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Recipe found for cross-cultural love

by Mami Maruko

Cristiano Pozzi, 37, born and raised in the Lake Como area in northern Italy, and Akiko Kobayashi, 36, from Tokyo, first met in 2003. Cristiano, a chef at an Italian restaurant, and Akiko, owner of a nail salon in Akasaka, were introduced to each other in Tokyo by a mutual Italian friend.

They dated for a year, but Cristiano went back to Italy after his contract with the restaurant expired. His promise that he would soon return to Tokyo did not materialize and Akiko thought that their relationship had ended. But two years later, Cristiano finally came back to Tokyo and found a job at another Italian restaurant.

The couple got married in 2008, and their son, Oscar Aguri, was born the following year. The family now lives in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

What was the proposal like?

Akiko: He failed to propose to me the first time round. He told me later that he had prepared an engagement ring, and intended to propose to me aboard the plane to Italy, but we both slept right through the flight! He lost the timing and ended up proposing to me a month later. One evening in our bedroom, we were commenting on how beautiful the stars were and he asked me: “Don’t you feel something strange under your pillow?” I looked under the pillow, and the engagement ring was there.

Cristiano: Then, I said to her, “Will you marry me?”

How did your parents react to the marriage?

Cristiano: My mom was surprised (his father died when he was 20).

Akiko: When we went to our parents to get approval for the marriage, Cristiano came wearing a suit with a cake in his hand, and he even prepared an interpreter for the day!

Cristiano said to my dad, “You only have Akiko, so I decided to stay in Japan.”

Now my dad says how lucky he is to have Cristiano as a son-in-law. My parents love Cristiano, because he’s so gentle and does many, many things for the family.

What kind of wedding did you have?

Akiko: We had a wedding first in Japan at the Conrad Tokyo in Minato Ward, Tokyo, and later at Cristiano’s hometown in Italy. Most of the guests were Cristiano’s family and friends, but my parents, two of my friends, and four of my father’s friends attended the wedding, too.

Cristiano: I was surprised at the difference in the price of the two weddings. Japanese weddings are way too expensive!

What do you like about each other?

Akiko: Cristiano is so gentle and never talks ill of others. Also, when I’m in a bad mood, he is not affected by it. Even when he gets cross, he keeps the anger to himself, and leaves the room silently.

Cristiano: Akiko is “ii kanji” (cool), and is such a good organizer.

What language do you speak to each other?

Cristiano: Usually, we speak in Japanese.

Akiko: We use English only when we fight. I want to learn to speak more Italian, though, as I can only say very simple things like “hello” in Italian.

What language do you speak to your son?

Cristiano: I speak to him 100 percent in Italian.

Akiko: I use 100 percent Japanese.

What kind of conditions did you have in getting married?

Cristiano: I asked Akiko to agree on a double-income lifestyle throughout our marriage.

Akiko: Cristiano promised me that he will live in Japan after getting married.

What was the most memorable event in your marriage?

Akiko: The birth of Aguri. He was born by Caesarean section two months early at 1.5 kg due to the separation of my placenta. When this happens, the mother and child are at risk due to hemorrhage, sometimes even resulting in death. Often, the baby is left with some kind of disability.

Cristiano: I panicked and didn’t know what to do when I heard about the state that my wife and son was in.

I could speak and understand only little Japanese back then, so I called many people up including my father-in-law and friends, and asked them to come to the hospital to explain to me what was going on.

Akiko: Luckily, Aguri and I both survived. Aguri was kept in a neonatal intensive care unit for two months, but after coming out of hospital, miraculously, he has grown steadily.

What is your dream for the future?

Akiko: I want to go and live in Australia with Cristiano after we retire (she used to live in Australia). I also want Aguri to study at an Italian university, as he is half-Italian.

Cristiano: I want to buy a motorcycle. I have one in Italy, but I want to sell it, and get a nice one in Tokyo.