Our Lives | BLACK EYE

'Don't sell your soul for a Japanese man'

Having overcome isolation, mother now finds herself doling out advice to women seeking Asian men

by Baye McNeil

Rashidat Amanda Oumiya, a 28-year-old American housewife, didn’t come to Japan looking for a husband. The Savannah, Georgia, native was an English teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, living in Hokkaido and doing what JETs do in Sapporo on Saturday nights: They get their drink on at the local Susukino watering hole called Booty.

It was there that, out of nowhere, he just walked right up and started kicking it to her, and it wasn’t long before she knew her days of being single were over.

“He was so bold with it,” Amanda says of Daisuke, her future salaryman husband. “And not in a fake macho kind of way. The way he approached me, he just had all the qualities I was interested in. He was attractive, older than me and seemed serious. Yet he was super-kind and gentle — though some people think he looks scary.”

That wasn’t exactly the image I had of the type of guys who spent Saturday nights in Booty.

“It was never foreigners trying to pick me up,” she adds. “A lot of Japanese guys approached me. I think a lot of the times, though, it was more like an ‘Oh, you’re, like, extremely different — I’m not used to seeing your kind’ type of thing. But none of it was ever really serious or fruitful. You can tell from the start that they weren’t about anything.”

But Daisuke was about something: He was about her. And they hit it off immediately.

Since neither of them could communicate effectively in the other’s language, I wondered how they were able to make a connection.

“I guess it was all the practice I’d had constantly going out every weekend, meeting Japanese people and getting used to the flow of conversations in Japanese — just knowing what people usually talk about and the questions they usually ask. But with Daisuke, we just sort of mixed it up, English and Japanese, and we used electronic dictionaries,” she says, laughing. “Still use ’em today actually. And, I was much more into using Japanese back then. But now I’m so lazy I almost never speak Japanese. Anyway, I dunno, it just worked out.”

Worked out so well that they went on their first date the following evening, and by the end of the week Daisuke had confessed that he wanted Amanda to be his girl.

“It just happened,” she says, speaking of she and Daisuke coming together. “I came to Japan with the ambition of seriously teaching. I have a degree in education and I really wanted to work with foreign students, and Japan was the easiest place to get in. But life literally changed the moment I met him. A couple of months later he told me that his job was transferring him down to Fukuoka and asked me to come with him. That’s when I decided to leave JET. I put all my trust in him and came down here.”

Five months later, in March 2014, Daisuke rewarded her trust and they were married, with a baby on the way to boot.

“The hardest part has been the language barrier, though,” she says. “Finding out I was pregnant and going through the emotions of having a baby in Japan with my family like a million miles away was extremely stressful for me. And that caused a lot of tension with us, because I felt like I couldn’t express how I felt as easily as I wanted to. And with him being this typical Japanese guy, being really quiet and not having much to say, only exacerbated this communication barrier.”

Asked how she was ultimately able to overcome that barrier, she spoke of her parent’s relationship as a source of inspiration and guidance.

“They were in a somewhat similar situation as Daisuke and I,” Amanda explains. “My dad came to America from Nigeria. When he met my mom, they were also in an intercultural relationship. And his decision to pick up and move his life from another country to be with my mom is pretty much the same thing I’ve done. I’ve followed in his footsteps. But I didn’t even realize it until after we were married and my dad tells me he knew it was going work out because he knew exactly what we were going through.”

But, initially, this stress, compounded by feelings of loneliness, isolation and being the focal point of intense scrutiny, was doing a number on her.

“I was already being stared at as a black foreigner,” she says. “And on top of that I was pregnant, so the staring became so excessive that my level of self-confidence plummeted.”

Consequently, the normally outgoing Amanda acquired a mild case of agoraphobia and became something of a shut-in, and wound up gaining a lot of weight.

“I perceived this weight gain as normal, though, because in America women just be gaining any ol’ amount of weight unless they have some kind of medical problem. But my doctor wasn’t having it!

“A lot of hospitals have a weight limit. Even for Japanese women it’s super-stressful. There are women here who are dieting before their doctor appointments because they fear the doctors will give them hell for gaining too much weight. In fact, the reason my daughter was born the day she was is because she was induced a week early. The doctors didn’t want me to gain any more weight.

“It’s also rough when you have to see Japanese women when they’re pregnant and half the time they don’t even look pregnant,” she adds. “At one of my appointments there was a lady who was going into labor and I didn’t even realize she was pregnant. And me being naturally bigger, I felt like I was always being compared to them.”

Their daughter, Kina, however, was born a healthy 6 pounds (2.7 kg).

“Even the doctor himself was surprised. He was like, ‘Wow, she’s smaller than I thought.’ ”

Amanda also suffered from bouts of postpartum depression.

“I think a lot of the postpartum issues came from not having help,” she explains. “Most Japanese women, once they have their babies, they go home for like a month straight and their mothers pretty much take care of them and help them get used to having a newborn around. But for me, my mom wasn’t able to come to Japan until Kina was 2 months old, and Daisuke’s mom wasn’t able to make it down from Hokkaido because of an injury, so I had to figure out how to do a lot of things on my own. And I’m kind of a perfectionist so I wanted to do everything, so I got burned out really fast.”

Amanda has learned a great deal through these hardships, and shares her wealth of knowledge and experience through her blog and YouTube channel. However, she’s found that her online presence attracts a lot of young admirers of Asian men, and she doesn’t quite know how to take that.

“I’ve found that my relationship with Daisuke is something a lot of these girls look up to. I see where they’re coming from, but I don’t know if I should be like, ‘Yeah, girl, you got this, you can get that man,’ or should I be like, ‘Hey, this is just what happened to me. Don’t sell your soul for a Japanese man. Men are just men.’

“I got a question the other day from a girl who’s dating a Japanese guy in America, asking what was the difference between dating an Asian man in America and dating an Asian man in an Asian country. A lot of girls are just so fascinated about that. Some of them fetishize Japanese men, and I didn’t even know that was a thing until I came to Japan.”

I told her the same was true for many Western men here — that many fetishize Japanese women, and the reverse was true as well.

“Yeah, but I think the difference is men can come to Japan and meet Japanese women real quick,” she says, “but for women, especially black women, dating is so nerve-racking because most Japanese men are extremely shy or they’re fearful of talking to black women because of the stereotypes of us being loud, and ghetto and scary and whatnot. So a lot of black women kinda side-eye white girls who flaunt their relationships with Asian men. You’ll see on YouTube there are a lot of white women who make videos about Japan, and their experiences are different from black women.”

How so, I asked.

“White women are the ideal,” she explains. “White women are what we feel Japanese men are looking for. If a Japanese guy is going to date a foreigner, this is what a beautiful foreigner is: a white woman. They’re the ones in the advertisements, they’re the ones in the movies, they’re the standard. There are even articles that say black women and Asian men are ranked the least desirable. So a lot of young black girls who come to my blog or YouTube channel are so surprised to see a black woman in my situation because they’re so accustomed to seeing white women getting these relationships like it’s nothing.”

But, nowadays, Amanda’s very happy. The home she’s built here with Daisuke and 10-month-old Kina has been worth all the struggles she’s endured.

“It can be really difficult being so different from the norm, but I have a good support system back home and a husband that lets me rant about life here whenever I need to, so I guess I’m just blessed.”

As for advice to women looking to land a great guy like Daisuke, she recommends taking the time to get to know yourself and taking a page out of that Japanese gaman (perseverance) handbook.

“I feel like I super-lucked out, but I waded through a lot of crap to get here. So if you’re looking for love in Japan, like anywhere else, you gotta have patience, you gotta know what you want, and don’t fall for the okey-doke, ’cause there are a lot of guys that you wouldn’t necessarily see yourself with long-term that you might settle for out of desperation. Just pay your dues, go on those dates, feel the person out, and who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky, too.”

This column — part three of my series on black women with Japanese beaus and biracial children — will be the last, for now. The response has been tremendous, exceeding my expectations by a damn sight! So, thank you!

Amanda blogs at ramandab-daisuki.tumblr.com and makes some fabulous and informative videos on her Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UC6FHjH9pBMYE-wNtzin9TLA. Black Eye appears in print on the third Monday Community Page of every month. Baye McNeil is the author of two books and writes the Loco in Yokohama blog. See www.bayemcneil.com. Your comments and ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5