I only have three more months left on my third year on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, but if she will have me, I would spend the rest of my life any place in the world with her.
As mentioned many a time previously, Noboko is afraid to tell her parents anything about the true nature of our relationship. We certainly aren't dating, and she and I are just friends - though the students at the school where she teaches English know differently, as do my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education office, who have spied the beautiful Noboko at my side a few times outside of school - and because they asked me directly about it, I told them the truth, but told them it was a secret.
For them, I think they liked the fact that I was no longer chasing after all of the female JET participants, and had now found a real woman - a Japanese woman - meaning that maybe I would want to make Japan my home.
Believe it or not, but my Board of Education liked me, and really would have liked me to have spent the rest of my life in Japan - proving to everyone just how cool Japan was, but also, just how cool the city and my bosses were.
But really, I think they were just happy that I was happy, as they also knew about women as my kryptonite.
So.. after hiding the ring et al in my bedroom, and greeting the gorgeous Noboko at my front door, we sat down to eat the lunch she had brought for me.
I would swear it was something from her parent's house - where she was now living since moving back to the area after five years out of the family home in Tokyo and Osaka...
She was always bringing food over for us to eat - perhaps to show that she could look after me, but also to prevent the Japanese world from seeing us as a couple. It bothered me, but I did understand. But it still bothered me.
We got in her little Suzuki toy car and drove down to Utsunomiya-shi - parking write across the street from the jewelery shop I had made my purchases from.
I even got a wave from one of the shop's clerks outside the building who spied me and broke out into a big grin as she saw Noboko. I mimed a finger across my lips, meaning I hadn't sprung it on her yet, and got a smile back and a brisk walk back into the shop where I am sure she told everyone what had just transpired.
As far as I was concerned, there were no secrets in Japan.
We went to a movie theater, caught a flick, grabbed some dinner at an out of the way Japanese noodle place and made our way back to my apartment in Ohtawara-shi by around 7PM. I excused myself to my bedroom, and came back a moment later.
"I had a really good time with you today," I said perhaps a little too eagerly.
"Me, too," she smiled as she squeezed my hand on my crappy green couch.
"I want... uh... I would like... uhh," the fantastic oral skills of An-do-ryu sensei have left the building.
"Here," I said and thrust out first the box with the earrings.
She eyed it suspiciously, but eagerly opened it up, cooing with genuine excitement as she spied them and placed them up to her ears, asking "How do they look?"
"Try them on."
She went to the bathroom and came back with them on - with two tiny blue balls of light flashing on the sides of her face. Wow... I don't know if the earrings looked good on her not, but she looked great.
"Thank-you!" she exclaimed.
"Here," I said, as I thrust the box containing the sapphire ring at her. "This will complete the set for now."
As she opened up the box, removing the ribbon, I told her, "I love you and want to spend my life with you as husband and wife.
"This is just a token of my love for you... a promise that if you want, we will get engaged and then married."
I had to explain this one a couple of times... because she also had never heard of a pre-engagement ring - something I had just made-up.
Eventually she got it, though, smiling as she finally slipped the ring on her finger and it went onto her wedding finger... the one on her left hand... and I finally realized that despite my best intentions, I really should have got her a ring for any other finger BUT her wedding finger.
How the fug can she wear that out in public? I wasn't trying to force her hand that way... I just wanted to show her that I was serious about our relationship.
Oh crap... and then I realized that I had screwed up - sort of. In Japan, the wedding ring goes on the right hand... the finger next to the pinkie...
She looked at me and smiled and said, "Diamonds next - except next time we'll go shopping together."
There's more that happened that night, but it was just two people expressing their love for each other... except that this evening, she spent the night - ignoring any pre-determined father-imposed curfew.
Photo above is of Noboko taken by me sometime when the leaves were changing color up on Mt. Nasu. Ooooh, spolier.