Proposal followed fight over feline



News photo
Started with cat spat: Nicole Despres, Kentaro Anzai and their son, Oscar Kenzo Anzai, pose in their Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, home last month. MINORU MATSUTANI PHOTO
American Nicole Despres, 35, works as an administrator at Temple University's Tokyo campus. She and Kentaro Anzai, 32, a Yokohama municipal employee, dated for a while, took a round-the-world trip and then discussed moving in together. Nicole's biggest motivation was just to live together and have a cat. But Kentaro was thinking about far more than a feline. That led to a big fight, followed just a day later by his marriage proposal. Nicole said "yes" on the spot. The couple have a son, Oscar Kenzo Anzai, 2, who is excited about becoming a big brother next May. They live in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. When did you come to Japan? Nicole: I first came to Japan in 1995 to study at Waseda University for a year. I went back to the U.S., got a job offer from sporting goods maker Mizuno Corp. and returned to Japan in October 1997 to work for the company. I was in the sports promotion department in the international section. What was your interest in Japan? Nicole: I studied French for seven years until the end of high school and felt that was enough French. I felt like learning a language that does not use the "ABCs," so I majored in Japanese at my university. I wasn't sure how long I would stay in Japan; I just wanted to have the experience of working overseas. When did the two of you meet? Nicole: We met in May 2001 at a gathering of triathletes in Sugamo – . I had been involved in triathlon for two or three years.

Kentaro: It was my first or second time to join the triathlon training group when we met. She and I both lived in Oizumi Gakuen (in Nerima Ward, Tokyo). She taught me how to swim.

When and how did you propose?

Nicole: The proposal was in July 2005. But first, we began talking about moving in together because Kentaro changed his workplace from Oizumi to Yokohama.

Kentaro: I moved because I changed my job to the Yokohama city government in April 2005. She was in Oizumi, so I was thinking what we should do.

Nicole: I wanted us to live together mainly because I wanted to have a cat, but he didn’t seem crazy about the idea. Anyway, we found a house and a real estate agency prepared a contract, but he wouldn’t sign. We had a big fight that day. The next day, he came to Oizumi and proposed to me. The cat came later.

Kentaro: She and I went on a trip around the world from November 2004 to March 2005, a holiday between jobs. My parents were telling me, “What are you thinking? Going on such trip together, living together and not getting married?” So I decided to propose.

Nicole: I honestly wasn’t thinking about marriage, I just wanted the cat! But I accepted his proposal immediately!

How did your parents react to your marriage?

Kentaro: They had no issues about my marrying a foreigner. Nicole had met them several times before we were even dating and many, many times while we were dating. We went to hot springs, shopping together, and spent New Year’s at my parents’ place many times before we married.

Nicole: My parents also had no problems. They met Kentaro in Ohio, where they live, and Hawaii before we got married.

What did you do for your wedding?

Nicole: On Oct. 10, 2005, we went to Kamakura City Hall to register our marriage. That was Taiiku-no-hi (Sports Day), and we thought it was fitting since we met through triathlon, even though the day was “butsumetsu” (literally Buddha’s death day — the unluckiest day by the old Japanese six-day calendar and one that sees few marriages). We then registered our marriage at the U.S. Embassy the same month.

Kentaro: We didn’t have a wedding reception. I don’t like ceremonies in general and really didn’t want to do anything big.

Nicole: Neither do I. I never had a vision of myself in a white dress walking down the aisle.

Kentaro: But my parents wanted to do something. So we just had a meal with my relatives.

Nicole: My parents and his parents met each other for the first time in December 2007, when they came to Japan a few months after Oscar was born.

What language do you speak to each other?

Kentaro: Only Japanese ever since we met. I am studying English as I want to speak it at home.

What language do you speak to your son?

Nicole: I speak 100 percent English.

Kentaro: I speak 70 percent English and 30 percent Japanese. Oscar goes to a local nursery school where he is exposed to Japanese all day. When he is not around, she and I speak Japanese, but when he is around, I try to speak English even to her.

What is your plan on schooling?

Nicole: I would like to send our kids to Japanese public schools, certainly for elementary school. We will probably ask them what they want to do for junior high and high school and if they want to go abroad or go to a particular school in Japan, it will be our priority to make it happen. For us, it’s more important to help them achieve what they want rather than decide their entire education for them.

Kentaro: I am also thinking of letting Oscar go to a public school. However, I want to teach him American culture because he has American roots. I have a stable job and since I do not have the language skills to work overseas, I can work only in Japan.

Nicole: I also have never worked in the U.S., so uprooting ourselves to move to America seems unlikely at this point.

What are your typical daily schedules?

Kentaro: I leave home around 7:30 a.m., come home around 6:10 p.m. and cook dinner.

Nicole: I leave home also around 7:30 a.m. to take Oscar to day care. I pick up Oscar around 6:30 and get home around 7 p.m. It is so nice to have dinner ready when I come home!

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