May 2021. That means it’s Asian and Pacific Islander month. I expected to see lots of #stopasianhate threads circulating around the internet, but all seems quiet on the Western front, for now. Maybe everyone’s hashtags have truly stopped Asian hate. Wouldn’t that be nice? Way to go, hashtags! You make a difference.
All sarcasm aside, I really love Asians. After all, I married one, or rather half of one. My wife is half-Japanese and half a bunch of other stuff. She gleaned a lot from the grandparents on her Japanese father’s side and today identifies mostly with that part of her family. If a discussion arises about the Irish, Scottish, French, or Native Americans; however, she will proudly claim those backgrounds for herself, too.
In my home growing up, as a nerd looking to escape the craziness of his family, Asian heritage became my bread and butter. Kung Fu films. Anime. Nintendo. I loved most media that came out of the Far East, but it wasn’t until I married my wife that I gained an appreciation for the people behind the art.
After almost 15 years of marriage, these are the top 5 things I’ve learned to love about being married into an Asian family.
Oh, the food. And not just Japanese food. Vietnamese vermicelli dishes. Chinese takeout. Pilipino chicken lollipops. Thai milk tea and curries. Indian biryani. And the list goes on. January 1st, New Year’s Day, is my favorite holiday because our family makes tons of Japanese food. My wife, her sister, and her mom make sushi. My son makes tamagoyaki (kind of like an omelet), and I make all the tempura, frying everything from sweet potatoes to Oreos. Yes, Oreos are not very Japanese, but it’s still fun. We have a sake toast at the end of the meal to welcome in the new year, and then we continue to eat until we can’t move. My wife made a New Year’s resolution for 2021 that she would prepare more Japanese food for the rest of the year, and I for one am not complaining. I could eat Asian food all the time. Even as I write this, she is planning to make chicken and broccoli stir-fry for dinner. I am blessed.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family that barely talks to each other today, but my wife grew up with a family that still enjoys spending time together. They are not perfect by any means, but a young guy looking for a place to belong found a home among some wonderful people. My wife showed me I didn’t have to distance myself with an orphan heart just because I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents. I’ve grown to not only love my in-laws, but I call them Mom and Dad. They, along with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are loyal to each other. But it’s not just my wife’s family that’s like that. I found that family is a big part of Asian culture—not the ethereal sense of the family they choose like friends—but literally the family they are born into. Blood relatives. My wife, as well as many other Asian mamas, has taught me that just because family is hard, it is not something to neglect. Though it feels unnatural to be so loyal to people, even when it’s difficult, I find it is a premiere time to walk out the character of Christ, who literally died for a national family who treated him like trash. Talk about loyalty. Whew!
I’ve never felt dishonored by an Asian. In fact, I’ve only experienced the opposite. They may silently judge me behind my back, but to my face, they have only showed me friendship. Asians interweave honor into every fabric of the cultures I’ve seen. A stranger is not just someone Asians pass by on the street. A stranger is a guest. In Japan a decade ago, over 15,000 people died from a destructive earthquake and subsequent tsunami. At the grocery store afterward, an older man purchased the last case of water. As he walked out, a family strolled in looking for the very item he purchased. Instead of hoarding it to himself, he gave half of the case to the family. I’m not saying bad things never happen in Asia, and that there are no bad people, but Asians usually show more honor to each other and to strangers than we do in the West. My wife does it. Her family does it. And I try to do it every chance I get because of them.
In the principles of Bushido, The Way of the Warrior as defined by Nitobe Inazō, showing honor to others is a matter of respect, or rei. But there is a word for honor in the Bushido code called meiyo, which means to be a person worthy of honor. A warrior must have a high fidelity. In the West, we might call this sense of honor, integrity or virtue. It’s acted out in fulfilling our promises, showing excellence in our work, and having a strong moral character. I’ve known no one to have as much meiyo—or integrity—as my wife. That’s probably why she works in research compliance, telling PhD’s what they can and cannot do under ethical and governmental guidelines. That kind of job demands a strong moral character. But her integrity does not stop when she gets home. Whether in our house, or at our church, people highly esteem her for her spirit of excellence. If she says she is gonna do something, she will do everything in her power to do it. She is not without mistakes, but she makes very few. I’m not sure how she does it, but I love that about her.
Being married to an Asian beauty also teaches me courage in the face of adversity. While I admit this is not strictly an Asian trait (Nor are any of the traits on this list), I find the idea of refusing to be a victim is strong among the Asians I know. Sometimes, we like to coddle our pain rather than overcome it. I know I used to be there. As long as I clung to my victim status as a son of divorced parents, a physically and sexually abused child, living in poverty and a fatherless home, etc., I stayed a victim. I thought I deserved handouts because my past stole opportunities from me that would help me live a prosperous life. Boy, was I wrong! Hard work, ambition, and faith build a prosperous life. I’m not only talking about financial prosperity; I’m talking about soul prosperity. Peace. Joy. Love. Acceptance. My wife struggled. Her dad struggled. Her dad’s parents struggled a lot as Japanese during World War II being thrown into internment camps. What all of them have in common is they refused to stay chained to the past. They had a future worth fighting for. So do I. So do you.
As you can see, there are many benefits of being married to an Asian. I love my wife and I love my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me. Happy Asian and Pacific Islander month.