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Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008
Fitting like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle
By JUN HONGO
R ikiya Yokohori met his destiny while delving into applied mathematics at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2002.
That was where the 24-year-old systems engineer, born in Toyama Prefecture and raised in Tokyo, encountered Andrea Herford, a student at the university studying to become a teacher.
The two first spoke at a Christmas party that year, and began a relationship around Valentine's Day in 2004, following a series of rollerblading dates.
While Yokohori completed his studies in Oklahoma, Andrea, 27, lived in Kyoto for two years teaching English through the government-sponsored Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.
"Andrea is probably the first person I really fell in love with," Yokohori reveals candidly.
"I think Rikiya is a hot guy; he's really cute. I like to say that to him. I don't keep it a secret," said Andrea, who now teaches at an international school in Tokyo.
The couple, profoundly in love, married in July 2006 and now reside at a guest house-style condo in Higashi-Totsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
What was your first impression of each other?
Andrea: I saw Rikiya at the gym and he had bruises on his body. When I asked, he told me he had a rollerblading accident, and since I loved rollerblading I told him to join me the next time.
Rikiya: I thought she was asking me out on a rollerblading date, but she turned up with a friend of hers!
How did your parents react when you told them you'd marry?
Rikiya: They were surprised at first and advised me to consider carefully, but that was not only because Andrea was an American but mainly because I was a student at the time. But I knew I wanted to be with her.
Andrea: Initially, Rikiya was my friend, so my dad was a little surprised. But Rikiya and I made curry for them, and from that point on, my parents noticed that we are a good team together.
What is your favorite food?
Rikiya: I love Matsuya ("beef bowl" restaurants). I sometimes take Andrea there on our dates.
Andrea: I only order salad, though. (laughs) My favorite Japanese food is soy-milk stew and cucumber sushi rolls.
Where do you like to go on a date?
Rikiya: Yodobashi Camera is fun! We visit there and have a good time watching all the televisions and computers on display.
Andrea: We like to dream. (laughs)
Rikiya: Andrea's mother requested me to take her out on a date at least once a week.
Andrea: It's important to keep the romance and love involved. He sometimes brings me flowers for no reason. That's important, you know — romance, love letters and everything.
Do you feel any cultural differences between the two of you?
Andrea: I think we face the same issues as two Japanese would or two Americans would, just because every family's lives are different.
Rikiya: Yes. Not because of our difference in nationality, but more from family background.
What do you dislike about each other's country?
Andrea: The trains. I like that it's always on time, but dislike the fact people push and it's really crowded. I'm not used to that because I'm from Oklahoma. There are more cows than there are people. (laughs)
Rikiya: I like that there's more freedom in the United States. It's more frank, and easier to speak with anyone, including elders. I dislike that they are loose on time. And they don't separate combustible and incombustible garbage there, throwing away cans and glass bottles all mixed up. That's not good.
How many times do you kiss on a regular day?
Rikiya: About three times. Once in the morning and twice at night.
Andrea: I kiss him 100 . . . maybe 200 times. But not after he eats "natto" (fermented soybeans)!
Do you often proclaim your love for each other?
Andrea: Every day, but only in English and not in Japanese.
Rikiya: We don't say "aishiteru" (I love you). That sounds too cheesy, for some reason.
What do you like about your partner?
Rikiya: We think alike, and I can always be myself in front of her. Even when I'm feeling down, I see her smiling and that lifts me up. She's kind; she's pretty; she's beautiful.
Andrea: I like that he's always there for me. Rikiya doesn't have to be at his job until 9 a.m., but he wakes up at 5:15 a.m. with me and we take the train together. I like that.
What do you dislike about your partner?
Rikiya: I get bothered when she cleans up my room and throws away my stuff without asking. Yesterday, she threw away the receipt for my bag, which I was going to return to the store.
Andrea: I like to keep things organized, and we're a bit opposite there. It's OK for him not to see the floor, but I need to see the floor!
What makes your partner different from everyone else?
Rikiya: We have some sort of chemistry.
Andrea: It's like a jigsaw puzzle. There are two pieces that just fit, and sometimes you don't have to have so many reasons. It just fits. We fit together.
What does love mean to you?
Andrea: There's a verse in the Bible, 1 Corinthians (Chapter) 13. It says love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. We try to live by those words, to make sure we are treating each other with love.
Rikiya: Love is being able to always forgive and to think of your partner before yourself.
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