When you're the partner in a "kokusai kekkon" (international marriage), proclaims Shukan Gendai (Apr 21), every day you're in for a surprise.
And the stats show increasing numbers of such partners are in on the gag. According to Toru Orimoto, a legal professional knowledgeable about international marriages, the number of Japanese males tying the knot with a female of another nationality rose from under 4,000 in 1980 to 23,000 in 2012. Add to that the number of Japanese females marrying foreign males, and you've got more than 30,000 new international couples tying the knot every year.
"The recent trend has been for middle-aged Japanese males in their 40s and 50s to wed foreign women," says Shinji Katsuyama, operator of the Toranomon branch of the Win Bridal Japan matchmaking service. "In many cases, when these men, who have assets, decide they want to wed and have children, they desire a young bride. But Japanese women aren't interested in middle-aged men -- the accepted norm for a partner's age differential is around 10 years -- so it's easier for them to pair up with foreigners. For foreign women, the main factor attracting them to live in Japan is economic, which is something that a man between age 40 to 60 is able to offer."
Shukan Gendai proceeds to list numerous gaffes by foreign brides, such as the Chinese female who felt it was okay to scoop up and keep coins that had been flung at the altar of a Shinto shrine during the Setsubun festival; an Italian woman who tried to emulate Japanese at funerals, but erroneously thought they were snorting powdered incense at the altar; a Romanian bride who freaked out at the sight of her husband swilling raw eggs for his breakfast; and a man who found it odd that his Libyan bride would escort their children to a nearby park at night to engage in outdoor karaoke gatherings with her compatriots.
While assigned to Indonesia, Takashi Hosokawa met his wife Cecilia (both names are pseudonyms), who had worked as an interpreter. The two have enjoyed 15 years of connubial bliss.
"We were married in November and I brought her to Japan in December," Hosokawa recalls. "I was shocked by my electric bill for that first month, which was over 50,000 yen."
It seems Cecilia cranked up the air conditioner setting to 35 degrees, equivalent to the daytime peak.
"I walked in and our little 2K flat was like a sauna," he relates. "'I'll freeze to death here,' she whined. And there she was padding around barefoot and in a halter and miniskirt, perspiring. It never occurred to her to put on more clothes.
"And then she became upset when I asked her to put on a long-sleeved garment," Hosokawa smiles in recollection.
Following her marriage to an American, Kanako Mori, 34, soon discovered her hubby was a passionate aficionado of porno movies from his native land.
"He loves watching AVs showing blonde actresses with breasts the size of volleyballs, and when we had sex, he urged me on, saying, 'Come on, Kanako, let yourself go,' and 'Go ahead and scream, don't hold anything back.'
"At first I was shy and felt silly doing it, but since I wanted him to enjoy the act, even though I wasn't turned on by it at all, I would watch his videos and practice, bellowing out, 'Oh yes!' and 'Oh my god!' I'd keep the vacuum cleaner running to drown out my voice," she tells the magazine. "Now I pretty much have the act down pat."
So what's the secret to giving an international marriage staying power?
"The most important thing is to go with the flow, and keep your sense of humor," advises manga artist Junichi Inoue, age 42, who three years ago tied the knot with a Chinese bride about 20 years his junior. "If you try to force your spouse to give up ingrained customs and practices, you'll never resolve anything. Just enjoy the ride."
The article concludes that Japanese need to understand that if love is to transcend national boundaries, tolerance is indispensable.© Japan Today