Debra Seifert '76 and Shinichi Tsuzuki
I guess you could say that there was nothing traditional about our courtship! We met 36 years ago, but we did not get married until February 2, 2013.
We met in 1977 at Kanto Gakuin University. I was part of the first exchange group to KGU from Linfield. Tsuzuki was the captain of KGU's championship baseball team; they travelled to Linfield in 1976, though I did not meet him at that time.
I recall that we were sitting in a classroom at KGU and our Japanese lesson was just finishing. An incredibly handsome Japanese student walked into the room--not dressed in a school uniform--and all eyes went immediately to him. It was Shinichi Tsuzuki. Trailing him everywhere were three junior baseball team acolytes in school uniforms. I remember I was sitting next to Doria Figerhut; I turned to her and said, "Who IS this guy?" I was mesmerized, and somehow I couldn't forget him. The English Speaking Club and some of the baseball team met us at a Yokohama disco that evening for drinks and dancing. I just sitting there listening to the old Beatles songs when Tsuzuki-san grabbed my hand and asked me to dance. For the rest of the evening we were inseparable on and off the dance floor. We won a dance contest and ended up performing on stage by ourselves (ala Pulp Fiction). We won a bottle of whiskey and some trinkets. After that, and for the rest of my time in Japan at KGU, we were definitely An Item at KGU. It was considered somewhat brazen for a Japanese man to date a white woman. The movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was released just 10 years prior, so inter-racial couples were very rare back then. Not to mention that my (now dearly departed) parents were World War II veterans.
The barriers to staying together in 1977 were too ominous. We endured a teary farewell at Haneda. Without any language skills, it was impossible to write or even call (at $6-9 per minute). Eventually, we both went on to marry other people and raise our families. We moved on. But we did not forget.
We met again in 2002 when I decided to go back to Japan and meet people from KGU again. I was successful in meeting up with my home stay mother, a PR director for KGU, former Linfield Professor William Elliott, and Tsuzuki-san. What we lost, was found. For the next 10 years we would try to get together as much as we could afford. The Fates were not kind. In 2007, Tsuzuki-san broke his spine in a construction accident and was in and out of the hospital for years of painful rehabilitation as he learned to walk again. His house was destroyed by a storm surge from Typhoon Meari, which devastated south Shikoku Island...he drove frantically home from work and saved his mother from drowning inside the house. A year later, his father got cancer and died after 18 months. This left Tsuzuki-san with the solemn Shinto mourning duties, which take seven months to complete. If it wasn't one thing, it was something else. At every turn, it seemed that we would never be together on the same side of the Pacific. At times we both came to the point of despair, but something inside us would never give up. What was it?
But alas, 2013 has turned out to be our lucky year. One year ago, we set a goal to be married in the Year of the Dragon--no matter what! I'm happy to say that we conquered lawyers and three U.S. government bureaucracies to obtain the long-desired K-1 visa. We plan to spend the rest of our lives finding out all the things we never knew about each other. And the best part? When we are together, we always feel as if we are 22 years old again.