Monday, January 26, 2015

FAQ: Our Story

To tell our story, I decided to write answers to questions we often get. First, a little about us. I’m Leah, originally from the Seattle area, from a Christian homeschooling family. I’m 25, my husband Yuya is 27 and hails from Shizuoka, Japan. Before we met, Yuya studied abroad in Ohio for a year, became a Christian, and decided to go to grad school to study the foreign countries he found so fascinating.  

How did you guys meet?

We met while I was studying abroad in Kyoto, in the winter of 2011. I had come to Japan to continue my studies in Japanese and Yuya was getting his master’s degree in International Relations at the same university. We met in a campus Bible study group. I remember sitting across from Yuya the day we met. I was talking about how I wanted to make more Japanese friends, and Yuya suddenly asked, “Do you ever feel discriminated against in Japan?” and I thought, “Wow, I can be real with this guy!” He sparked a conversation about culture and life that is still continuing.

Which language do you speak together? 

Our first two years together it was all Japanese. Then when he came to the U.S. the first time, we got more comfortable using English together, and now we use both languages pretty equally. It depends on the day and the sort of conversation we’re having!

How do you get along with his parents?

I remember when I met them for the first time. I was so shy and quiet! Afterwards I worried I should have talked more about myself, but Yuya assured me I’d made a great impression just being my reserved self. Yuya’s dad said, “She’s just a Japanese girl born with blonde hair!” That was encouraging, though when we announced our intentions to marry, their first question for us was, “Will you give us a proper Buddhist funeral when we die?” I was surprised that was their first concern. After more beers, his dad said, “Well, I don’t care if you have your pastor bury me under a cross. But your mom wants to leave a proper Japanese grave for future generations to take care of.” How to take care of them as they get older, and still pursue our dream of raising children in the U.S., is one big dilemma we currently face.

What did your parents think of you marrying a Japanese man and moving so far away from home?

My parents supported my studies and me going abroad, but at first it was awkward talking to them about Yuya. After we’d met and dated for 4 months, I returned home to finish my degree and graduate. I planned to find a job in Japan and go back to be with Yuya the next year, but if I started talking about it, my mom would often change the subject. Yuya came to Seattle to visit that Christmas and it was then my family warmed up to him, and to us as a couple. Fast-forward two years later, at our wedding in Seattle. My new husband’s immediate family, his 3 best friends (his groomsmen) and two of our female friends had come all the way from Japan to attend our wedding. During the reception my mom stood up and said, “People keep asking me ‘aren’t you sad to lose your daughter to Japan?’ but God has really been speaking to my heart since I met all you folks from Japan. I’m not losing a daughter, I’m gaining wonderful friends and family.” Needless to say, most of us cried.

Will you live in Japan your whole life?

We hope not. Years before we met, Yuya studied abroad in the U.S. for a year and has wanted to go back ever since. Now we live in Kyoto, it’s lovely and life is very convenient here, we met and dated here, his family is here, and we have many dear friends here, but we both feel a little claustrophobic in the city life and social pressures. Yuya is a devout Christian and has an individualistic personality that is not “typical Japanese” so he doesn’t feel he fits his own culture very well. We’re thinking my home country offers more freedoms to be different.

What do you like about Yuya?

He’s so unique and so himself. Our backgrounds, hobbies, native languages and personalities are so different, but deep down, we’re cut from the same cloth. It’s funny, in an international relationship you’d think the surface things (hobbies, etc.) match up the most easily while the deeper things (faith, values, worldview) don’t match very well, but for us it’s the opposite. He expresses the same amazement at how similar we are where it counts. Yuya helps me be the best me. He teaches me a lot about trusting God. I always feel loved and safe and home when I’m with him. Oh, and he likes my favorite musical Les Miserables. We’re less than a year into marriage but every day I’m so glad we chose each other.

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