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He Says Fish, She Says Dance (Part 1 of 3)


He likes fishing. She likes dancing. While she shakes her hips to samba music in a popular Latino club in Roppongi, the only thing he wants to see squirming is the worm at the end of his hook.

It is the classic gender conflict of “he says, she says”, but because he’s from Japan and she’s from Peru, misunderstandings can reach whole new levels.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, over 21,000 of the 660,613 marriages registered in Japan in 2013 were between a Japanese and foreign national. Most brides came from Asian countries like China, South Korea or the Philippines.

Mrs. Monica Lopez Ito fitted in the “Other” category. She came from Lima, Peru five years earlier after graduating from college. Young and ambitious, she looked for adventure that finally landed her all the way around the world in Tokyo, Japan.

“I wanted freedom from my family,” she said in English with a distinctive Spanish accent, her arms and hands gesticulating in the air, which would be considered rude in Japan. “Even though I was almost thirty years old, my father and brothers always treated me as a child.”

In true traditional Latin American way of running a family, Papa Lopez had tight control over his two daughters, forbidding them to stay out later than midnight, and heaven forbid, having a boyfriend who did not fit Papa’s image of the perfect guy, like Jesus Christ, Son of God, for example. And like God, Papa always had the last say.

“My father is a big man and many of my friends, both male and female, were too scared to even talk to him,” said Monica. “My brothers were treated differently. They could do anything they wanted.” In fact, the boys were encouraged to be a “man” in a machismo sense.

Despite pressure not to go, Monica bought her ticket and with tears and hugs at Jorge Chavez International Airport, she finally broke away from her tight-knit family, including her parents, brothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins. And with her friends there, other passengers at the airport were wondering who the celebrity was in the center of all this attention.

As the plane lifted off, Papa’s girl finally became the woman he was hoping to postpone for another ten years, maybe 20. Her plan was to stay in Japan for just a year, work, make some money and return home. Unfortunately for her father, her future took a different direction.

(Go to Part 2)

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