When Monica and Keitaro started going out, they did all the obligatory things couples do in Tokyo: shopping trips to Shibuya, long strolls on the boardwalk at Odaiba, swan boat rides at Ueno Park. But Monica realized there were places that Keitaro avoided altogether: nightclubs and discos. Monica soon discovered why.
“He couldn’t dance,” said Monica. “In Peru, we learn how to dance even before we learn to walk. That was the first time that I realized the he was different from me and how we were brought up.”
Despite his lack of skills in rolling his hips to the latest dance mix of Ricki Martin, they continued dating for more than six months until he finally proposed to her and although she was doubtful about her future in Japan, she said yes after months of thinking it over.
As if she just remembered something, Monica looked into her purse and pulled out pictures of her two young sons, aged one and three. One shows Kachan, the younger one, sitting with a paper crown on his head, surrounded by Japanese children. In Japan, Kachan is known as a “hafu.” Half Japanese, half foreigner.
“We had a birthday party for him last month and I invited the other children from his nursery,” said Monica. She goes through the photo album, describing each photo with methodical detail about where and when the picture was taken. Here’s one with Kenchan, the older brother, swinging a bat with his father in the house and here’s the two brothers, hairs combed back, wearing little sailor outfits. She hardly takes her eyes off the photos as she describes each photo.
Asked about her marriage now, she said: “The fire is what I am missing. He’s a good father and a supportive husband, but the excitement is just gone. Everything everyone warned me about marrying a Japanese man came true.”
Some of the issues that came up included him coming home late from work, only going out with the guys on his few days of holidays to drink or fish, not having personal time together, and not being able to talk intimately. Despite all of these problems, she repeatedly defended him. “He’s a good husband and a father,” she repeatedly said.
She wondered if it’s because of the cultural differences or if that’s just the way all marriages work out. “Is it selfish of me to say that I want some time together, like going out for dinner or maybe a holiday overseas?” she asked.
“My children are everything to me and when I see my husband take care of them or play with them, I know that what I have is something special. I guess as a child, I always thought that love and marriage were something so exciting, like in the movies, always passionately, happily ever after. Only after leaving Peru and getting married in Japan did I realize that it was all different. But I am happy.”
On the other side of the world in Peru, how does Papa Lopez feel about all of this? The marriage? The children? The following summer, he will take that same long flight to Japan and finally see his grandchildren for the first time.
“He says I am old enough to make my own decisions now,” said Monica.