Friday, May 04, 2007

My new brother-in-law

Hiroshi's sister Keiko "found a husband" recently and they came up to Tokyo today (with mom) to meet us. Well actually to meet Hiroshi since he is head of the family and they will be living in the family home. I say "found a husband" because she went through an omiai service. Omiai is an arranged marriage; however, in Japan there isn't really much arranging any more. It is more like a glorified dating service. Essentially you say what you are looking for in a spouse and the service will try to match you. This is quite popular in Japan - keep in mind that many women either marry a school sweet-heart or someone who joined the company at the same time they did (the woman quits when she gets married - and yes, some Japanese companies are notorious for hiring "pretty" women so their male employees have a good choice of potential wives). So, unless you are working for a major company, there really aren't that many places to meet people.

So, Keiko and her husband seem happy. Yes, they already got married. This was news to us. They haven't had their ceremony yet though. In Japan, you register at the city office and have a ceremony separately, unlike in Canada where you sign the marriage certificate at the ceremony itself. You can take either day as the date you got married. (Hiroshi and I chose the day we registered). He seems quite nice, albeit shy, and mom adores him so that is good - especially since they are all living together! Neither Hirohsi nor I think he'll have much influence or sway over Keiko, because he is so quiet, but that's ok. Hiroshi wants Keiko to be a bit more "Japanese" and is hoping her husband will push her in that direction. I mean, basically she wasn't going to introduce her fiance to Hiroshi at all and only did so because mom and him were yelling at her. (It was a pretty bad breach of etiquette).

The last couple days have been a bit stressful getting this all organized. They were supposed to come up Sunday, but decided to come up today instead. I think one of them has to work tomorrow, so it would have been a hectic weekend if they didn't come today. I don't really care about the timing - I just have to deal with Hiroshi being stressed out.

We made a reservation at Grand Central Oyster Bar in Shinagawa for lunch. The shinkansen (bullet train) stops there, so it is easy. Actually, it was quite funny. Hiroshi's hometown, Hamamatsu, has a population of about 700,000 people, so I think of it as being quite metropolitan. However, it is not metropolitan by Japanese standards, and I was a bit taken aback by the "wow!" attitude at first. I didn't expect the "the big city is so exciting" reaction! They were taking pictures of everything and seemed to be a bit overwhelmed by some things.

Anyway, while Hiroshi was waiting at the ticket gate to meet them, I went up to the restaurant and preordered. I got some raw oysters, then salad and steamed veggies and fish as the main course. The fish was absolutely divine. I was so happy with myself because I made healthy choices (it is so easy to cave in and get the fried oysters!) and they ended up being awesome. Even more important because this was a fairly serious occassion, and you want to make a good impression. The fish entree was red snapper on top of roasted vegetables, and the vegetables had balsamic vinegar drizzled over them. I am definitely going to try to make this at home, because it looked so impressive, but the ingredients are really quite simple. It was a big hit with everyone.

After lunch we went and had a coffee at Dean and Deluca and waited until their return shinkansen was leaving. It was a nice, albeit short, visit. Personally, I'm just glad that Keiko has met someone nice. I know she has been worried about getting married for a long time. She is 35, and in Japan you are termed "Christmas cake" when you turn 26. Yeah, you know the kind - the one with dried fruit and nuts that nobody wants.

The married thing should prove interesting of course. I can't wait to go down to Hamamatsu next time. Keiko is totally spoiled by mom - she doesn't eat dinner with the family or even at the table. Mom brings a tray up to her room! Now that she is married, not only will she have to eat dinner with at least one other person, she will also be responsible for cooking. I think it would be nice to have a dinner with all of us sitting down together... and think it would be a great bonding experience for all of the women to cook together. I like learning how to cook Japanese and always feel uncomfortable having mom do all the cooking and cleaning all the dishes by herself (she's 73), so I often ask her to show me how to cook, so I can sneakily help out.

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