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Frenchman finds ideal in temple’s ‘better half’

by Minoru Matsutani

Anthony Deville always dreamed of marrying an Asian woman.

Fascinated by Japanese arts and culture, the 39-year-old Frenchman found his “better half” in Japan, Mayura, 35.

Mayura may be as exotic a woman as a Frenchman managing an Italian restaurant could hope to find. As the daughter of a Buddhist priest in Tokyo’s “shitamachi” (downtown) district, she has to be versatile. She cleans the temple, cooks meals for her father and does other chores for the temple every day.

Mayura, which means “male peacock” in Sanskrit, sometimes performs tea ceremony and shows foreign guests at the temple how to put on a kimono. She is also a licensed aroma therapist.

Anthony, for his part, has managed restaurants in France, Britain, Italy and Tokyo. He now works at Piacere at the Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo in Chiyoda Ward. The couple have no children.

What brought you to Japan?

Anthony: I was working at the Pinchiorri restaurant in Florence (Italy) and I grabbed a chance to be transferred to Enoteca Pinchiorri in Tokyo in 1998. I had always been interested in Asia and felt learning a language is important for my job. I didn’t speak Japanese before coming here.

How did you meet?

Mayura: Mutual friends introduced us at a party in February 2003.

Anthony: When I saw her that day, I thought she was very fashionable and wanted to see her again.

Mayura: His smile made me want to smile. I also thought he was very gentle.

Who proposed to whom?

Mayura: There was no actual proposal. We moved in together a few months after we first met. I remember him telling me: “Let’s be together until we become an ‘ojiichan’ (grandpa) and an ‘obaachan’ (grandma).” But I’m not sure that was a proposal.

Anthony: It came naturally. I didn’t set up a situation like taking her by surprise with a ring at a restaurant.

What did you do for your wedding?

Mayura: We went to a ward office to register our marriage in April 2006. We had a reception that May at the restaurant where (Anthony) was working in the Ginza at the time. We didn’t use a reception coordinator, so everything we did was our idea.

Anthony: We didn’t sit at a “seat of honor.” We sat with everybody else. We brought my father’s champagne. He owns a vineyard and chateau in France.

Did you do anything in France?

Mayura: No. He hasn’t even registered our marriage with the French Embassy or the French authorities yet.

Anthony: I thought registering with Japanese authorities would automatically mean their French counterparts would be informed.

Mayura: He is professional only at work. He is not good at these things.

How did your parents react to your marriage?

Mayura: They were surprised at first. They were thinking I would marry a priest or someone linked to Buddhism. But they told me to make my own decision. Anyway my father likes foreigners. He has let Nepalese, Indians, Sri Lankans, Germans, Americans and many other foreigners spend the night in his temple, so he must have a sense of affinity with foreigners.

Anthony: My parents were not surprised. They knew I liked Asian women. It was my dream to marry an Asian woman. My mother worries I may not return home because I married a Japanese woman.

What language would you want any future children to speak?

Mayura: I guess I would like my child to learn Japanese and English as main languages and some French, as well as Japanese traditions and manners, and French food and culture.

Anthony: I don’t care about language as long as the child can communicate. As to when we will have one, it’s all about timing. We both like traveling. She cannot easily quit her job because she does not work for an ordinary company.

What languages do you speak?

Anthony: Japanese, French, Italian and English.

Mayura: Only Japanese. I sometimes forget he is French because he speaks Japanese to me. I tried to learn English and French in the past, but it didn’t stick.

Anthony: At Piacere, I speak mostly Japanese. We have about 28 Japanese staff, and some of them speak English, but our common language is Japanese. I speak English with hotel management, French with the assistant director for food and beverages, and of course I speak Italian with our chef, who is from Tuscany. I never took a Japanese proficiency test and am not interested because I’m too busy.

What is your daily schedule?

Anthony: I work from 10 a.m. to late at night, five days a week.

Mayura: I go to my father’s temple before noon Monday to Friday, make lunch and dinner for my father and do chores and clerical work for the temple. I come home around 8 p.m. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, and Bon, from mid-July to mid-August, I am basically stuck in the temple from morning to late night for a week or 10 days.

Do you like Japanese food?

Anthony: Yes, but I don’t eat Japanese food at home. I eat Japanese restaurants because I like the atmosphere.

Mayura: Before I met Anthony, I was making mostly Japanese food. I hadn’t even touched olive oil. By the way, even though (Anthony) said he likes Japanese food, there are many things he cannot eat.

Anthony: I cannot eat tofu, “natto” (fermented soy beans), nori and “wakame” (seaweed). But I can eat nori when it’s used in a sushi roll.

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