Marriage in Translation – Book Review

Today I finished this lovely compilation of interviews during the breaks at work today. It was a fast read and I was even able to discuss some aspects of it with the head teacher at my school who speaks English. She was interested in the subject of foreign wives marrying Japanese men, and it gave reading the book more meaning. My students also saw me reading in the hallway and I showed them that it mentions Fukuoka.

The book is written by Wendy Tokunaga, a woman who married a Japanese man. She first gives her own story, and then proceeds to interview women from all different backgrounds who married Japanese men. Some of them live in Japan with their husband, others live in their home countries. It was a good blend of those who spoke Japanese with their husbands and those who primarily spoke English to one another.

I really loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever or is still living in Japan. I even recommended it to my own mother because I think it would give her a great insight on what it’s like living as a foreigner in Japanese society. These women really nailed it on the head. It was interesting to see all the different perspectives, but most of their advice had a similar tone. They agreed that a cross-cultural relationship is no different than any other and that it requires patience, good communication, and compromise.

Some quotes I really loved from the book include the following:

“For me, every friendship and every love relationship can be considered cross-cultural. Opening up to your beloved partner’s world can be like entering a foreign country without a passport. You’re in some different, unknown universe, and you must learn how to explore it and live together with it, and make adjustments and compromises to find a balance. And you must do all of this without losing your sense of who you are. You have to change and yet still be yourself, which can be a tricky exercise.”

“At times, the fact that Japanese society is uptight in many ways tends to suffocate me. I need to get out of Japan on a regular basis and breathe the air of a place where what I can or cannot do is not so strictly determined by my age, my sexual identity, my job, etc.”

“I find the Japanese mask of forced politeness to be very difficult to deal with. With me, what you see is what you get, and I have trouble putting effort into cutting through the facade to get at what a person really feels and thinks.”

I really related to a lot of these women and the whole book is a fantastic look at a group that deserves more attention and understanding. As part of an AMWF couple, I can attest that I get stared at in America and in Asia for being with an Asian man just because I’m white. If more people understood how this can feel at times, or if more women were able to relate to each other by sharing their experiences, I think we would be a lot better off.

I will continue reading on this topic and sharing my thoughts. I just started Good Chinese Wife today and it’s already enveloped me into a new world, even though I’ve traveled to Hong Kong before.

Marriage in Translation is available on the Kindle app for less than $4 so definitely check it out!

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3 thoughts to “Marriage in Translation – Book Review”

  1. Funny story – I read this book when I first got to Japan, long before my husband proposed. I read it again shortly after the wedding and again (the third time) when I moved to Tokyo.
    This book was one of the main things that encouraged ME to write my own book – I kind of figured, why not?

    1. Yeah! It’s such a fast read that I know I will read it again! I like books you can read at different points in your life because they will mean different things to you later on. I wish I had found this sooner! I made my mom read it haha

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