended family of friends? The date of our time to go is unknown. At 50 years old myself, I'm seeing friends gradually dying. Illness, drugs, accidents and now Seiji.
We belatedly plan to invite all our friends and acquaintances to our house for a seasonal party. Four times a year, a big get together, with food, drinks and music. Anyone welcome. Enjoy being alive and having friends. I’m hoping I'm not the one with three or four people at my funeral!