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Couple conquer national, religious divide

by Minoru Matsutani

Before Tetsuya Kato met Widya of Indonesia, an international marriage would probably have seemed highly unlikely to him. He only speaks Japanese and the farthest place he has ever been to is Hokkaido.

Widya Sulistyorini, 31, is from a family who may consider international marriages unorthodox, as neither her parents nor three sisters had ever left Indonesia before she married Kato in 2006.

The two met in a bread factory in the city of Soka, Saitama Prefecture, and have built a happy family with a 10-month-old daughter.

“I would like to tell people that international marriage is not anything special. If you think it is difficult, I can assure you that it is not as difficult as you think,” Tetsuya, 30, said.

He now works at a steel processing factory, while Widya, who did not adopt the Kato family name, is a stay at home mother. She speaks Indonesian, Japanese and some English.

How did you come to Japan?

Widya: I first traveled to Japan for pleasure in September 2004. Then I got a job at the bread factory and returned to Japan in April 2005. I found the job via a job-placement agency in Indonesia.

What put you two on the track toward marriage?

Tetsuya: I was working at the same factory. I took her out on our first date in August 2005.

Widya: I did not want to go because my Japanese was not good enough then. But he asked me out very enthusiastically, so I decided to go with him.

When did you marry and what did you do then?

Tetsuya: We got married on April 21, 2006. We did not have a ceremony. All we did was submit a marriage certificate to the Soka City Hall, as we did not have money.

How did he propose?

Widya: He said in English: “I love you, I want you, I miss you.” Then he said, ” ‘Kekkon’ (marriage) OK?” And I accepted.

Do you want to have a proper wedding ceremony?

Widya: I do. I want to have one at St. Ignatius Church, where I go often. (The Catholic church is near Yotsuya Station, in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo).

Did you feel discriminated against in Indonesia as you are a Catholic?

Widya: Yes. If you want a job and an employer is a Muslim, it is difficult to get the job. About 90 percent of the Indonesian population is Muslim.

Did it feel strange about marrying a man who has never been to Indonesia?

Widya: Yes, a little. We are planning to go to Indonesia from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3, the first time Tetsuya will go there.

Tetsuya: I’m a bit nervous.

Were your parents supportive of your marriage?

Tetsuya: My father was OK. My mother first opposed it because Widya is not Japanese. But my father persuaded her. She then gave in, and she and Widya are now on good terms. My parents live in Yashio, adjacent to Soka.

Widya: My parents respect my choice, so they have no problem.

Have you ever met Widya’s parents?

Tetsuya: Only her mother. She came to Japan for three months when our daughter, Emi Regina, was born. Emi is a Japanese name and Regina is an Indonesian name.

Did you speak to your mother-in-law?

Tetsuya: Before she came, I learned greetings in Indonesian. Greetings were just about all the communication I had with her.

What language do you speak with your daughter?

Widya: I speak Japanese and Indonesian. My husband speaks Japanese, of course.

What do you have planned for your daughter’s education?

Tetsuya and Widya: We want our daughter to go to a Japanese school.

Widya: Basically we want to live in Japan, but I want to take her to Indonesia during school holidays.

What do you like and dislike about Indonesia?

Widya: People do not have good manners like Japanese. The government is corrupt. But nature there is beautiful. I have been to Bali, and Indonesians can stay at a hotel at lower prices than tourists.

Tetsuya: I do not know yet because I have never been there.

What do you like and dislike about each other?

Widya: He is very nice to me. But he does not help me with housework or take care of our daughter.

Tetsuya: She adapts herself to make things easy for me. But she recently has a short temper.

What is the difficulty in being together?

Tetsuya: My wife cannot read kanji, so I have to do all the paperwork, and I have to take time off to go to immigration offices and other places with her. Also, I wish immigration office people could speak English.

Widya: In Indonesia, it is normal for both parents to work, so many people hire baby sitters, and those hiring baby sitters do not have to be rich. Here I must do everything.

What is the best thing that happened to you since you met?

Tetsuya and Widya: Our daughter.

Did you know Dewi Sukarno, a Japanese TV celebrity who is the third of four wives of a former Indonesian president?

Widya: Yes. All Indonesians do, even those who are not interested in Japan do.

Reader participation is invited for this series, which appears every other Saturday. If you wish to be featured, please e-mail hodobu@japantimes.co.jp