Tomo, my beautiful wife, is someone that will have fun in life. We have fun together. She's willing to dress up and be silly or really dress up for a night at the Emmy Awards.
During my first visit to Japan along with my sister, Tomo showed us the real Japan. There were many miles (or kilometers in Japan and most of the world) of driving and seeing sights. In those many miles, my sister usually sat up front with Tomo. As the days went by, I was the one up in the front seat. The conversations between Tomo and I go more personal and engaging.
When I got back to the States, I kept in contact. We spoke almost every other day, if not every day. I made a decision. I was going back to Japan!
At first, Tomo didn't understand my desire to go back to Japan. She thought I should travel to see more of the world. I stated straight out, "No, I want to see you."
"Oh!" was her surprised reply. But, she agreed. So, I made plans to head out there during my winter vacation.
We explored more of Japan. There were places that Tomo had not been, so we were able to experience some new things together. One place was a ryukin in Yufuin. We took a long train ride into the mountains. The train was an old-style, but set up with large windows on the sides and front so you don't miss any of the views along the mountain side. When we arrived at Yufuin, it was an beautiful train stop that you would see in a Studio Ghibli movie.
The Ryukin we stayed at was set up to look like a small village. Each patron had their own small dwelling. Even though it was cold outside, the inside was very cozy. Food was served in our room and there were hot spring baths to go to. The hotel village was close to the natural hot spring lake on top of the mountain. In the morning, the lake is covered in mist from the steam of the hot water and surround cold climate. A truly beautiful sight to see!
Now, I had never been a long distance relationship guy, anything more than 20 miles away, was too far! But something about Tomo made me really want to pursue this. In the following months, we made sure to see each other often. The next trip was Tomo visiting me in California. Then me going to Japan, and Tomo in California. On her last trip to California, I made sure to find out her ring size.
For many years, I had been involved in the Sister City Association of Garden Grove, in California. In that, I had done some trips to Anyang, South Korea with 10 students from the high schools in Garden Grove. This next trip would be different. I asked Tomo if she could meet up with our tour and stay in Anyang for a few days.
In my trips to Anyang before, we always visited the Korean Cultural Center. While there, they would dress us up in traditional clothing for a Korean wedding. In speaking with my counterpart in Anyang, I asked him to set it up so that Tomo and I were the Bride and Groom of this wedding. When we were dressed up and the curated explained of the costumes, I interrupted the program. Saying that we were having fun being dressed up for a wedding, I wanted more in my life. So, I pulled out the ring and proposed to Tomo. She was speechless for quite a while, so I started to get nervous. Luckily for me, she nodded.
Our wonderful hosts in Anyang put together an engagement dinner that night in celebration of our announcement. Hee Bon, my Korean counterpart, friend, and ally was instrumental in putting all of this together.
After the trip to South Korea, I made my way back to Japan to meet Tomo's family and officially ask for her father's blessing. Luckily, he said yes.