Our todays featured intercultural couple are a member of AMWF (Asian Men White Female) community. Ryosuke and Grace Mineta reside in Toride, Ibaraki, Japan. They´ve been married for three months. Grace shares how it´s like to live as a Texan in Tokyo at her blog, How I became a Texan.
What makes your marriage offbeat?
Our marriage is “offbeat” because we both come from completely different backgrounds, have different interests, and radically different views on life. I was raised Christian; he was raised Buddhist (but became Christian). I was raised trying to quietly cheat the system in English; he spent his days giving his teachers a headache in Japanese. I love to write, draw, and watch movies; he loves to box, run, and cook gourmet meals. I am white; he is Asian. I am bossy and ambitious; he is laid-back and optimistic.
Oddly enough, we complete each other – in an “offbeat” sort of way. Our marriage is “offbeat” because we learned that ‘different’ doesn’t mean ‘incompatible’ and ‘change’ isn’t such a scary word after all.
What made you end up in an interracial marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture?
Neither of us every intended to “start something.” Growing up all over the globe, I had dated several different races (including my own) – but never an Asian man. Living in Japan, he dated quite a few Japanese girls, but never a foreigner.
We met the first day of my sophomore year at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. He was doing a year-long study abroad program; I was floundering and frustrated with all the closed doors I kept hitting. We started off as “friends” before graduating to “best friends” and then eventually to “lovers.”
When he returned to Japan, I followed him for a 15 month study abroad program of my own. Even so, we lived an eleven hour bus ride apart (him in Akita and I in Tokyo). Every other weekend, one of us would board the grueling night bus so we could spend the weekend together. It was a frustrating and beautiful time for our relationship.
Our romance was a whirlwind. On our one year anniversary, he proposed. We got married 13 months later in a rustic ceremony in Texas and then moved to the outskirts of Tokyo (for his job).
The first time Ryosuke got down on one knee with a strawberry ring pop outside of my dorm room, asking me to be his girlfriend; neither of us had even considered marriage.
But we got along so well. I was his “better half” and he was my best friend. So, without ever really thinking about race, religion, or nationality, we entered an “offbeat” marriage.
Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?
We have had two wedding ceremonies and are in the early stages of planning a third wedding in Japan (crazy, I know).
The first wedding took place at the chapel across the street from Ursinus College – where we first met and fell in love. It was simple, with a dress from eBay, sushi trays, about a hundred close friends, and a miss-spelt wedding cake (instead of “Ryosuke” they wrote “Ryosual” – even though I read them the name six or seven times to make sure they got the correct spelling).
the first wedding at Ursinus College
The second wedding, the “legal” wedding was a small, rustic ceremony in Texas. My father, a missionary in Ghana, performed the ceremony. Most of my family was able to attend; none of his family was able to make it (the cost of getting passports/plane tickets/hotels for his immedaite family was more than the cost of having another wedding in Japan). I wore my mother’s old wedding dress. We ate Tex-Mex and sushi, danced to songs from all around the globe, and said our vows in Japanese and English.
The third wedding, set for sometime next year, will be a traditional Japanese wedding in Tokyo. I will wear a beautiful Japanese wedding kimono. Ryosuke will hold my hand and translate the play-by-play for me in hushed tones. We’re both pretty excited.
What are your biggest challenges and how do you solve them?
The biggest challenges are, of course, related to fighting. I come from a vocal and argumentative family (in a good way, I think) and was raised believing “arguing is natural for a healthy relationship”; he was raised believing “fighting damages a relationship.” Think about conflict resolution in Japan VS conflict resolution in Texas – and you have a nice window into our early dating life.
We’ve come a long way in terms of learning how to argue. I try not to lose my temper and he tries not to shut down when we argue.
I wrote an entire post about it back when we first got engaged; Things my Japanese Boyfriend and I Culturally Disagree About: Fighting
What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?
If you do not respect and appreciate your partners culture (to the extent you are willing to forsake elements of your own culture for their benefit), intercultural and interracial relationships are nearly impossible.
I don’t know how else to say it. I tell people that a lot when they ask for dating advice on my blog.
Marriage requires compromise – even more so when both you and your partner were raised with radically different views on gender roles, religion, government, volunteering, and love. By trying to “convert” your partner into your way of thinking about, for instance, love, you are completely disrespecting their own beliefs on the matter.
The biggest compromise Ryosuke and I have had to make was acknowledging that our way is not always the correct way. We have learned to respect each other’s cultures.
Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?
Funny that you mention it. Yes, yes we have. But not in the same ways that other couples have, I guess.
We get questions all the time – not necessarily racist or ignorant, just curious. Some of the most common questions asked to interracial couples are: 8 Questions Interracial Couples are Tired of Hearing.
Questions aside, we do have people frown on our relationship. Most of these frowners are anonymous and angry people on the internet.
I am a blogger. I live a very public lifestyle. I’m not a “viral” figure, but my blog amasses about 100,000 views and 100-300 comments a month.
A small minority of these comments are racial attacks against my husband and me. Attacks against me because of my “white privilege” I am cherry-picking from the Asian male dating pool. Or people who tell me I’m disgusting, sick freak with “Yellow Fever” (a derogatory term used to describe people who are only attracted to and/or fetishize Asian people). Attacks against him because he is “betraying his race” by dating a white girl.
About a month ago, I made a very conscious decision not to stop blogging because of these racial attacks.
I delete negative and racial comments without reading them, now, and it’s made blogging much easier.
What are the benefits of an interracial marriage?
You get the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture – and the unique opportunity to see your own culture through the eyes of a “foreigner.”
I cannot even begin to list the things I have learned about myself, my beliefs, and my culture through an interracial and intercultural marriage. The things I used to hold to be true (all countries should have absolute freedom) now have this darker side I never knew existed (absolute freedom also means the freedom to make bad decisions, such as eating unhealthily).
And the best thing about an interracial marriage? Both Ryosuke and I get to cherry-pick what parts of our culture we want to keep and what parts we want to adopt from the other’s culture. Even before meeting Rysouke, I wasn’t entirely thrilled about every aspect of American culture, but what choice did I have? I didn’t have the first-hand knowledge on how another culture deals with a similar problem… so specifically rejecting this aspect of American culture in favor of a different stance was much more difficult.
Now it is easy. We can have American independence with Japanese willingness to provide for the group. It is fantastic.
What’s your favorite way of spending time together?
We are both love cooking (him more than me), going to farmers markets (me more than him), watching How I Met Your Mother (equally), and talking about start-up company ideas.
We love going on adventures – whether it be climbing Machu Picchu or Mt. Fuji, or waking up before sunrise to watch the Tuna Auctions in Tsukiji. It helps that before he was my husband, he was my best friend. We make an effort to continue to be best friends over spouses – it keeps the romance alive.
What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage?
Talk to your spouse as if they were your best friend, rather than your spouse. Also, do not expect to agree 100% on, well, anything. Every cultural clash is not only a learning experience, but also a chance to reexamine yourself.
Arguments are natural. Don’t take it personally.
With a little bit of love, a lot of flexibility, and an open mind, your “offbeat” marriage might just end up being the best thing that ever happened to you!
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