Praveen Lama and Kazuko Tanikawa have lived in a bustling shopping street in Tokyo’s Kita Ward since July 2003, when the Nepalese married his Japanese wife after a long-distance love affair that lasted several years through e-mails and phone calls.
Tanikawa, with her mother and aunt, runs Marue Kanpou Pharmacy Co., which her grandfather started some 80 years ago, while Lama, vice president of the Nepalese Association in Japan, is busy promoting his tea importing business.
Their first encounter was in 1991, when Tanikawa traveled to Nepal and asked Lama, who ran a travel agency in Katmandu, to be her guide. Their relationship grew closer when Tanikawa, who was involved with a nongovernmental organization in Nepal in the 1990s, asked Lama, who was educated at an American school, to translate Nepalese documents into English for the NGO.
In the small Oriental pharmacy near JR Komagome Station, the couple talk — and sometimes tease each other — about their marital life, in English and Japanese.
Do you feel any cultural differences between the two of you? If so, what are they?
Lama: I don’t think there are many (cultural differences) between Nepalese and Japanese people. I don’t have any religious problem. (Most Nepalese follow Hinduism, while Buddhism predominates in Japan. Lama was born and raised in a Buddhist family.) We eat rice, so food habits are quite similar, except that we don’t eat raw fish in Nepal. There are some small eating habits (that I found strange). When Japanese eat “soba” (buckwheat noodles), they make a lot of noise. When I first came to Japan, I was quite shocked.
Tanikawa: Nothing in particular.
Would you relate one of the funniest incidents after your wedding?
T: When we lived on the seventh floor of a condominium, one night he was drunk and threw away his key (to our room). I was like, “What are you doing?” Unfortunately I didn’t have my key with me, so we couldn’t go in and had to stay in a nearby hotel that night.
L: I thought I was passing it to her. It landed on the roof of our neighbor’s house.
What do you like or dislike about your partner?
L: She is always happy, eats anything, Japanese and Nepalese food. I cook Nepalese food. She has good feelings for Nepal and its people. Negative points are: she drinks too much, eats too much and talks too much. She also laughs too much.
T: He is funny, eats any Japanese dishes I cook, and he is sometimes kind to me. He also likes dogs. One thing that bothers me is that he dislikes cats. He stops driving or walking whenever a black cat crosses in front of him. He takes a detour or waits for someone to pass the road before him.
L: In Nepal, a cat is regarded as a witch’s messenger. So if a cat crosses the road, I have to turn around.
What do you like or dislike about your partner’s country?
L: One thing is the extreme temperature in Japan. When it’s hot, it’s hotter than India, and when it’s cold, it’s colder than Tibet. I like that places are very clean. But another thing I don’t like is that houses are very small.
T: I like that Nepalese people are somehow careless. Many Japanese are irritated by Nepalese people’s leisurely sense of time, but I have no problem with it. I wanted to go to Nepal since I was a kindergartner. I was interested in the national flag of Nepal, which is a combination of two triangles, since I saw it on a world map in my room.
What are good things about having a foreign partner?
L: You can understand another culture. You can learn more about another language and you can get educated.
T: I can enjoy Nepalese food while being in Japan. If your partner is Japanese, you discuss things deeply in detail. But if your partner is a foreigner, you don’t go that far for better or worse.
What is your dream for the future?
L: I just started my tea business two years ago. This tea comes from the hills of eastern Nepal. I want this (Himal) tea to be very popular in Japan. I want to do business which develops cultural aspects between Nepal and Japan. Since Japan is a developed country, it can offer more help in terms of employment, and support needy children in Nepal in terms of education, in terms of drinking water, in terms of health and in terms of our wealth.
T: I think it’s good to live in Nepal in the future. If we live in the country, I’d like to walk all the trekking routes in Nepal.
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