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Absence makes couple grow fonder

by Natsuko Fukue

Long-distance relationships are no longer rare in today’s global village. But how long can a couple last without actually seeing each other? Fukuoka residents Naoko Yufu, 28, and 26-year-old Xie Guosong from China have been apart for about four of the five years of their relationship.

But thanks to trust and good communication they were able to continue their romance, they said. While they were apart, they phoned each other every day. “You have to really talk more on the phone than when you’re actually seeing the person,” said Yufu, “so you can actually get to know the person well even though you’re apart.”

They have now been married for a year, and are finally starting their life together in downtown Fukuoka.

When and how did you meet?

Guosong: It was in November 2004.

Naoko: I was his Japanese-language teacher in Shandong Province in China. After graduating from university in 2004, I trained at a school to become a language teacher. The school dispatched me to Shandong for four months as an intern. I taught him for two of those months.

Why did you start studying Japanese?

Guosong: I wanted to study electronics in Japan, so I began to learn the language.

Were you immediately attracted to each other when you first met?

Guosong: We weren’t even friends. She was the first Japanese person I met.

Naoko: On the contrary, I didn’t like him. At the language school in China, there were classes taught by Chinese teachers and Japanese teachers. While my classes were conversation-oriented, Chinese teachers gave vocabulary quizzes, so students were sometimes secretly preparing for the quizzes in my class. But he was doing it so openly. I didn’t have a good impression of him.

How did your relationship become romantic?

Naoko: That was in early 2005, after I went to see my students in the south, in Fujian Province. They took my course for two months and graduated from the school, hoping to get visas to travel to Japan. But all 11 students were refused. So I went to visit and encourage them.

Guosong took me around the town in Fujian, and I thought he really was a good person. I thought it was a rare opportunity to meet a person I felt comfortable with, and it would be a pity if I said goodbye to him. So at the end of my stay there, I asked him if we could be boyfriend and girlfriend. But the day we agreed to be a couple, I had to go back to Shandong.

Guosong: I was surprised. I used to just see her as my teacher.

Naoko: To me, the students were about two years younger, so they were more like my friends. But to them, teachers are someone you respect.

What did you do after you completed your internship?

Naoko: I was determined to be a full-time language teacher, so I went back to Fukuoka to take an exam to become a teacher. But it’s held only once annually, so I had to wait for a year, doing a part-time job and studying.

In 2006, I passed the exam and was dispatched to Xiamen, which is also called Amoy.

Guosong: It’s just across from Taiwan. I was working in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, as a salesperson at Mizuno. We were able to meet every other week.

Naoko: It took me four to five hours by bus from Xiamen to Fuzhou. But it was good a long-distance relationship become a “middle-distance” relationship. We talked over the phone every day, in very basic Chinese and Japanese.

When were you finally able to be together?

Guosong: I actually quit my job at Mizuno and went to Xiamen in November 2006 to look for work.

Naoko: We went out together for about a year or so in Xiamen. Then we thought we could be lifelong partners.

Why did you return to Fukuoka?

Naoko: For one thing, I wanted to show him Japan. To decide which country we would live in in the future, we thought it would be better he also experienced Japan for a while. But I thought it’d be tough for both of us to go to Fukuoka and make a brand new start. So I went back first to look for a job.

When did you get married?

Naoko: We registered first in China in 2009. Afterward, we also did so in Fukuoka.

Guosong: And I came to Fukuoka last June to live with her.

You didn’t have a wedding ceremony?

Naoko: No. If we had done it in China, the guests would only have come from Guosong’s side, and if it had been in Fukuoka, they would only be my family and friends. I also don’t like to be the center of attention. I would have been in his hometown because he’s from a farming village where many people have never seen a foreigner.

Guosong: Well, in fact, we plan to do so in the near future.

Naoko: Maybe.

Guosong: We’re thinking about holding a wedding party in Fukuoka too.

Naoko: (Laughing) We’re not thinking about that!

It’s your first time living in Japan. Have you experienced any culture shock?

Guosong: I didn’t get used to life here at the beginning. I felt nervous. I also worry whether I’m being rude.

Naoko: After I return from work, he always asks me: “I did this today. Is it considered rude?”

Have you started working?

Guosong: Yes, at a ramen shop. I’m in an environment in which I have to speak only Japanese.

Naoko: I think he’ll learn a lot. Now he’s picking up my feminine Japanese, so it’s good he’s surrounded by men!