In a recent WSJ article on expat life, the was an interview/ buy my recently published book, with an American woman, who met, and later married a Japanese man, and now lives in Japan. The book, titled The Good Shufu, also the title of the author’s WordPress site.

I bought and read the book as its the obverse image of the majority of what the Japanese call 国際結婚, lit. “international” marriage, aka the marriage of a Japanese national to a non-Japanese partner.  Its a term like the word hafu, that I am not all that comfortable with as in describing such marriages  this way, a barrier is erected between ‘them’ and ‘us’.  Accurate up to a certain point, but this also catches those Japanese whose partner is a 在日韓国人, a person born and raised in Japan, of Korean ethnicity, and at least in the U.S., would have citizenship in the country of their birth, but in Japan……..

But getting back on track,  most “international” marriages are between a man and Japanese  woman, as mine is, hence my interest.

I would say from my and the experience of other men I know who have Japanese wives is that there are fewer societal, familial expectations of us.  We are expected to bring home a salary- hand it over to our wives, and help out in other ways, but unlike the western  woman married to a Japanese man, there is, or at least I never felt  pressure to produce the all important heir, nor was I/ did I have to care for my  parent in-laws as a daughter in-law is expected to do in Japan.

What helps to make things work out?  The first and paramount reason in any marriage is that you truly want to be with this person.  I have come across Japanese women looking for non-Japanese partners because they assume a marriage will help them learn English, or with a Western spouse, to opportunity to escape the smothering straitjacket of conformity Japanese society forces a woman into.  And there were those who just wanted to see what color ‘it’ is.

In our case, we both had living experience living in one another’s culture prior to meeting and later marrying.  We both spoke/comprehended each other’s language and for me, I had a strong interest in her culture.

When son unit came along all those years ago, is when differences began to show.  While all mothers have a special bond with the children they carry and then deliver, it has been said and I can affirm that a Japanese mother’s relationship with her children is particularly strong and that in many areas, the father is expected to defer to his wife.

A stereotype of where western and Japanese cultures clash in child-rearing is when (note, I didn’t say if) your small child starts to run a high fever.  For me,  an ice bag on the forehead or elsewhere is SOP in this situation, but for the Japanese mother, its a hot water bottle.  That still baffles me, but children come out none the worse for wear so…..

Language acquisition and cultural awareness/competition is another area of friction. Had we stayed in Japan, I am certain I would have become concerned about Son Unit not have enough exposures to my culture/language and for Wife Unit, it has been a source of struggle and concern ever since we moved back to the U.S. all those years ago.

I suppose there’s more to write, but I see my coffee has gone cold…  ;-)



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Personally,  having to think of a relevant, yet catchy title every time I want to post gets in the way of posting, and  thinking about this a bit more,  see myself skipping a post title altogether from here on out.

Son unit after some persuasion and offer to pay for his airfare, will be coming home briefly for the holidays, for a vacation.  Think  Mother Unit is on the same page and won’t be pressing him too much on what he should do while he’s here.

For me,  It’ll be interesting to observe how he reacts in his once familiar surroundings; he hasn’t been home since the start of his junior year in college. For myself,  my real separation from my home was a few years after I went to Japan.  On returning home for a short visit, there was the fuzzy bit of nostalgia, but also a deep intuitive realization that I had outgrown my home ‘hood.

Still looking and still applying for the next job.  I would really like to land a permanent full-time job in government affairs, but see myself slowly admitting those days are over and I need to concentrate on contact J-E E-discovery gigs.

Was on the receiving end of a backhanded shot the other day.  I was in the frozen food section of Wegmans, doing some pre-Thanksgiving Day shopping and looking a a selection of frozen pie shells, one a national brand and the other, and on sale, lesser known brand.

Beside me as a young, several months pregnant Asian women also deciding which to buy.  As a reached for the lesser known brand, she asked me which of the pie shells I would recommend. Told her for myself, it really didn’t matter (the cheaper of the two), to which she gave a short laugh and said she should have expected I would say that as I am a guy……………..



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Rain and Gloom

Which is keeping me in for the past two days.  Funny how the rains seems to coincide with the change of seasons, both fall into winter and spring into summer.

I could spend my time mindlessly watching TV and the horrible programing and equally depressing ads; for Medicare supplement insurance plans, diabetes, or other chronic malady medication, IRS debt consolidation….. really depressing when you think carefully about the demographic this programming and advertising is aimed at.

The one active job lead, a review project in Atlanta, Georgia, well don’t know about that.  Had an e-mail Sunday night telling me the law firm wants to meet with me tomorrow, and what time would be convenient?  Responded but have yet to hear back.  Half hoping I don’t as working away from home is not what I am after.

But this does allow me the time to sit back and update the blog.

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A Movie I’m Puting on My ‘To View” List

The trailer for this short“>movie that found its way to my Facebook page by way of another Facebook page devoted to children (and adults), the offspring of Japanese and non-Japanese parents, commonly called ‘Hafu’.

While the trailer is short, it speaks volumes on the difficulties children of such marriages face in Japan (and this is the reason we brought up son unit here) and why despite talking the talk of “Internationalization” 国際化 since at least when I first came into contact with Japan in the late 70’s,  Japan is in many ways as one person put it, is still the most advanced 3rd world country on earth.

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Venus & Mars

A good story illustrating the difference between the male and female of the species. Was dragged to Tyson’s I Sunday as wife unit had businesses at Sephora. She didn’t ask me to go in- thank God, but asked, “Isn’t there anyplace you want to go in the mall?” My Calvin Coolidge-like answer was “No”.

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Damned Traffic

Wife unit is working/training for a week, this week, at a store near Dulles.  The distance from home to this is store is  about double of what it is to her home store and in the teeth of mooring and evening rush hour traffic.  The journey home @ 5 pm, took almost 90 minutes to cover a 20 mile or so trip.

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Sex as a Marketing Tool-In Japan

Not an earth-shaking observation I know.

A friend of mine who appears too have far more free time on his hands than might be good for him, found this “gem”.

Its a ad for an automobile tire retailer, who I suppose is the equivalent to a Mr. Tire chain here.  One thing I have leaned over the years is that in advertising,  the most obnoxious, inane ads have a point;  the merchant’s name is remembered and in retailing, that’s 2/3rds of the battle.

On the other hand, the 3 young sirens hired/used to “extoll” the wisdom of making one’s next tire purchase at this tire retail chain, makes me wonder, are men out there who are that gullible-dumb enough to based their purchase decision solely on these 3 prancing young things?

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