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Saturday, May 3, 2008

MIXED MATCHES

It's a voyage of discovery for Peace Boat couple


Staff writer

Tatsuya Yoshioka and Rachel Armstrong Yoshioka met in 1998 aboard a cruise ship during an international exchange organized by Peace Boat, the Japan-based nongovernmental organization that works toward social change mainly by chartering passenger vessels for "peace voyages."

News photo
Peace and love: Tatsuya Yoshioka and Rachel Armstrong Yoshioka pose with their 1-year-old daughter, Sofia, by the Kanda River in Tokyo's Higashi-Nakano district, their favorite place to stroll, on April 19. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Working for the NGO in 2001, the two went through tough negotiations to resolve problems with the cruise ship Olvia, which was chartered for their voyages. They concluded the talks successfully, went out for drinks to celebrate, and fell in love.

The couple married in 2003 and live in Tokyo with their 1-year-old daughter, Sofia, whose middle name is Olivia, which sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of Olvia.

What is your hometown and occupation?

Tatsuya: I am from Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture. I am the director of Peace Boat, where I deal with all kind of things like the international relations and campaigns for Peace Boat.

Rachel: I am from Chester, northwest England. I am on the executive committee of Peace Boat, basically working on relationships with other international organizations, including the U.N., and also on ship-charter negotiations.

What do you like and dislike about your partner?

Tatsuya: She is creative and has lots of patience. She is very gentle and a wonderful wife. I really have nothing (that I dislike about her).

Rachel: He is the guy with a very big heart, a lot of imagination and compassion, and the guy who has big dreams and really cares about small details, too. He is a wonderful husband and a great father.

Something I do not like is that because of his job, he often has to travel a lot. I understand and support that. But sometimes that is kind of hard.

Which language does your family usually speak?

Rachel: Mostly English. If we have a deep discussion, that is usually in English.

Tatsuya: I absolutely want (our daughter) to be a native speaker of the Osaka dialect.

What do you like or dislike about your partner's country?

Rachel: Tatami. It is a perfect way to bring up a kid. You do not have to worry about them falling over and getting hurt, and they can sleep there.

I also appreciate the Japanese tendency to try to come to a consensus and to work together in groups.

Personally, I know so many strong and impressive Japanese women. On the other hand, if I look at the television, I often see girls in a bikini and stupid voices. I really worry about the kind of message that is sent to the young girls.

One thing that annoys me is the new immigration regulations. I have a re-entry permit, so before, I could come and stand in line with Japanese, but now that is split up and I have to go and give my fingerprints. It means my daughter, who is Japanese, also has to be in the non-Japanese line if she is with me and I feel that it discriminates against her.

Tatsuya: Food and trains are terrible in Britain. But I like Britain a lot. People joke so much. Kansai people also like to be entertaining.

How about your own country?

Rachel: I like and miss the sense of humor and the long summer evenings in the pub or the pub garden. But I do not miss the food and the weather. And unfortunately people are becoming more selfish.

Tatsuya: People are generally warmhearted, have craftsmanship, and are basically peace-oriented.

The bad part is that Japanese tend to think too much that the country is unique. Another thing is that Japanese need to reflect on the past war. Admitting our own nation's past mistakes would lead others to respect Japan.

What's the best thing about raising your child?

Rachel: Everything is fun really. Even if I am tired, I feel excited to get up in the morning because I do not know what kind of thing is going to happen. Each day is a completely new adventure.

Tatsuya: It is so interesting — we can really learn about human consciousness through watching her develop.

What's the hardest thing?

Tatsuya: There are many procedural things that I need to handle. Welfare benefits, hospital or nursery school admission procedures. Most of the time, the government's documents are tough to understand. It's extremely annoying to have to produce various documents.

Rachel: The problem is that he hates to do that kind of thing, but he is the only one who can do it because of the language barrier. Sometimes it has led to arguments.

What are your hopes for Sofia?

Rachel: I feel very lucky that she has a chance to experience both languages and cultures, and hopefully consider two countries as home. I hope she will consider herself a citizen of the world, and not base her identity on nationality.

Tatsuya: Japanese society is extremely monocultural. Some children of parents with different nationalities get bullied at school, and want to pretend to be Japanese. We want our daughter to treasure her mixed identity of having Japanese and non-Japanese parents.

What are some of the good things about having a partner from a different country?

Tatsuya: In love, curiosity toward your partner is very important. As each other's cultures are different, we still have many surprises in our daily life.

Rachel: What's good about international marriage is that you can really feel the world opening up and it really gets you in a very personal way to understand that it is not the nationality or border that matters. It is the individual person.

What are some of the tough things?

Tatsuya: When there have been misunderstandings, we would need to explain things in a very patient way. There are some troublesome things and also language problems.

Rachel: Unfortunately, an international marriage will always mean that somebody is usually away from their family or original home. Sometimes that is exciting, sometimes it is kind of sad.

What is your dream for the future?

Rachel: I just hope Sofia can grow up happy and healthy in a world where all children can have that chance, that we can share a long life together, and continue to work together in Peace Boat.

Tatsuya: I want the three of us to travel around the world on a Peace Boat cruise.

Reader participation is invited for this series, which appears every other Saturday. If you wish to be featured, please e-mail hodobu@japantimes.co.jp


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