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Terumichi, Japan
Monika, Teru’s wife

Teru: I come from Japan. I was born in a town called Kanazawa, by the Sea of Japan. I studied Russian studies in Sapporo and Polish studies in Tokyo. I was interested in literature and literary theory but after some time I started looking for something different, more interesting. I discovered theatre. I was reading a lot about Polish theatre, particularly about the theatre of Tadeusz Kantor and that’s why I started to learn Polish. I went for a scholarship to Cracow, the city of Kantor. Cracow is my favourite city. After the scholarship I went back to Japan and I worked as a translator for five years. I came to Poznan… to my wife. I mean we weren’t married yet. I met Monika in Tokyo.

Monika: Teru was my birthday present. A friend, who knew Teru, organized my birthday party. I didn’t have many friends back then so he invited his. Teru was one of them. I’m interested in Japanese literature and Teru gave me a book I was dreaming of. We realized fast that we share many views and interests. We became friends and since then we basically stayed in touch the whole time. It was 12 years ago. We were helping each other – I’m a specialist in Japanese studies, Teru is a specialist in Polish studies. He helped me with my PhD and I helped him with translating poems of Halina Poświatowska. We could rely on each other. Teru is amazing – he can speak about seven languages!

Teru: Is it seven? In reality, only the first language is difficult to learn. Later it gets much easier. Slavic languages are all alike, it didn’t take me a long time to figure them out.

Teru: My wife is very religious. Last year when I came to Monika, I noticed she had changed a lot. I started looking for reasons of this change. We’ve spent three months together during which I met brothers from Jesuit Monastery.

Monika: We wouldn’t have married but for our faith. The brothers didn’t want to let Teru leave Poland!

Teru: I would come to Masses, prayers. It felt close to my heart. I noticed this close relation between my wife and the brothers. That was what changed her – love for people, love to God.

Monika: Teru began to consider being baptized. In the meantime in Japan, families of Teru and one lady (a doctor) began to arrange their marriage. Teru was already 36 and arranged marriages are part of Japanese tradition. When he came back to Japan, the wedding arrangements had already started. We didn’t know a thing about it.

Teru: The final decision was mine, but initial arrangements are usually done by parents. This is a part of tradition. I told my parents I wanted to convert to Catholicism. It was two days after I arrived home. I told them that I had already found a wife and that I was going to live in Poland. They were shocked at first. I am the oldest son. In Japanese culture the oldest one inherits everything in return for taking care of his parents. My parents are Buddhists. I thought they wouldn’t accept the choice I’ve made. Once, when we were eating dinner, my father asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ I replied I was eating. He said, ‘It’s Sunday, you should go to church.’ In the end they respected my decision.

Teru: As far as the regulations are concerned, it is not easy to settle in Poland. If you work for a Japanese company they take care of all the formalities. But if you want to do it on your own, it’s not that easy. Applications, forms, deadlines…

Monika: We were threatened that if we don’t keep the deadline for some papers Teru will have to leave the country and that he won’t be able to come back for six months after our wedding. Paper work was a nightmare. Police officers came to our house and they asked neighbours about us checking if we weren’t lying.

Teru: They were checking whether I really live where I had mentioned.

Monika: If Teru was Polish he could drink and beat me and nobody would check on him.

Teru: We were supposed to turn up together to all the appointments but we were questioned separately. Nobody told us why. They asked us the same questions.

Monika: I was told that the purpose of the questioning was to make sure that my friend, my future husband, does not pose a threat to me. The situation really distressed me.

Teru: They were asking a lot of strange questions, for example, ‘What do you sleep on?’ They were checking on us.

Monika: We gave different answers to the question about what was hanging from our bedroom window. I told them it was a roller-blind and Teru that a sheer curtain.

Teru: I didn’t get the difference. And I didn’t know the word anyway.

Monika: It’s also about words. The questions were asked in Polish. You can come with an interpreter but you have to pay. The whole procedure requires many official documents and costs a lot. All the copies, extracts, etc. must be officially translated. Fortunately there were many people supporting us.

Teru: One day, while we were arranging some formal papers, someone phoned me and told me about a casting to the film “Testimony”. We have actually seen the film only yesterday. I played a priest, who teaches the Pope to pray in Japanese. It’s funny: I converted to Catholicism, I got married and soon after that I played a priest. In everyday life though, I do other things. Since October I’ve been teaching Japanese in the Poznan College of Modern Languages.

Monika: I teach at the Adam Mickiewicz University, in the department of Japanese studies.

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