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My Darling Is a Foreigner

42 Comments
By James Hadfield

"My Darling Is a Foreigner," Saori Oguri’s illustrated tales of her life with American husband Tony Laszlo, has been tough to avoid recently.

First released in 2002 to modest acclaim, the series became a slow-burning success, eventually ratcheting up sales of more than 2.5 million copies. If you spent much time riding the JR over the past couple of years, you’ll probably recognize it from the animated clips that used to play on the train TV screens. The story is now poised to hit cinemas in a heavily promoted live-action movie starring Mao Inoue and newcomer Jonathan Sherr.

The success has turned Oguri and Laszlo into one of Japan’s most high-profile international couples — albeit one whose cartoon likenesses are far better known than the people themselves. Well, at least it means they probably don’t get stopped for autographs when they go out to buy groceries.

"My Darling Is a Foreigner" is no tell-all memoir, consisting rather of a series of gently comic episodes from the couple’s life together. It’s warm and likable, if not terribly enlightening — the kind of thing that you should read for fun, rather than for insights into the realities of interracial marriage.

To coincide with the release of the film, Media Factory has issued an English version of the first volume of the series that’s translated by Laszlo himself. (Funny, that: in the afterword, Oguri explains that her then hubby-to-be had to stop reading the book after a few chapters, having found it all a little too close to the bone.) It’s pitched at English learners as much as at an overseas audience — the original Japanese text has been retained, and the chapters are interspersed with “Tony’s English School” sections in which Laszlo explains key language points.

This is entirely in keeping with the source material, which often does a better job of reintroducing Japanese readers to their own culture than in edifying them about foreign ones. A dedicated "nihongo" nerd, Laszlo bombards Oguri with obscure questions about Japanese (“What does the ‘yare’ in ‘yare aa shiro kou shiro’ mean?”), or befuddles her by grasping for "fumu" (stomp) when he really wanted "fumikiri" (railroad crossing). When she proposes a game of “acchi muite hoi” — that rock-paper-scissors follow-up in which you try not to look the same way your opponent is pointing — it reduces him to a nervous wreck.

Other parts of the book are likely to resonate better with a non-Japanese audience. Laszlo is depicted as a lovable oddball with a delicate sensibility and a passion for chocolate ice cream, one whose fluffy visage is compared at one point to an alpaca. When the couple go out for lunch together, he insists on asking for a different wine to replace the thin plonk that came with his set meal (and gets one that’s even worse). A discussion of whether humor is a cultural trait ends with Oguri realizing that “this guy laughs at anything.” The petty domestic tiffs over housework will be familiar to pretty much any couple.

“I suppose that, in the end, the kind of marriage you end up with is determined not by whether you marry a Japanese or a foreigner,” Oguri writes in the foreword, “but rather by the personalities of the two people involved, and how they are alike and different as individuals.”

Fair enough — but why pick a title like "My Darling Is a Foreigner?" Why not My Darling’s Name is Tony, My Darling Has a Beard, or My Darling is a Serial Scrimper and a Little Bit Eccentric?

This review originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

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42 Comments
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I am already tired of all these gaijin/ j-chick movies/ books. 100% boring / predictable. Try something like " my darling is a gaijin whale eater" or " my darling is a gaijin gangsta rapper"

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What a tired account this book must be.

If marrying a foreigner is worth writing a book about these days, then people must be desperate for excitement. Chicken soup for the soul-less.

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Obviously a whole book aimed at making your foreign spouse a joke. Personally, I would not want to be married to a woman who constantly used me as the butt of her jokes. This is the ultimate form of disrespect for your life partner.

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I'm waiting for a non-Japanese married to a Japanese to write a book with the exact same title and see how the Japanese entertainment industry markets it.

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hmm.. i havent read the book yet, so i cant judge, but i would like to read it as i am married to a person who is from a different culture (he's american/japanese raised in america, me, french/japanese, raised in japan)..

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Boring Book !!!! Boring Movie !!!!!

Boring actors & actresses

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Wow! Tough crowd. You'd think they were remaking Casablanca here. It's admittedly a light-hearted book and movie which is for entertainment. J's like things cute, fluffy, and not too in-depth. It's not a cultural anthropological study of inter racial marriages. Lighten up folks.

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Yeah, I was always a littttle bit horrified by those clips I saw on the train. They just seemed to be way too "othering" of foreign people for my comfort.

If a woman tried to write something like "My Darling Is a Salaryman," it would be the most pointless comic ever, since we know that salarymen are never home anyway. rimshot

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Ah, but "My Darling is a Salaryman" would have loads of potential. Since the husband is never there anyway, the wife is free to do whatever she wants—and she does.... I am envisioning a combination of Sex & The City and Cat Woman with a portion of delicious naughtiness thrown in to wider the appeal to the mangaporn-reading crowd.

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My X is writing a book called "My Darling Was a Foreigner!"

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Ii heard Tom Cruiser, Matt Damoon, Ben Aflac,Will Smithy George Cloney refused the part because it was to dramatic & emotional. They couldn't match the acting style or blend into the character.

I'm a book & film critic- Out of 1-5. I will grant this movie a -5 (negative five) to predictable and totally boring.

Ideas : other nationalites (main actor) except European ( Caucasians) Set the movie in a different country Make the plot exciting ( we all know Japanese parents are shocked, in awe, extreme vertigo, or whatever they go through, please show the non Japanese parents re-actions for a change. Maybe they are more excepting than Japanese.

I know this a dramatization of a true story but change it sometimes please. Boringggggg !!!!

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Maybe their more accepting than the island folk in this country. Also a fresh idea make it into a musical. A bilingual musical like Nine. I can direct this movie even write the script. put some folk music into it. I have one track I'm working on

" Daddy stop farting when my foreign boyfriend is here. " " My darling is a materialized girly gurl zombie. "

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What about "My Darling is Unemployed"? Nah, it sounds too real.

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Read the book (forced to) and it is just a pack of stereotypical "gaijin" crap.

Forget "My Darling is a Salaryman" how about "My in-laws (ex in my case) are Japanese" we could but some of the great classics like "where in the USA is Canada" or "Japanese eat fish, have you eaten fish?" and my favorite " Japan has 4 seasons", we couls also add to these with the ather greater classic " Jiyozu, jiyozu, Nihongo jiyozu" when all you can do is put about 3 words together.

I would love to see how much protest (from Japanese and Japanophiles)there would be if Hollywood would make my movie.

I remember the controversy about "Mr Baseball" when it came out even though in my opinion it was quite accurate.

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This book is a persuasive argument for re-instituting miscegenation statues.

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BTW note that the books tittle (at least in the USA) is not "my darling is a foreigner" but English only: "Is He Turning Japanese?" and English subtitled:"My darling is ambidextrous."

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My Darling is Japanese

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@limboinjapan "

"Jiyozu, jiyozu, Nihongo jiyozu" when all you can do is put about 3 words together.

You forgot the: "Can you speak Japanese?" "Hai" "Pera pera desuneeeee!"

Oh, and the assumption that all foreigners are either American and/or speak English.

I doubt I'll read the book, it's very existence makes me uncomfortable- I don't want to put on the same level as the wapanese "darling". Also, I don't trust people with beards.

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I feel sorry for whiskeysour, why? I saw the movie, loved it! I could not stop crying and crying, so many of the problems that Tony had in his life here in Japan, with a Japanese wife etc...have all happened to me to so, I could really identify with this movie. Movie critic or not, I am sure many people will enjoy this movie! I can not wait for the sequel or for the TV DORAMA!

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I'm writing a book called "I'm a darling foreigner".

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I think only in Japan marrying a foreigner can become a subject of a book or a movie.

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Interesting how many people just assume something like this stereotypes or makes fun of foreigners. Overly defensive, paranoid, and counterproductive. My Darling Is a Foreigner in fact breaks down stereotypes (to the extent you could expect a light-hearted manga to do so) and encourages Japanese people to think of foreigners as individuals like anyone else.

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I am often surprised by just how clueless even my close friends in Japan are about other cultures. There is shock and dismay that many things they think are mysteriously Japanese are equally common in the US and much of the world.

This series is funny. Though I would not want to be Tony and the center of that microscope that he is consigned to.

As long as Japanese have to point out "foreigner" over anything like name or personality, then we will remain card carrying aliens. At least they had the good sense to spell it out plainly A. L. I. E. N. just in case we got comfortable in Japan and forgot that we are foreigners.

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...musing a book here tentatively titled "My children are half-foreigners - what you lookin' at?!"

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My Darling is a Foreigner Wannabe!!!

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Maybe they are more excepting than Japanese.

@whiskeysour: Maybe you meant to write "more accepting"? This significantly changes your meaning, I think. I know that this story and movie are quite cheesy, but I'd still like to read/see it!

A much more dramatic look at interracial relationships, Japanese -style, is depicted in the 2009 American-made film, "The Harimaya Bridge." It was fimed on location in Kochi-ken and tells, in part, the fictionalized story of a Black American JET ALT and a Japanese middle school English teacher. The film looks at many issues including descrimination and racism. It's on DVD and is has both Japanese and English subtitles. I give the film a thumbs up.

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haha. That sounds like such a cute book! I totally need to go buy it.

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aaronlennon: LOL!!

How about 'My sweetheart is an Oriental' or 'My honey comes from that country above the USA'?

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This propaganda of the book and film will shake again the heartbeat of the Japanese males who are tired of seeing many of their girls dating with foreigners in reality.

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Airion; OK if this book/movie breaks down stereotypes then they should have picked a less stereotypical tittle, I think Oguri and Laszlo knew it would be offensive to non-Japanese and that is why the tittle in English is not "My darling is a foreigner".

I have read the book and up to now every time I meet a Japanese who has read it all I have ever heard is "how cute and silly you foreigners are" if it was meant to educate or expose Japanese to foreigners then the subtleties were lost on just about every Japanese I have talked to about it.

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My Darling is an Ingrate.

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My wife loves these books, they're actually quite funny.

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I am often surprised by just how clueless even my close friends in Japan are about other cultures. There is shock and dismay that many things they think are mysteriously Japanese are equally common in the US and much of the world.

So true. But have you noticed how it also works the other way around when you go to "western" countries? You will find many people who believe foreigners may have certain different habits, but basically share the same "universal" values - same shock when they find it's not the case. As a side note, it seems to me that the more educated people are the more they have such kind of prejudices.

This series is funny. Though I would not want to be Tony and the center of that microscope that he is consigned to.

At the time when the books came out, my wife showed me some episodes and I found them pretty funny as well. Now since a couple of years my wife writes a blog herself about the, umm, special, experiences she has with me. Many people seem to have fun with it. I hope this won't end up some day in an embarrassing film called "my darling's gonemad"...

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I sometimes wonder how the "Japanization" or katakana-ization of English words occur; how does a certain katakana spelling become the widely accepted one? Sometimes enough to be in the JP-EN dictionary. ダーリン for darling... hmm.

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I think only in Japan marrying a foreigner can become a subject of a book or a movie.

Really, LoveUSA? That's strange because the whole concept reminds me A LOT of the film "My Big fat Greek wedding", which mainly presented stereotypes and some characteristics of the Greek society (the bride's family) in order to make fun of a whole culture. No, i don't say "opa" all the time, and no, i don't eat meat 7 days per week. In fact, most of the third-generation of Greek Americans are totally Americanized. So i think that considering something as "strange" or "funny" because of its foreign origin is totally part of the human nature and differentiation.

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This movie came up in some open discussions during some of my university and community English classes this week.

I'm Australian and my wife is Japanese (married twelve years) but we would never talk about each other or introduce each other as "gaikokujin" or foreigner.

Anyway my students were curious about some of my and our so called "international marriage" experiences and if they were similar to those in the movie and book. I haven't seen the movie so I wasn't really able to comment on Saori and Tony's experiences. But I did relay the difficulty for couples like ourselves have in trying to rent an apartment together, family register issues, fingerprinting at the airport,obtaining finance/credit cards together etc...

All of the students didn't want to hear or ask about any of the above matters that bicultural couples face and just wanted to know about things like whether or not I hug my wife, speak English with her and if I help with the washing up! Some also encouraged me to have a "hafu" child as soon as possible because they are so "kawaii".

In class we also did a little questionnaire and most agreed (maybe 80% +) they they would never date or marry a foreigner and some assured me that a Japanese married to a Korean or Chinese is definitely not an "international marriage".

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a Japanese married to a Korean or Chinese is definitely not an "international marriage".

That's because to many japanese people, intercultural marriage means inter-racial marriage. also, when they say "haafu", it usually means the children of inter-racial couples, not japanese and other asian couples which i think is funny because even though chinese, korean and japanese look similar, they have very different cultures. i, too, am married to a person from a different culture and the difficulties we often face are not our appearances but it's more cultural stuff.

on the other hand, i always think that we (my husband and i) accept our differences because we are from different cultures, and when/if we are from the same culture and assume we are on the same page, then that's when problems occur, so there ar definitely pros and cons about intercultural marriages.

i personally like to call it "intercultural marriage" rather than "international marriage" which most japanese people call (kokusai kekkon)... it should be Ibunka kekkon (intercultural marriage).

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this stir about the book and the movie is actually great news for the foreign guys around, since the scoring chances around those Roppongi bars will increase considerably. I have no problem whatsoever with the stereotype: "hot Japanese girl + average, nerdy Gaijin", let it bloom

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I think only in Japan marrying a foreigner can become a subject of a book or a movie.

Well, then you haven't heard of a little place called Hollywood, California, USA: Jews marrying gentiles, Americans marrying Mexicans, blacks marrying whites, Englishmen marrying Americans, etc. A third of the "love" films coming out of that town revolve -at least partly- on the outsider customs brought into the relationship by one or both parties.

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My Darling's Darling is a Foreigner.

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Why not "My Darling is Becoming a Citizen"

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musing a book here tentatively titled "My children are half-foreigners - what you lookin' at?!"

Now that would be a book I could relate to! Can I contribute a chapter, "I suggested he take a photo and he responded by staring at the ground intensely."?

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