Couple settled down after roller coaster ride


For Susan Tanaka, her story with her husband is like a roller coaster, as the two spent eight years dating and breaking up.

The 49-year-old Filipino on several occasions almost gave up any hope of marrying him.

Had Makoto, 48, a company executive, not decided to marry her, she would have been a nurse in her home country.

Two decades on, their 17-year-old daughter, Miai, is considering possibly applying for a university in the Philippines. They also have a son, Yuya, 14.

How did you first come to Japan?

Susan: Toshimaen amusement park (in Nerima Ward, Tokyo) was looking for cultural dancers for the summer of 1980. I applied via my university and got the job. I was there only for the summer. After graduating from university and acquiring a license to become a nurse, I returned to Japan as a cultural dancer again for a summer job at a hotel in Shimoda (Shizuoka Prefecture) in 1982. Makoto, who was then a university student, was working there.

Makoto: We lived in the same dormitory and became close.

Susan: I went back to the Philippines in September 1982, but we continued a long-distance relationship.

How did you cope with the long-distance relationship?

Susan: I traveled between Japan and the Philippines a few times. He came to the Philippines in February 1984 for Valentine’s Day. We broke up once but I couldn’t give him up and wanted to go to Japan. My parents, very religious Catholics, told me: “You should become a nurse. This should be the last time you go to Japan.” I had a lot of pressure because I hadn’t told anyone that he and I had broken up.

In 1987, I attended a Japanese school in Tokyo partly because a student visa allowed me to stay longer than a visa for cultural dancers. Fortunately, we got back together, but he wouldn’t propose to me. In March 1988, I finished the school, and my visa would have expired in May. I told Makoto I was going back home, and he then took me to his parents.

Do you remember what he said when he proposed?

Susan: Not really.

Makoto: Neither do I. Her visa was going to expire. I thought I had been dating her long enough and it was about time, so I decided to get married then. Also, I was 28 and thought it might be a good time to be married.

What did you do for the wedding?

Makoto: We registered our marriage at a city hall and the Philippine Embassy in April 1989. We had a Catholic wedding in the Philippines in January 1990.

Susan: We held the wedding at San Agustin Church in Manila, one of the most famous churches in the Philippines, and had the reception in the Manila Hotel.

Makoto: I am not a Catholic so I took a half-day seminar and an interview, in Japanese, with a priest before the wedding. For the wedding, the priest spoke English.

We also had a reception in Ueno (Tokyo) in February that year.

What language do your children speak?

Makoto: They both speak Japanese as their native language. English is so-so, and Tagalog is between so-so and fluent.

Susan: They go to the Philippines every summer for one or two months.

What language do you speak to your children?

Makoto: Japanese only.

Susan: When they were little, I spoke English. Now I speak English, Japanese and Tagalog.

Makoto: When they were little, we created an English environment. Videos and toys were all in English. They have been going to a Catholic school since kindergarten. The school teaches in Japanese but has English classes from an early age.

What do you want to study in a university?

Miai: I want to major in sports science. I am a long jumper on my high school track team. My first choice is Waseda University.

But I am thinking of other universities, including those in the Philippines and other countries.

Susan: We think Yuya will study in the Philippines to become a doctor. My brother is a doctor there, so he can help Yuya.

Yuya: Yes, I want to be a doctor.

Makoto: Majoring in medicine at a Japanese university costs too much money. Also, he will learn medicine in English there and that would be a plus for him in terms of career opportunities.

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