In today’s guest post I’d like to introduce you to Grace Buchele Mineta. Grace is a Texan blogger married to her college sweetheart, Ryosuke. They live in Tokyo, where Grace runs the blog Texan in Tokyo, full of personal musings, comics, and stories about interracial marriage, travelling, living abroad, and everything else that she loves about Japan.
My husband broke his bank card last week. It wasn’t purposeful, it was a slip of a hand and half a second later, there was jagged crack down the magnetic strip of the dark blue card. So we went to go get it fixed. And since this is Japan, it involved standing in several lines at a branch office.
When we walked up to the window together, the Japanese woman behind the counter briefly took stock for us before turning to my husband to ask: “Are you translating for her?”
“Excuse me?” My husband asked. I guess we looked like an odd pair. He’s Japanese (born and raised in Japan) and I am white (born and raised in Texas). Out in the rural sprawl of Ibaraki, we stick out more than in Tokyo.
“The foreigner,” she asked, “Are you acting as a translator for her?”
“Umm, no. My bank card broke. I would like to order a new one.”
She accepted the forms, briefly scanned them, then looked up at us again. “And, umm, what about… ummm…” She motioned toward me.
“I’m his wife,” I cut in.
The entire process took another five minutes. “The card should arrive in the mail within three to four weeks,” she told us before waving the next person up.
This wasn’t an isolated event. This is life as the white wife of a Japanese businessman in Tokyo. When we shopped for apartments, the landlady and housing office asked if we were roommates. When I apply for a membership card for the dry cleaners, pharmacy, or nearby grocery store, there is a moment of confusion because my first name is written in Katakana (for foreign words in Japanese) and my last name is written in Kanji (traditional Japanese characters). When we go to the bank, phone store, or government offices together, he is viewed as my translator rather than my partner.
It doesn’t bother my husband. He always shrugs and says “It’s rare to see a Japanese man married to a non-Asian woman in Japan. It’s not personal.” And I know it’s not personal. But it feels personal.
Interracial marriages have become more commonplace in the last 50 years, and I can’t wait for the day (perhaps my children or grandchildren’s era) when no one bats an eye at a Latin American woman cuddling up with her African husband or two fathers pushing a baby stroller.
But in the mean time? In the mean time I’m just going to go back to having fun as a Texan living in Tokyo. Even though moving to Japan messed with my self-confidence and body issues, I have never once regretted it. Living in Japan has been, and continues to be, one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Have you ever had a similar experience? I’d love to read your stories.
Would you like to write a guest post that is connected to the topic of this blog? Send me an e-mail at chinaelevatorstories[at]gmail.com or fill out the contact form on the about page. I reserve the right to refuse publishing guest posts for any reason.