Memories of Japan: The Old Couple in the Sushi Shop
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Earlier today, I've decided to write a series on my top memories of living in Japan or working with Japanese people. This first article was a bit of a no-brainer for me because I feel that I might have made the world a little bit better... even if I was extremely put off by this couple's "idiocy".
Every now and then, I like to go to the local Dickie's BBQ in Flower Mound to pick up a Chopped Brisket Salad for lunch. It took a little longer than normal today, so I stepped out of line after check out to watch the end of the Tampa Bay - Cleveland game.
While watching Tampa Bay nearly turn over the ball on an inside handoff, I started to overhear an older white couple nearby talking about their adult daughter getting married to a black man. Both of them were grumbling that even though the man was a successful doctor, they wouldn't approve of the marriage between their daughter and him, nor approve of any future grandchildren because they would be biracial.
Once I picked up my salad from the pick-up line, I walked past the old couple, looked at them straight in the eye, and told them that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for talking about a thing like that out loud. Before they had a chance to respond, I hoped back in my CR-V and went home to enjoy my salad.
But on the drive home, I remembered an event during my time living in Asahi, Chiba back in 2015.
One summer morning, I had the day off from teaching English (I think it was during the beginning of the summer break) and I was invited to a baseball game in Chiba City from a fellow English teacher that I befriended earlier in the school year. She and I were expected to meet at Asahi Station around 3pm, so I still had my morning to myself. So in typical fashion, I would go to the gym, take a traditional Japanese bath at the neighboring sento, and then go to my favorite sushi spot in Asahi, Hamazushi, for lunch.
I was a regular at the place, so the manager would greet me by name, and would proceed to get me a "free beer" while I placed my first order of aburizushi (usually Grilled Shrimp w/ Mayo or Cheeseburger Sushi (trust me, it is real). But today, at my usual sitting place at the bar, there was an older couple, probably around their 50s, sitting near me. And of course, no matter where I go in Japan, ordering my food in Japanese is one thing that astounds Japanese people. After all, where else are they gonna see a "White Gorilla" speak their language and do it fluently?
After about 3 plates of sushi (6 total pieces), I still noticed that the couple was still watching me. Of course, this is one thing I have still never gotten used to in Japan (mainly because I hate being looked at for long periods of time while going about my daily business), but finally, I shot them a look and responded (in sort of Yakuza-ish Japanese), "
何ジロジロしてるか、爺、婆？俺、見世物じゃねえよ (What the **** are you two looking at? I'm not an exhibit at a museum, you know?)
This totally blindsided them, as they probably were not expecting to be called out in their own tongue. The woman started to get flustered, and the gentleman's face turned white. Typical reaction, actually.
But I started to notice that they actually looked like they wanted to talk to me about something.
After a little bit, they walked up to me and actually asked me to sit at their table. Turns out they were looking at me because they thought that I could help them with a "problem" that they were having.
It turned out that this couple have a daughter that is a few years older than me, and that she was living in the United Kingdom with her British Army officer husband. When the girl was only 20, she left home to travel the world and she ended up in London and fell in love with a young "leftenant" and they ended up getting married in a short amount of time. What's more was that the girl was now pregnant with their first child, a son, and was asking her parents on whether or not they would be there as she gave birth.
"So what do you want from me? If it were my daughter, I would be there for the birth of my first grandson. I think that is a no brainer." I replied.
"I'm afraid it's not so simple, Gaijin-san." (Yes, they called me Gaijin-san throughout the entire conversation, which started to wear on my nerves a bit).
"Why not? Sounds very simple. It's your daughter. It's her first child, your grandson. How is it not that simple?"
"It's because of the father." explained the mother.
"Is he a bad guy?" I asked. "I'm sure if he graduated from a British Military academy and is an officer, he is a man of honor and can't possibly be a bad guy."
"Well that's just the thing, Gaijin-san. It's because he is a Gaijin." the father said.
"Excuse me?" I said with a small raise of my voice. I started to get the feeling that these two were not exactly at their daughter's wedding because they didn't approve of her mate.
"We don't approve of our Japanese daughter marrying a British man. Japanese women marry Japanese men. And British men marry British women. It's disgraceful that our Shizue (the daughter's name) had to marry a god damn gaijin. And now they will be having a "Hafu" for a child, and..." the woman replied before I cut her off.
"Excuse me, but how dare both of you!" I raised my voice for the entire restaurant to hear me. I had a feeling that all heads in the restaurant were looking at me. But at this point, I didn't care. How could this couple not only reject their daughter's husband (whom sounds to be a rather good man), but to reject their soon-to-be-born grandson just because he was not pure ethnic Japanese.
The two's faces started to go white. Now that I brought attention to themselves, and people were looking at us, I just caused a huge faux pas in Japanese culture. You not only EVER raise your voice in public, but I just brought a lot of undue attention to these two. But I didn't care.
"First, the problem isn't that your daughter chose to fell in love with a British man, nor is it the problem they wed, and she got pregnant with him. The problem is.... YOU TWO." the two started to shake.
"Answer me this. I'm assuming you didn't exactly give Prince Charming permission to marry her, right?"
No response from them.
"WELL?" I rose my voice again.
"....It's true. We told him to "stick to his own kind" the father said, looking down in shame.
"To stick to his own kind?! Do you know how insulting that sounds? I'm dating a Japanese woman myself, and I'm in love with her, as she is with me. And her parents both support our relationship. I'm even sick at looking at you two." I turned around, not facing them, and continued to talk.
"Did he make an effort to come to Japan to ask permission? Did he even try some Japanese?" I asked in a disgusted tone towards them.
"He did come to us, and while his Japanese was broken, he made every effort to be polite and respectful to us." the mother answered in a subdued tone.
"This proves to me even more that you two are the issue. He went out of his way to be polite and earn your approval. So why?"
"Because he is not Japanese" I heard the father reply.
At this point, I realized that there was no point in talking to these two any further. They were dead set on their ways and no matter how much I would be able to try and persuade them otherwise, it would be a losing battle.
I turned around back to them and just said,
"Y'all suck. I feel terrible for your daughter and your soon-to-be-born grandchild. I didn't have my father's mother all throughout my life, where she didn't approve of my mother. Said that my parents would be divorced soon after their marriage. They are going on their 26th year of marriage”.
I was very close to my mother's mother and am still very close to my grandfather (though he is gone now). But to me, they were "Grandpa and Grandma" to me. Not my father's mother because of her tactless, bitchy attitudes towards people, especially foreigners. You two are no different from her.
Honestly, I hope you never reach out to your daughter and your grandchild after he is born. He doesn't need a pair of backwards, racists like yourself as grandparents".
It was so quiet in the restaurant, you could hear a pin drop.
I then turned to my usual waiter and told Tooru-san to put my charge on their ticket as their form of payment for wasting my time. The entire restaurant looked at me with fear, but at this point, I really didn't care. I left the restaurant, very rightfully indignant.
To be honest, I will never know what happened to that couple nor will I know what became of Shizue-san, her husband, and their now supposedly 3 year old son in the UK. But what this event made me realize is that love is a thing that cannot just be determined by one's skin color, race, ethnicity, and all those other stuff that are protected from discrimination in the US.
Even though I had no part in this family's dysfunction, it really offended me that people could be so stupid like that. In the United States, I saw mixed families all the times, White-Black, Black-Asian, White-Asian, Hispanic-Asian, and the list just goes on and on. To me, love has no sort of color filter. Sure, white and black does make gray, but a white man and a black woman (or vice-versa) together doesn't mean that they shouldn't be together and love each other if they really do love and support each other.
Same thing goes for an American man and a Japanese woman. Sure there are bound to be cultural differences between the two, and there are certainly are with me and Ayaka. That doesn't mean we cannot get over them. We've had so many "fights" over cultural stuff, and I wouldn't even really call them fights at all because there was no name-calling, mud slinging, or overall nasty behavior towards each other's culture.
And especially Ayaka's parents. Not once have they ever made me feel not welcome whenever I have met them. Especially her mother. Mama Soma has literally gone out of her way to make sure I was taken care of when visiting their home or when we all have gone up to Utsunomiya and Nikko. Papa Soma too made sure that I realized that he supports my relationship with Ayaka, even going as far as to giving me permission to marry Ayaka because "I have potential and am not a Japanese male" (her Dad is a rare breed of Japanese man).
But to have a family go and do that to their daughter and grandchild..... absolutely revolting...