This week’s guest post is from my good friend Jasmine (who runs the awesome blog Japan-aholic). She talks about how her fear of a long distance relationship almost prevented her from making one of the best decisions of her life. She writes:
This sort of post is a bit unusual for me, as I normally don’t get into too much details when it concerns my private life.
But from time to time, I like to talk about the things that make me happy, and share my advices about things that are more difficult to deal with.
I am in an intercultural long distance relationship. My boyfriend is a 27 years old Japanese man, I am a 21 years old Canadian woman. He lives in Ishikawa prefecture in Japan, I used to live in Quebec (Canada) and now live in Tokyo, and we first met in Chiba prefecture, in the outskirts of Tokyo. How did that happen?
Exactly two years ago, I was working day in day out at my job in Canada to earn enough money to fulfill one of my biggest project to date : traveling in Japan for 2 months and a half, alone.
I had organized everything; finding host families on internet, planning my trip route, calculating a budget, buying the cheapest plane tickets I could find, figuring out the health and travel insurances. I even took three months of Japanese beforehand, and then packed my things and went out looking for adventures (and maybe trouble, too).
And that’s how I ended up in March 2013 in a countryside city in Chiba, not so near to Tokyo as I had first expected, in a very charming Japanese host family. Before coming to Japan, I pictured myself strolling through the streets of this beautiful country, visiting temples and shrines by myself.
The complete opposite happened.
I met a French woman who had already been in Japan for three weeks when I arrived in Chiba and we became acquaintances. She had a car at her disposal, so one time, she told me, “Let’s go to my favorite bar tonight! I met wonderful people there!”.
As soon as we entered the bar, we had a group of Japanese people around us, asking me where I came from and what was I doing in Japan. As I said earlier, it was a very countryside area, so the people there were not used to see foreigners very often.
They were all very kind and interested. Except for one person.
I’ll always remember that time; he was sitting at the bar, chatting with the barman, not even interested in what was going on around him, in the newcomers that had just entered their tiny place.
I thought he was really handsome. I remember thinking “That man could play in a drama or something”.
We didn’t talk at all that first night.
But a couple of days later, when we came back to the bar for the second time, that same man who was labeled as “cold, snob and actor-looking” in my head, came up to me and gave me… a gift.
I didn’t even know his name yet, but there I was with a gold pocket mirror in my hands, completely puzzled by what was happening. He told me it was a souvenir of Japan for me, from the Ishikawa prefecture where he went for a couple of days for the company he was working for.
At that time, I didn’t know anything about the omiyage (souvenir) culture in Japan, so I just thought it was weird that a guy I didn’t even know give me a gift for no reason.
That night, everyone in the bar went together at the nearest karaoke, and the finally-not-so-cold-nor-snob-guy-named-Hitomi and I ended up talking all night. Well, we tried to. It was very funny, him with his broken English and me with my very poor Japanese. But somehow, in the grand scheme of things, in the way weird things that happen suddenly can sometimes feel totally right, we were really getting along.
Let me tell you, exchanging messages was way easier than talking face to face with the help of Holy Google Translate.
And then one day, he totally took me by surprise and asked me out. He said something along the lines of “What about going to karaoke together today, only the two of us”.
And… well, I rejected him.
Because, actually, I already had a boyfriend at that time.
I was in a (very crappy) relationship with a man who was waiting for me to finish my travel bubble dream in Japan and go back to Canada. So, yeah… I turned Hitomi down on that one.
He told me that the man I was dating must be really happy to be with someone like me, and also that he envied him.
So no, everyone, the stereotype of the Japanese men being shy and not flirting is NOT always true!
From then on, we stayed very good friends. I continued my trip, went to Kyoto for a couple of weeks, and talked with Hitomi through Facebook messages everyday.
By the time I got back to Tokyo, I was single and free. I had decided to end my past relationship because it was making me unhappy and was not healthy for me.
No need to tell you I started seeing Hitomi as more than a friend from that point.
The first time we kissed was in his car, when he drove me back to my house. Right after, he asked me to be his girlfriend.
But at that time, I was totally against the idea of having a long distance relationship. I was just out of one that turned out really bad. Moreover, I’m normally the type of person who always seeks serious relationships, not just a fling. However, “serious” with Hitomi included long distance. But at that time, I was already in love with him, so I found myself in a very difficult situation. I decided to take it day by day and enjoyed the rest of my time with him in Japan as much as I could.
Soon enough, our time was up and I had to go back to Canada.
I told Hitomi that I wanted to stay friends with him. I couldn’t imagine my life without talking to him everyday, so we went back to our routine of everyday messages through Facebook, and a bit of Skype every week. At that point, I was still pretending; we would even say “I love you” to each other, but we were not officially a couple because of my fear of long distance love.
It took me almost 2 months of pretending and a coworker to ask me out until I realized I was stupid. What was I fighting against? The fear of getting hurt by being far from the person I love? The judgmental tone of the people surrounding me when they would learn the truth? Or the prospect of this relationship not going anywhere?
Honestly, it was already too late; I was in too deep, and I didn’t have much choice from that point on, so I did what I usually do best — I went head first into this relationship. We made it official on Facebook about a week later, and it was the beginning of something truly beautiful.
Fast-forwarding a year and a half later, I’m so happy I overlooked my fear of long distance. It really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but you have to be with the right person.
I just started my year abroad in Tokyo, and Hitomi lives in Ishikawa because of his work, so we are still doing the long distance, even if we live in the same country.
So, my advice for the ones in a long distance relationship: always make sure your significant other is as committed as you are. This is seriously important. In my opinion, a long distance relationship can’t work if it’s done half-heartedly. You’re either totally in, or you’re not. No in-between.
I will always be grateful of Hitomi, who patiently waited for me all those months. His feelings for me never wavered; he was always straightforward concerning what he wanted.
Later on, he told me that the first time we met, that night when we didn’t talk at all and I thought he was a cold and snob person; he said that when he saw me, it was love at first sight.
He didn’t talk to me because he was not confident in his English skills, and because there was already a lot of people around me asking me questions.
Now, my advice for you out there who currently have a crush on a Japanese man (or plan to meet some), just go for it. Some of them are simply a bit shy at first because you both don’t speak the same language, so that’s why they won’t come and talk to you. Don’t be afraid of taking the first steps.
Good luck to everyone who is in a long distance relationship, too!
Jasmine is a 21 years old French-Canadian student and part-time blogger who loves traveling, drawing, listening to (all kind of) music and eating (everything). To achieve one of her biggest dream, she went in Japan for two months and a half as a tourist in 2013. She’s now doing a one year abroad in Tokyo at Daito Bunka University, in Saitama. Her blog, Japan-aholic, is about experiencing culture and love in Japan.