an excerpt from

Relationship

talk /

Takachiho,

Japan

 Junsho & Victoria Yoshimura in conversation with Ellen Freeman

an excerpt from

Elephants,

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an excerpt from

Relationship talk:
Takachiho, Japan

 Junsho & Victoria Yoshimura in conversation with Ellen Freeman

photos Maya Matsuura

I met Junsho and Victoria Yoshimura while teaching English in Takachiho, a small town in the mountains of Miyazaki, Japan. I worked at the same high school where, 26 years earlier, Victoria —then a young teacher fresh from England— met Junsho, the Japanese language teacher with a desk next to hers in the staff room (and who also happened to be next in line as head priest of the 440-year-old Shonenji Buddhist Temple). 24 years of marriage and three children later, they’re now both priests at that temple, where they also recently opened a lodge for tourists to experience rural life in the town famous for being the birthplace of Japanese myth. Victoria translated for Junsho as I spoke with them about saying ‘I love you’, meeting the in-laws’ expectations, and raising a bicultural family.

Ellen
What did you notice
first about each other?

Victoria He was good-looking — but I think my standards might have dropped after one full year of celibacy! Junsho talked to me as an equal and wasn't freaked out by my foreignness. He was patient and explained things.

Junsho I thought, 'Ooh, it's a foreigner—and her seat is next to mine. I wonder what kind of person she is?' She looked really wagamama (strong and stubborn).

Victoria He has also told me that he'd seen me around town in my first year, before I started working at the high school. He said I strode around town, head up in the air, and he looked at me and thought, 'That woman is trouble.'

shonenji 1

Ellen Were there any lost-in-translation moments beween dating culture in Japan and in the UK?

Victoria Having to hide it from his family, to lie, to not admit to having a relationship—the deceit. In Japan, you keep it a total secret right up until you announce the wedding, and you only meet the parents if you want to get married. In the UK, my parents wouldn't have let me go out with anyone they hadn't met. It was very hurtful to always have to hide. We used to park in a carpark out of town, then I would slouch down so no one could see me. I hated it. And not being able to go back to his place because he lived with his parents, who were totally opposed to our relationship.

Junsho I haven't dated in the UK so I don't know, but I can say that there was a huge language barrier — and there still is a huge language barrier! The meanings and nuances of words are different, but more than the words, we come from different worlds. We don't automatically have mutual understanding in deep issues.

Victoria In the past, I’ve complained bitterly to Junsho about his inability to say ‘I love you’ to me. He said he doesn’t have to say it, I should just know. I said that in Jodo Shinshu, Pure Land Buddhism, our key teaching is to say the nembutsu (the name of the Buddha) like a mantra; we repeat it at the end of sutras, and it should be spontaneously spoken. As a priest, he’s always telling people to express the nembutsu — how would he feel if the congregation gathered in front of their family altars and shrugged and said, ‘I don’t have to say anything, Amida (Buddha) knows how I feel.’ The nembutsu is an expression of gratitude, love, respect, thankfulness, and it’s important to express it and hear and receive it. 


Find the rest of Ellen's conversation with Junsho & Victoria in Issue Two

Victoria In the past, I’ve complained bitterly to Junsho about his inability to say ‘I love you’ to me. He said he doesn’t have to say it, I should just know. I said that in Jodo Shinshu, Pure Land Buddhism, our key teaching is to say the nembutsu (the name of the Buddha) like a mantra; we repeat it at the end of sutras, and it should be spontaneously spoken. As a priest, he’s always telling people to express the nembutsu — how would he feel if the congregation gathered in front of their family altars and shrugged and said, ‘I don’t have to say anything, Amida (Buddha) knows how I feel.’ The nembutsu is an expression of gratitude, love, respect, thankfulness, and it’s important to express it and hear and receive it. 


Find the rest of Ellen's conversation with Junsho & Victoria in Issue Two

© 2019 Perfect Strangers LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2019 Perfect Strangers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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