Nara native Atsushi Takagi and Mihaela Serbulea from Bucharest met in 2003 when Mihaela gave a lecture on SARS for an international exchange organization in which Atsushi is a member.
They hit it off at a social gathering after the lecture, when they found out they have a mutual interest in mountain climbing. They went on an overnight trip to Mount Gassan in Yamagata Prefecture, then started dating four months later. The couple married in June 2005, holding a wedding party in Togakushi, Nagano Prefecture, followed by a church wedding in a small town in Prahova County, Romania.
Atsushi, 44, works as a color printer engineer.
Mihaela first came to Japan in 1993 as a postgraduate student at Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine. After six years of studies, she went to work for the World Health Organization Kobe Center and took part in a new bioethics project for the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo. She also traveled around Asia and Africa.
She quit her job right before giving birth to their son, Luca, who is now 6.
Mihaela is currently looking for work related to natural medicine and bioethics. She holds a Romanian medical license.
Luca attends Yokohama International School and speaks three languages: Romanian, Japanese and English. Mihaela’s father comes to stay with the Yokohama-based family most of the year.
Why did you choose to travel to Mount Gassan?
Mihaela: I heard it was a great mountain. I emailed Assan (Atsushi’s nickname) that I wanted to go there, not knowing where it was.
Atsushi: I told her that the trip would have to be overnight, and asked her where she wanted to stay. She replied that anywhere was fine.
Mihaela: Assan said he would bring a tent, and we stayed in an uninhabited hut. Although it was only the beginning of October, it snowed and it was freezing cold. We went to other mountains together many, many times after that.
How did you start dating?
Mihaela: I had never thought of it until now, but come to think of it, I think it was when Assan came to pick me up at Narita airport when I returned from my trip to Romania over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Atsushi: I wasn’t thinking of marrying her at that point. After about half a year, we went to see my parents in Nara together.
How did you decide to get married?
Mihaela: When we went to Mount Ohira in Shizuoka together, I talked to Assan about my schedule, which was full until quite far ahead. Assan then asked me whether I had a plan to settle down at all.
Atsushi: As I said that, marriage was in my mind. She is like a nomad — always traveling and not settling in one place.
Mihaela: I replied by saying that I will settle down if there’s anyone who would make me (settle down). I think the turning point came when we both talked about wanting a child. I was 36 back then, so I suggested that if we wanted a child, we would have to settle down quite soon.
What do you like about each other?
Mihaela: Assan is very intelligent and trustworthy. When he says something, he means it, and does what he says. I really feel comfortable with him. At first, we were living apart in Abiko, Chiba Prefecture, and in Yokohama, but he used to give me a call every single night on his way home from work. I thought that was really sweet.
Atsushi: Mihaela is funny and fun to be with. She has lots of ideas, and has a pure character which is somewhat like that of a child. She is active and has a lot of friends. She often goes abroad and moves around a lot, but I know that she will wither if somebody stops her.
Mihaela: I’m so happy that he understands that. I’ll always come back to my family, though. Before meeting Assan, I had already given up on marriage. I thought that I was going to lead a life without family and children, and that my assets were my health and my friends. But everything changed after I met Assan.
Atsushi: I just took my chance. There aren’t many chances like this in life, especially if your partner comes from the other side of the world.
What are your plans and dreams for the future?
Atsushi: We are not in such times where we can act thinking 10 years or 20 years ahead. So I would like to do my job steadily and move ahead.
My job has to do with technology. However, today’s technology won’t last forever, and new technology will come along, so I will have to develop new skills.
As for Luca, he has just entered school and is having fun, so we will stay in Yokohama for a while. We like the international school that he attends very much. I feel that Japanese schools tend to cast children into a mold, and when Luca went to a Japanese kindergarten, he seemed to have fallen into that kind of mold. I thought that if we sent him to a Japanese elementary school, he would become more passive.
Mihaela: I like the way the international school lets children think by themselves. They put emphasis on each child’s uniqueness.
Atsushi: I know that Mihaela aims at a self-sufficient lifestyle. Maybe we can lead a nomadlike life and move from one place to the other, according to different seasons.
Mihaela: To make life easier, maybe we can go back and forth from Bucharest to Comarnic (where Mihaela’s relatives live). That’s when we’re much older.
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