Being invited to you loved one's parent's house shouldn't be a big deal, but this was exactly what I was looking for when I made plans to see Noboko again.
The previous times I have been over was during my third and final year on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, where, during the first dinner I played the role of poor, lost AET (assistant English teacher) who was only there because Noboko felt sorry for me (maybe, but we were already quit serious by then - she taught at one of my junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken). We were hiding our relationship from the general public knowledge.
The second dinner, we were exposed as her father walked in on us canoodling in their kitchen (mom already knew, prior to the first invite, that Noboko and I were a couple - and was very good with it).
Dad was calm, continued drinking and getting drunk, and after I left ripped a strip off Noboko for embarrassing him by carrying on with a gaijin (foreigner/outsider), reiterating how public knowledge of it would destroy his career within the Tochigi-ken educational system - as well as Noboko's as a junior high school teacher.
Although my contract expired towards the end of July 1993, I was quickly back in Japan in September to convince Noboko that we, as a married couple, need to be, regardless of daddy dearest's intentions of keeping us apart.
I've been staying at my friend Colin's house in Kuroiso-shi - the same city where Noboko lives with her parents… and the news that I have an official invite to have dinner at her house again is both welcome and confusing.
Further probing of Noboko only gets me excited, so instead I ask her what's up besides me.
She simply states that her mother and father have agreed that I should come over - especially since I have come all this way just to see Noboko again.
"You've apparently proved your devotion to me, which impresses my father," explains Noboko.
I'm no dummy. I know it doesn't mean he likes me… in fact… while I bet he doesn't hate me either, he might actually respect me a little now.... but I think he's just concerned about the repercussions of Noboko's relationship with me, and how it will affect his work promotion chances.
I understand… in Japan… work, for a man - and especially a man - is very important. I think it's how they decide who has the biggest penis.
Although not mentioned earlier, when I came back to Japan, I came bearing gifts.
I had picked up a large bottle of Canadian Club Whisky for Colin (to thank him in advance for opening up his home and inadvertently turning it into a crack house, of sorts).
A second bottle was purchased via airport duty-free as well, something I had picked up to present to Noboko's dad, Mr. K, should this very situation occur, because I'm an optimist that everything will always work out for Andrew... and it has for the past five years of my life... roses, baby... roses.
Thanks to my mother, I had also brought along silk scarves and other girly things for Noboko and her mother. I wouldn't have a clue what to buy for them... in my opinion, a man should never purchase clothes for a woman - she's just going to return it because you obviously have no fashion sense. While jewelery would have been satisfactory for Noboko (in my opinion), I don't think it would have been a suitable option for her mom (also in my opinion).
Although my father was his usual quiet self regarding me heading back to Japan, I assume he must have been happy - considering how three years earlier he had to drag a very scared me to the airport to get me on the plane to Japan, as I pleaded and begged to not go…
But, as he correctly pointed out, I had already agreed to go, so "you might as well go… and who know's, but after one year, you'll have a story to tell."
He was wrong, of course… I stayed two additional years before they made me leave (Three was all we could do in those early days of JET - I believe you can do a fourth and fifth year, too, now). Anyhow, for the past six years in this blog, here's that story...
He was impressed with the photos of Noboko that I had sent back previously… it beats me why she was with me...
Dinner at Noboko's would be the classic Japanese overkill of multiple courses of Japanese cuisine, all expertly prepared by the mother - a skill Noboko has not yet mastered, but I would feast on bread and water for the rest of my days to sup with her forevermore.
With Noboko's help, we drive around to a sake (an all-encompassing word for booze) shop and choose a very expensive bottle of rice wine (shōchū) just for her dad, and a slightly less expensive one for the rest of us (him and I) to indulge in during the dinner.
Noboko informed me that she and her mom would probably abstain from the alcohol after the initial toast, seeing as how things ended dinner #2.
We head back to Colin's apartment after lunch - Noboko has brought over an iron and ironing board to press my clothes for tomorrow night, incorrectly assuming that Colin would not have such luxuries.
He did, and like myself, knew how to use it, and frequently ironed his own clothes… yes… us gaijin men are certainly different from the typical Japanese male, if Noboko's assumption is any indicator.
Parting ways with Noboko, Colin and I yak, go out for dinner, yak some more as I tell him what's going on now with the sequel to the sequel of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
So… tomorrow it will be Saturday, September 11, a day I hope won't be a disaster.