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Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008

MIXED MATCHES

Interpreter's trip to Britain translates into family of four


Staff writer

Alfie Goodrich and Hiromi Kumai first met in south Wales in 1999 when she was acting as an interpreter for her mayor's delegation to the town of Monmouth.

News photo
All in the family: Alfie Goodrich, Hiromi Kumai-Goodrich and their children, Joe Kenta and Ami Shoko, pose for a photo in their favorite park in Ota Ward, Tokyo, in June. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

When the delegation visited the headquarters of the record company where Alfie worked, he got interested in the slim Hiromi, who was enjoying a buffet lunch he organized. Alfie started writing to her, and three months later he proposed.

The two married on Alfie's birthday in June 2001 and now live in Tokyo with their 6-year-old son, Joe Kenta, and 4-year-old daughter, Ami Shoko.

What is your hometown and occupation?

Hiromi: I am from Ishikawa, Fukushima Prefecture. I am a housewife.

Alfie: I am from Canterbury, Kent, Britain. I am a photographer and designer.

What do you like and dislike about your partner?

Alfie: She is beautiful and clever. She is a great mum to our kids. She is funny and makes me laugh. She doesn't take any crap from anyone and is strong enough to stand up to someone if the situation demands it. I can't think of anything I would say I really dislike about Hiromi.

Hiromi: There are many things I like about my husband. No need to take care so much, being honest, kind, good at cooking and knowledgeable. I respect him a lot.

There are also things I hate about him, too. Being talkative, short-tempered, forgetful, not listening to what others say, and being careless with money.

What do you like and dislike about the country of your partner?

Alfie: I love Japan. Being a photographer, I see interest and beauty even in stuff that most people would find mundane or everyday.

My main dislike is bicycles riding on the (sidewalk). I find generally that people have become a little more selfish.

My only other main dislike is being fingerprinted every time I come back into the country. I think if I have a three-year visa and "gaijin" (outsider) card, that being fingerprinted once should be enough.

Hiromi: I might prefer Britain.

I miss the long days of summertime and the coolness of the summers. I also miss roast dinners, sausage, Guinness, fish and chips, and the soap opera "EastEnders" featuring a typical pub.

Britain is my second home.

How about your own country?

Alfie: Nowadays, Britain is just so expensive. More expensive than Japan to live in.

Hiromi: Wrong usage of the Japanese language and the unkindness and indifference of the people are a little disappointing.

Although I thought Japanese cuisine was tasty, my body still cannot accept the numerous additives. And I am hardly able to endure Japanese summers.

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

Alfie: A broader life perspective; chance to learn and live with another culture and language; the opportunity to live abroad; more in our repertoire when it comes to making dinner . . .

Hiromi: The biggest merit might be that we have pretty children?

What are the tough things?

Alfie: Language for sure. Hiromi's English is great, but it's hard for her to have to use it all the time, so I wish I could speak more Japanese.

How have you been raising your children?

Alfie: When we were in Britain, we mainly spoke English with the kids and they went to English schools. They both did a year of preschool in Britain. Joe then did a year of primary school in Britain.

When we arrived in Japan (last October), Joe started going to Kumon and still does that twice a week.

He can read hiragana, katakana and is recognizing kanji now, too. He is now at primary school and Ami is at "yochien" (kindergarten).

They are very happy at Japanese schools.

Hiromi: I am letting them do whatever interests them, though I nag them about bad things and manners.

Now the two of them are interested in Japanese and read many books.

Which language does your family usually speak?

Alfie: At home I always speak English with the kids and Hiromi and her mum speak Japanese to them. I need to spend more time keeping the kids' English reading skills up to par. Joe is teaching me to read Japanese.

Have you encountered any difficulties in raising children?

Alfie: No. Ami is a bit of a handful right now but I think it is just her age. She has a very strong will. I pity her future boyfriends.

Occasionally, them being mixed-race can mean the kids at school are rude. School is like that. I am not sure anywhere is any different. I told Ami and Joe that when people call them "half," they should just say, "I'm not a half, I'm a double."

Hiromi: It might be difficult if you think you are an adult yourself.

I am always facing children while thinking I am being raised by them. But it is tough that the Japanese schools have various rules.

What are the good things about raising children?

Alfie: The best thing now about raising them is being able to chat with them, have them tell me what is going on in their lives and hopefully I can learn something from that. Just like photography gives me another perspective on life, so do the kids.

Hiromi: It is for us to learn various things. Since our elder child was born, we have gotten interested in aroma therapy, homeopathy and other things.

We try to stick to a natural diet. Then, we became inclined to be naturally careful of our health, meals and studying various things. We read books on child-rearing and got interested in infant psychology and other things. Recently, I study Japanese with my children. Since children ask me questions, we research and study them together.

What are your hopes for your children?

Alfie: Simply that they lead long and fulfilling lives. Things we will teach them are: Don't go out of your way to hurt people, work hard, have no regrets, do your best, try lots of different things, travel, soak up life as much as you can and basically enjoy yourself.

Hiromi: I hope them to have lives that they will find happy. I wish them to spend each day being healthy and joyful.

What is your dream for the future?

Alfie: Keep taking photos and having them published and write a book or two. Then get a place by the sea in Izu, relax with my wife, go fishing and eat nice food. We had thoughts about starting a little guest house down there sometime in the future.

Hiromi: I hope we will have an "onsen" (hot spring), eat fresh and tasty foods and quietly look at the sea to live. I hope to invite our friends to parties, travel, and to spend time with my husband in good health.

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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