Last night I was invited to the city council official's home for a cookout. I was the token gaijin (foreigner) invited because I can represent the volunteer group here in Ofunato and Rikuzentakata and because I speak Japanese. People kept coming and going all evening and between the food and liquor, everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves in true Japanese style. I was asked questions about the group, my life back home, my company and family. When I pulled out my phone and showed photos of my husband and son, people gathered around practically gawking. Then the questions started.
"How does your husband feel about you being here?"
"Your son has long hair!"
Young women asked if my son was seeing anyone saying, "he's so handsome!" I smiled and said I'm proud to be his mother.
The questions inevitably reverted back to my husband's comfort level with "letting you go" and in general, his comfort level knowing I was away for such a long time and in a volatile earthquake/tsunami/nuclear zone. I said things like "he's very supportive" and "he's used to me being away" and "he's a good man" and "I'm really lucky" and yet the questions didn't stop. The general consensus seemed to be a lack of understanding of how a man would let his wife "disappear" for such a long time especially into a potentially dangerous area. Finally, one man, slightly drunk blurted out "how does he really feel about you being here? I'd never let my wife do that." I paused. I have to answer appropriately. At the risk of stating a gross generalization there's a significant amount of truth to the fact Japanese men would not let their wives take off for two months into an area that has known dangers. I had to give my husband credit without making him sound like a demigod.
"He's a good man," I said. "He said he would let me go to Japan on one condition. I had to go home." With no breaks or pauses, everyone around the table started to talk at once.
"I thought so."
"I knew it."
"That makes sense."
"He put his foot down."
"Of course he'd say 'you have to come home'."
After this collective talking-over-each-other had died down, one man with a beer in his hand piped up and said what seemed to be on everyone's mind. "Your husband is a brave man."
"Yes, he is," I said. "I'm lucky to have such a man for a husband." People nodded, sipped their drinks and we moved on to the next subject content to know I have the proper appreciation for my husband.