I’d made a best friend during my time working at the restaurant. She was the same age as I was and she spoke some English. We had fun hanging out together. She had been a ryūgakusei in Mexico, proving to me that she was a real maverick since most girls studied abroad in America or England. She was studying to get her tour guide menkyo (a doozy of a test) and wasn’t looking to settle down anytime soon.
However, her parents were of the exact opposite opinion. They thought it was high time she married and they had already put her through a number of omiai meetings.
“How many have you done?” I asked out of curiosity.
“I don’t know. I lost count. Maybe 20?” (!!!)
So, I could see that an omiai wasn’t a done deal and was almost more like a blind date. Keiko certainly was treating them that way.
One day, her parents had had enough. They announced that the next one was for real and she WOULD marry him. Keiko’s response to this was to run away to my geshuku where there was no phone and they couldn’t reach her. But she admitted to me that she was resigned. It was going to happen.
It did. Beneath all the rebellion Keiko knew that her parents had her best interests in mind. She told me he looked old enough to be her ojisan and that he was stodgy. But she married him and they are still married to this day with grandchildren now.
There’s a Japanese expression that goes “teishu wa genki de, rusu ga ii.” It means that the best husbands are healthy and not around too much. I’m pretty sure that most women my age still hold this to be true.
- ryūgakusei – 留学生 study abroad student
- menkyo – 免許 license. You can use this for driver’s license, but there are also licenses for teaching flower arranging, calligraphy etc. Just about anything in Japan seems to require some license or another and the tests are usually quite rigorous.
- omiai – お見合い arranged marriage. Usually what happens is that photos and written profiles are exchanged and if there is an interest, a meeting is arranged. Better than match.com perhaps?
- geshuku – 下宿 boarding house. Rare, these days, but poor students usually lived in these. It would usually be one room, a shared toilet area and a nearby public bath.
- ojisan – おじさん uncle
- teishu wa genki de, rusu ga ii – 亭主は元気で留守が良い Teishu =master of the house, genki=healthy, rusu=not home, ii = good. Wa, de, and ga are particles that hold the expression together.