Kazunobu Seto and his wife, Robin, met in his hometown of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, in 2004.
Robin, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, was a teacher on a one-year contract at an English conversational school in Kanazawa. They met at a sports club they had both been using.
They dated for about six months, got engaged and soon after moved to Dalian, China, where Kazu (short for Kazunobu) was posted for his job.
After living in Dalian for a year, the couple came back to Japan and got married in 2006, settling in Yokohama. Robin gave birth to their son Oscar nearly three years ago.
Kazu, 33, works in the marketing department of computer company Acer Japan Corp. Robin, 34, taught English until Oscar was born and recently started an online company selling handmade children’s T-shirts.
How did you start dating?
Robin: Suddenly, we saw each other at a bar. We were talking, and he said, “I don’t know how to pronounce your name,” so I said “I’ll write my name on paper.” I wrote my name and also my phone number. For a foreign girl in a small town, it’s very hard to find a date, right? I was getting older — I was 25 when we met.
Kazu: After that, it was very casual dating. During that time, my English was very limited.
Robin: I was planning to stay in Japan just one year, so I didn’t study Japanese. It was too short a time. Our first dates would always be (using) dictionary and pictures. And we often did things that required less talking, for example, festivals. Between dates, we never talked over the phone, because he couldn’t speak English very well, and he was nervous.
Kazu: I didn’t know what to say to her. I could think of only things like, “The weather is nice. I ate breakfast, but it wasn’t so good.”
Robin: Suddenly, my friend said to Kazu, “If you like Robin, you should phone her.” And he decided not to be too self-conscious about English. After that, we started dating (properly), and talked much more.
How did you decide to get married?
Robin: He quit his job of six years, because he was trying to find a job abroad. At that time, I was going back home soon.
Kazu: I didn’t want to separate from her, so I thought I should say something that would be a commitment to her. That meant proposing to her.
Robin: The first three months were very casual, and then we got engaged very quickly. One week after (our) engagement, he said he got a job in China, so we moved to China.
How was life in China?
Robin: It was very difficult living in China. For example, our phone didn’t work half of the time. But actually, it turned out to be good experience.
Kazu: It was difficult, because Chinese was a foreign language for both of us. I could understand her situation (living abroad), and (living in China) had a big impact on our relationship.
Robin: Plus we had lots more free time, so we got to know each other more after a quick engagement.
How was the wedding?
Robin: We got married outside of my parents’ summer house (in Thunder Bay, Canada). About 60 people — mostly family — and only a few friends. From Kazu’s side, only his mom came.
Kazu: Her hometown Thunder Bay is very, very far away.
Robin: I think (getting married outdoors) is untraditional, because many people brought tents, and stayed the night. And we had bonfire, fireworks and sauna. Everyone was swimming, and we partied for several days.
Kazu: (Showing a photo of the wedding) It was very casual. Some people are holding beer.
Robin: I was wearing a Chinese-style dress, because we lived in China. We have one wedding picture in which, as we’re getting married, one of the little kids is jumping in the water!
How did your parents react to the marriage? Were they surprised?
Kazu: My mom must have been surprised, but she didn’t show exactly how she felt. I think mom was fine, because she trusts me.
Robin: My parents really like Kazu. But the problem is (that I’m) living so far away. They never said any opinions about it, but I think they felt sad that I would be living so far away. But both of our parents are really supportive.
Do you plan to have your son get educated in Japan alone?
Robin: Oscar will have education in Japan up till high school. Then, we hope he will go to university in Canada, for several reasons. One is because (university in Canada) is a lot cheaper. And also, in Japan, if you have a foreign university degree, it’s considered high-level. So it’s good for his career.
Kazu: He can choose, but if he says he wants to go to university in Canada, I’ll support him.
Robin: At home, we speak to him all in English. He’ll be bilingual, I’m sure.
What are your future plans and goals?
Robin: We’re hoping to have another child. Another goal is early retirement. Then we can maybe spend time in both countries.
Kazu: For example, six months in Japan and six months in Canada.
Robin: Maybe four months in Canada. It’s too cold during the winter.
Kazu: I want to realize this soon. She has lots of family (members) in Canada, so she always misses her family. I want to give her a very comfortable life, which means living in both Canada and Japan.
Robin: I have a perfect husband.
Kazu: I think (saying something like that) is a cultural difference. Japanese people always say something like,”Oh, my wife/husband is bad!” in public. But it’s different for her. She always says good (things) about me.