It was summer 2000 when Matthew Wortley, on the Japan Exchange and Teaching program and living in Mie Prefecture, met his future wife, Hiromi Fujii, at a festival.
Hiromi, a City Hall worker from the prefecture, had met Matthew, who is from Coventry, England, before but it was the first time that they had a chance to have a long conversation, and they found each other interesting.
It’s been about nine years since their first date, to see the movie “The Perfect Storm.” After living in Edinburgh for four years, they came back to Japan in 2007 and now live in Tokyo with their 1-year-old daughter, Emma.
Matthew is the director of the University of Edinburgh’s North East Asia office, and Hiromi is a housewife.
You two had a wedding ceremony in Leicestershire, England. What was it like?
Matthew: It was good overall, but very cold. We took photos in the garden of the hotel. Hiromi and I were outside the whole time, and no one else wanted to come out to take photos with us because it was so cold. That was one of my memories.
And the other memory is because Hiromi’s parents had come over, as well as getting all the preparation for the wedding, we were also taking them sightseeing. It was really complicated to balance all those things.
Hiromi: I had bridesmaids. We don’t have that kind of custom in Japan, so it was fun to go through the preparation.
Do you feel there are cultural differences?
Matthew: There have been various things. But both of us are quite open-minded.
Hiromi: Rather than cultural differences, I think it has to do with differences in our personalities. He knows pretty well about Japanese culture, so he does not really oppose or get surprised at something I do.
What do you like about your partner?
Hiromi: He is very positive. For instance, if he regrets something, he is able to quickly gather himself up, which is hard for me to do. So, while I envy that, he is dependable because of that.
Matthew: She thinks a lot. She is thoughtful. One of the things I like is that sometimes, we don’t talk all that much. And I quite like that because I am quite a quiet person. I think Hiromi is a quiet person as well. So we are both happy sitting and doing things, but we don’t have to be talking all the time.
What do you like about Japan?
Matthew: There are a lot of things. I like some very simple things, for instance, that trains are on time. If you contact someone asking them to do something, it will happen. In the U.K. trains often tend to be a lot less reliable. If you ask someone to do something, they may or may not do it. It may take a long time. In Japan you don’t have to get stressed about that kind of thing.
I like that there is some group mentality or awareness of others in Japan as well, which I think is disappearing to greater or lesser extent from the U.K. I notice it particularly when I go and see Hiromi’s family and stay with them in the countryside, where the people in the community get involved in local events.
What do you like about the U.K.?
Hiromi: We were living in Edinburgh. The city was very beautiful. People are very nice. One thing I noticed that is different from Japan is that people were very kind to women with children or pregnant women.
What language do you use to communicate with each other?
Hiromi: Recently, I think we speak in Japanese about 90 percent of the time.
What are your concerns with raising your child?
Matthew: Obviously, her being able to communicate both in English and Japanese is a big concern for us.
(Otherwise,) we look into the normal way of doing things in Japan and also get the normal way of doing things in the U.K. and compare them, then decide which is the best for us. Not necessarily choosing one or the other but choosing bits of this and bits of that. I think there are quite a lot of things that are quite different in the two countries.
We’ve looked at both and picked the particular ones we think are good.
For example, Emma has been sleeping in her own room since she was 3 months old, which is quite common in the U.K., but it’s not common in Japan. So we’ve thought what is best for her and what do we think is best and make decisions like that.
Do you plan to stay in Japan?
Matthew: We haven’t really made any final decisions. I think we’d probably like to be in Japan for at least as long as we were in the U.K., and then kind of see how we feel. We were in the U.K. for four years. I think we are generally quite flexible.
Hiromi: I’m flexible as long as it’s the best choice for our family.
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