Papa-kai. n. (pah-pah-kai): (Japanese) A dad's night out; usually organized in direct reaction to a similar event organized by mothers, also known as "Mamakai".
I first met Katsunori at the first one of these Japanese dad outings. It was sort of awkward for me. Our wives became friends first, then us dads met at a barbecue. I'd be lying if I said my wife didn't force me to go to this "papakai". My Japanese on a scale of one to ten is about a solid five. If I had to venture a guess, maybe like a first-grade level? For example, I have no clue what Japanese newscasters are saying. Anyway, I somehow managed to make it through drinks and dinner without being completely mute; in spite of my doubts, I also made some new friends.
Fast forward a couple years, and Katsunori's time in America was coming to a close. All of our families became really close in that time; we went trick-or-treating, to theme parks, and went strawberry picking. We'd rotate who's place we'd go to for get-togethers. Birthday parties. Births. It was like going back over thirty years ago to when I was three, and my parents would have uncle and auntie whoever come by with their kids.
So, tying this neatly and seamlessly back to photography, Katsunori asked me to photograph his family before they moved back to Japan. "I'm no pro," I thought. "I just have this gear. I mean, it's fun for me, and I suck, and...stop looking at me..."
I wish I could say something dramatic and poignant like, "that's when it all clicked for me, and I knew then, that looking from behind the lens, through a viewfinder, would be the way I'd see the world for all it's faults and glory, like a tiny television broadcasting the news of my life." But, barf. Come on. But, I can say I enjoyed it. I worked through some of my self doubt. And, they ended up liking the photos. I'm still on the cellular level of photography; not yet even a fetus. That said, I'm glad Katsunori dug the images. See you in Japan, bud.