This week, one of our foxes asked us to relate a real-life love story with a happy ending. Our family is full of long-lasting marriages, and of course each one began with a unique story. Most of the details have been lost, because questions were never asked. But there’s one story that I managed to glean a few snippets about, so I’ll share that one today.
After the Korean War ended, the United States maintained a strong presence in the far east, and the Central Exchange in Tokyo hired several native Japanese clerks to work along with the American military staff stationed at Camp Zama. One of the clerks was a 19-year-old young lady named Fusae, or Fu-chan as she was known by her friends.
Fu-chan had grown up in Hiratsuka, not far from Zama. She and her three sisters had lived through the terrors of the Second World War, along with their mother. Their father had been away, serving in the Imperial Navy. Fu-chan’s secretarial training meant she could type on standard American typewriters as well as the huge, cumbersome machines used to type all the characters used in the Japanese language. She didn’t speak much English, but was able to understand enough to do what her supervisors asked of her. As she got to know her co-workers, she started to overcome her initial fear of working with the Americans, who’d been the enemy only ten years earlier. It helped that several of the Americans were of Japanese descent, or Nisei, who were (for the most part) bilingual.
One day, a handsome young Nisei man appeared at her desk with a request. He asked for assistance with an order. But to her surprise, he made his request in English. She understood enough to know what he asked, but she responded in Japanese. The man smiled, nodded, and walked away. A few minutes later, one of her bilingual friends came and asked her what she’d told the American man. “Bob doesn’t speak Japanese,” the friend informed her. Fu-chan thought it was odd, but remembered from then on to use her growing skills in English whenever they met.
Summer arrived, and there were frequent parties on the beach. At one of them, Fu-chan noticed Bob sitting off by himself. She wondered what was wrong, since he was usually cheerful and sociable. Then she heard that his father had passed away in America and he’d been unable to get home for the funeral. She went over to offer her sympathies, and struck up a conversation. Soon they were dating. Bob met Fu-chan’s parents and spent time at their home in Hiratsuka, often rushing to take the last commuter train to Camp Zama. She taught him about the land his parents had come from, and he taught her how to eat with a knife and fork.
A year later, Bob and Fu-chan married, and they lived on the Army base. Two years after that, their daughter was born. Bob’s visa ran out in 1956 and the family moved to his hometown in Michigan, where they lived happily until his passing in 2009. Fu-chan, who now goes by Si (pronounced like sigh), still misses Bob terribly, but enjoys looking through photos of their many years together.