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Saturday, April 4, 2009

MIXED MATCHES

Childhood friends, partners for life

Out of touch for 20 years, reunited pair find love


Staff writer

KYOTO — Dan Bertuzzi, 39, and his wife, Asuka, 31, have a relationship that's a fairy tale come true.

News photo
Fated attraction: Once childhood acquaintances in Canada who would play while their mothers chatted, Dan and Asuka Bertuzzi reunited decades later in Japan. COURTESY OF DAN BERTUZZI

The two first met as young children over two decades ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Dan's mother was teaching Asuka's mom English, before losing contact after Asuka's family returned to Japan. Fast forward more than two decades, when the mothers of both, who kept in sporadic contact over years, put them in touch. An old friendship begun in childhood was rekindled, and then ripened into love and then marriage.

Your story is what many people who had childhood sweethearts dream about, but how did it actually happen?

Asuka: I was born in Toronto, but later moved to Vancouver. I met Dan for the first time when I was 4 or 5 years old, around 1981. Dan's mother was my mother's English teacher in Vancouver, and they became friends. While they visited, Dan and his sister played with me and my sister until my family and I returned to Japan around 1983.

And after that, you didn't see or hear from each other?

Dan: We had no contact whatsoever between 1983 and 2005. However, our mothers exchanged a few letters with each other over the years, but Asuka and I never talked or wrote to each other.

And so what led to your reunion and eventual marriage?

Asuka: In 2005, we were living in Gakuenmae, in Nara Prefecture. After my father retired, our family decided to visit Canada to visit other families and friends who we hadn't seen in over 20 years. My mom told Dan's mother that we'd be coming over, but she lives a couple of hours away from the airport and wasn't sure about going into the city for such a short visit. She was talked into it by Dan's stepfather, luckily. During our visit, Dan's mother said he was actually living in Japan at the time. She was excited, and asked me if I had a boyfriend. I didn't.

Where in Japan were you at that time?

Dan: I was working as an English teacher in Tsukuba (Ibaraki Prefecture). As I had lost contact with Asuka, I didn't know how to contact her. But my mother got Asuka's cell phone number from her mother, and, in September 2005, she came up to Tsukuba. Our mothers had dreamed that one day our families would be joined.

And was it love at first sight, or at least the first sight of each other as adults?

Dan: It wasn't love at first sight, but I have to admit that I was disappointed, at the end of her trip to Tsukuba, when she said it was time to go back home.

Asuka: It was more like I felt I was meeting a member of my family. Our relationship then continued back and forth via e-mail, and we eventually realized we had many of the same values. For example, at one point, Dan e-mailed me a list of sayings to live your life by, and it was the very same one a friend had previously sent me, a list that I really loved. Our relationship continued to grow, and, finally we got married on May 30th, 2008, Dan's birthday.

Dan: I think that our mothers thought, "We did it! We got our families together!"

So what advice do you have for international couples, Japanese and non-Japanese?

Dan: You have to have patience, respect for another culture, and you have to be open-minded and show flexibility.

Asuka: You can't just think, "I'm Japanese" or "He's Canadian." And a common language is also important.

And, now that you've reunited after so many years, what are your future plans?

Dan: Teaching in Japan is fine, but at some point, I'd like to go back to Canada, but we're not really in any big rush at the moment. Of course, we'd like to start a family. I would imagine we'll continue living in this part of Japan, though.

Asuka: I do worry about taking care of my parents in my old age if I move abroad, but I'm confident we'll work something out.

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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