Saturday, April 28, 2012

Top blogger illustrates Chinese wife's struggles

With his winning of the prestigious Alpha Blogger Awards 2010, Tokyo-based cartoonist Junichi Inoue is now recognized as one of the most influential Japanese bloggers.

His blog carries comic strips of amusing episodes about a new life with his young, Chinese wife, Yue, who is in her mid-20s and struggling with cultural and language difficulties in Tokyo.

Hits on the website have risen sharply, especially after last September, when Sino-Japanese ties became strained by a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea — a group of uninhabited islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing.

Inoue, a 40-year-old anime and manga otaku (geek), became convinced that a real-life cartoon depicting a Chinese woman living in Japan would be a hit because Japanese people's interest in their giant neighbor has grown bigger and bigger.

"Everyone wanted a (real-life) Chinese character through which they could understand what the Chinese people are like. It was very strange that there was no manga featuring real-life Chinese characters," he said.

"The number of Chinese-Japanese couples is the largest among international marriages in Japan, but there had been no manga about a couple like that," Inoue added.
The first volume of the printed edition of "Chugoku Yome Nikki" (Daily Records of a Chinese Wife), whose English title is "A Chinese Wife and an Otaku Husband," will go on sale Friday.

Junichi hails from Miyazaki Prefecture and Yue (which is not her real name) is from the Inner Mongolia region of northern China.

The two of you met each other for the first time at an omiai (match-making) party arranged by friends and relatives in China in 2008. How was the meeting arranged in the first place?
Junichi: I had been making (manga) figures at factories in China. I had worked for some time in Guangzhou (in southern China), so I'd become acquainted with a factory manager there who was associated with the family of Yue's sister, who had married a Japanese man.
Yue: My sister in Guangzhou proposed an omiai party and I agreed because I just wanted to see what an omiai was like.
What were your first impressions of each other?
Junichi: At first glance, I thought I would never get married with her because she was too young and too beautiful for me. I had done omiai four times in Japan and was turned down each time before that. I thought this meeting would never work (laugh).
Yue: I thought he might be a good person because I like a man of few words. Jin-san (Junichi's nickname) didn't speak at all. He neither smokes nor drinks, and he was very quiet during the meeting.
Junichi: I didn't say much because I felt very awkward. (Yue and her sister) didn't understand Japanese well, so I had no choice but to speak very slowly. (Yue had learned some Japanese in 2003 when she stayed in Japan for a few months.)
What was your impression of Japan in general?
Yue: The images of Japan in historical dramas on Chinese TV are not very good (because they focus mainly on Japan's war with China.) But when I actually met people, I found they were all very nice.
Junichi: When her sister got married to a Japanese man, her parents were strongly opposed to it. But he behaved in such a kind manner that the parents have come to trust Japanese people.
When you first came to Japan did anything surprise you?
Yue: I liked fashion in Japan (even) before coming to Japan. After I arrived, I was surprised to find even some Japanese men were using makeup. And the towns in Japan are very clean. You don't see any trash on the street.
Which language do you usually use at home?
Junichi: All Japanese. I knew some Chinese, but I'm getting worse and worse. She can now communicate too well in Japanese. Otherwise, it would have been much more interesting.
Do you have any plans for the future? Do you want to live in Japan or China?
Yue: We often talk about this. If we have a baby, (I) want to raise the child in Japan until kindergarten age. I want to move to China when the child reaches elementary school age.
Junichi: That would be OK with me if that is what Yue wants.
Why kindergarten age?
Yue: Because the medical system in Japan is much better. In China, there are too many hospital patients and doctors give children too much medicine and too many shots. That does not happen in Japan.
Junichi: Hospitals in China are terrible. You need to wait for about a day (to be seen by a doctor).
Then why do you want to have your child attend elementary school in China?
Yue: It's better for kids to learn both Chinese and Japanese.
Junichi: And Yue says the level of Japanese schools is lower than that in China.
Yue: They don't teach much to kids. Kindergartens and elementary schools in Japan just let children play.
Do children in China need to compete much harder at school than in Japan?
Yue: Yes.
Junichi: I saw the textbooks used by her sister's children. They are much more difficult than those in Japanese schools. They are given much more homework, too. I don't think Japanese schools are good at all.
Do you often have arguments at home?
Yue: He is just so nice.
Junichi: I was thinking of creating a manga (on their life), so I have kept records of everything that has happened. If you think of manga in that way, you find almost everything is just so interesting (laugh).
So you don't argue about any cultural differences?
Junichi: It's no use saying anything (about something different). Differences are the things that make someone else interesting. Yue is Chinese, and you can't do anything about that.
Yue: If I find anything different, I want to try to do it the Japanese way as much as possible. For example, our wedding ceremony was totally different. I wanted to do that in the Japanese way. I want to make the same meals that his mom made for him.
Junichi: You don't need to do things like that.
What do you like and dislike about Japan and China?
Yue: In China, it's quite difficult to get important documents from a city office. You need a friend there, otherwise it's very difficult. (I like) it that prices in China are very cheap. I like fashion in Japan.
Junichi: I don't dislike any particular thing about Japan. I like the manga (culture) in Japan. China doesn't have it. In China, the content industry is so hollow because pirated copies are immediately created. I will publish this comic in China, too, but definitely pirated editions will soon appear and I will not be able to make much money there.
What about the political system in China?
Junichi: It's also a problem for me. If you run a factory in China, bureaucrats come and openly demand bribes. If you don't pay, they will just start harassing you. Everybody knows that. They won't do anything good.
Has this work changed the way you approach your job as a cartoonist?
Junichi: I have realized that a big change has taken place in the manga industry. In the past, you needed to have your manga works published in a major magazine and it's very difficult. But now you just can create a blog to let everybody know about your works. This is a paradigm shift. A really big change.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chinese Dragon Woman who seeks the Impossible Man

It has been a while since I last updated this blog.

This article about a modern age gold-digger grabbed my attention, for obvious reasons, as it fits in well with a stereotype that I have now developed as a result of my experience being married to a Chinese born wife.

This stereotype is neither politically correct nor fair, but unfortunately it is what it is, and stories like the one below only add fuel to my admittedly irrational conviction.

My saga has unfortunately gone from bad to worse, and I will elaborate on this when I have enough strength to, but for now what I can say is that I have not seen my son in almost a month.

In any case, I consider the woman in this article to be an extreme version of a typical Chinese-born woman, and not something of an exception.

This woman, unattractive as she is, with very little English and not much else to distinguish her, is seeking the IMPOSSIBLY PERFECT husband, and she has left China to the USA to find him.

Her name is Luo Yufeng, or Fengjie, and she is a Chinese internet celebrity who left Shanghai in 2010 for America on a quest for a husband who meets her exacting standards.

He must have graduated from Yale or Harvard, or similar, have ambitions of world domination, cannot be Asian and preferably stands at 2m tall.

yes, you read correct. he cannot be Asian. Why? I don't know but this is not the first Chinese woman I have heard who has made that kind of statement.

Fengjie, 27, stands at just 1.3m but points out that she wears heels.Hmmmm?!

She came to national attention in China in 2009 when she started handing out flyers for an ideal husband.

She says she became the “hottest” star in China, known to 80 per cent of the population.

She claims she’s a political refugee but more likely had to do a runner when she made it known that none of the 300,000 Chinese men who she claims proposed marriage were good enough, or tall enough, for her.

Despite misgivings that she is a self-invented internet figment, she is real enough. As she stood near Wall St in New York for her photo opportunity, Chinese tourists stopped, pointed and began taking photos of her.

Chinese bloggers, who hate her, believe that she represents the worst of China to the world, and I suspect that they are spot on.

Fengjie and a group of her friends started handing out husband flyers at Manhattan subway stations last year.

She says she gets about three calls, texts or emails a day with offers of marriage.

No American man has so far made the cut. She says she works in a humble Brooklyn manicure salon, living in a tiny room, waiting for Mr Impossible.

“I am a very clever person,” she said through a translator.

Asked in what ways she was clever, she said: “I cannot give you the details.”

Asked what she offered her husband in return, she said: “I do not care. I do not consider that.”

This point alone underscores the attitude of this woman, and perhaps to a lesser extent the attitude of many Chinese born women, towards marriage. It seems to be a unilateral, one-sided exercise designed to raise her standing in the world, but she herself feels no responsibility to offer anything to her husband to be. It seems to be little more than emotional exploitation, at a grander scale.

She said she did not believe in sex before marriage but when asked whether she’d ever had sex before marriage, she blushed.

“My husband must be very clever and intelligent. He must have a willingness to be president of a nation, or own a very big business. I require my prospective husband to have graduated from a famous university.

“I myself am very good at politics.”

Asked to name the Australian prime minister, she could not.

Asked if she would consider an Australian husband, she said she would. But he would have to move to the US because she was in process of applying for refugee status.

But what if she just fell in love with a guy who had nothing? “I will not fall in love with a person like that,” she said.

“I will wait until I find that man.”


Aged between 25 and 31
About two metres tall (a bit shorter is acceptable)
Must have a master’s degree from Harvard, Yale, Stanford or West Point
Must NOT be Asian
Must have a house and car
Can never have been married, and no kids
Intends to rule the world

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Inevitable Consequence

My wife is currently in China on holidays. She is with my son. She has gone with my blessing and my support.

It is a positive thing, given what we have just gone through recently. The fact that I agreed for my child to go oversease to a country like China without my presence, indicates something positive in an otherwise gloomy recent past.

What I mean by this should become very clear soon.

I guess it is at this point where I declare that we are in fact separated.

Anyway, it has been a very difficult last few months.

I guess you never really know someone unless you actually separate from them, and witness their reaction.

Our separation has for the most part been amicable, given the complex financial circumstances we were in.

I had come to the conclusion that our relationship simply would not work, and I realised that the longer I waited, the more vulnerable I would be to exploitation.

The fact that we just made a huge investment in a large house, although at first I thought to be a stabilising influence, made determining the genuine status of our relationship all the more urgent.

So it was I who separated from her.

Although I had planned to do this for a few weeks, when I finally did do it it was the result of a misundertanding on my part regarding a phone call she received.

I did not say anything but I assumed the worst, only to find out days later that it was an error on my part. It seemed I had grown weary and paranoid.

In any case, it didn't really matter. I did what I had to do, being the inevitable consequence of unresolved issues from our past.

The good thing is that during this period of separation, I have cleanly untangled my finances from hers, and managed to get a full account of her own net worth.

Wow!! I can't believe how much money she saved during our marriage, while I was paying for all her expenses.

Anyway, being separated, especially being the initiator of separation, gave me a strange sense of control. This is something that I had very little of for the bulk of our marriage.

I was able to request that she provide her true financial circumstances to me, as I did to her, in order to try and arrange an equitable financial agreement between us.

I was also able to make requests of my son's time, that were previously never afforded to me, regardless of how reasonable and just my requests may have been.

I asked for my son to stay with me for 2 days per week, and during this time my son has been actually able to visit his paternal family without interferance, for the first time ever.

One request that I have yet to have her agree to has been for my son to stay overnight with me.

It is hard to fathom that she objects to my 8 year old son staying overnight with me, yet she had allowed my son to go interstate on his own to visit his aunty for a whole week, without even blinking.

However, this is something that I have been working on.

I think I will just have to force the issue when they return from China, as it is not a genuine concern, of this I am sure. I believe that she is on some level at least gaming the child support system, which determines level of support on the number of overnight stays with each parent.

In any case, I must be patient and try and to slowly persuade her to the wisdom of sharing the load, and hopefully common sense will prevail.

I should also mention that since our separation she has written on 7 occassions asking that we reconcile. These have been quite detailed letters. She clearly has gone to a lot of effort.

However I am not seriously considering such a move, but on an emotional level it does make the separation easier to bare at least.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I post an article about the Parenting styles of Chinese mothers, a topic that has received a lot of press recently.

I have thought about this topic extensively, given that I have a young son.

I wish to elaborate on my views and experiences on the topic of parenting, in particular the cultural influences and values that tend to have an overwhelming impact on our parenting styles.

But first an article on the topic that has been in the news of late.


By Amy Chua

In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua describes her relentless determination to make her two daughters successful by raising them in a strict fashion, contrary to what she sees as modern American standards of permissiveness and mediocrity. In this excerpt, she starts to explain her parenting philosophy.

Part One

The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.

The Chinese mother

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Westerners are far more diverse in their parenting styles than the Chinese. Some Western parents are strict; others are lax. There are same-sex parents, Orthodox Jewish parents, single parents, ex-hippie parents, investment banker parents, and military parents. None of these “Western” parents necessarily see eye to eye, so when I use the term “Western parents,” of course I’m not referring to all Western parents—just as “Chinese mother” doesn’t refer to all Chinese mothers.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

This brings me to my final point. Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother. This is so wrong. Unlike your typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Song of the Sirens

Well, I finally have my wife's banking details. She has saved a lot of money over the course of our marriage, and before.

I did not expect her to so casually provide her bank account details to me, especially given her refusal to do so in the past, but she probably thought she had no choice.

This surprisingly does not make me feel relieved or satisfied. In fact I feel more frustrated than ever, especially when I consider why it has taken so long, and why there was so much resistance.

I sometimes think back to when we first met, and I wonder why I never picked up on her "Me not Us" view of marriage. Or if I did, why or how I let it get to this point.

I remember in fact the day that we met, and all the circumstances behind it. I had been about a year out of a long-term relationship, and my colleague and his wife invited me for dinner at a restaurant.

Once dinner was over, they surprised me by providing me a ticket, and dropping me off in the city for what I was to find out was a speed-dating evening.

Now I am not the most charming of men, and I often get tongue tied in these situations, so I felt quite uneasy about going ahead with this, but I thought it may be a good laugh if nothing else, so I gave it a shot.

I waited for an anxious half an hour in a bar with another 30 or so men and women, all strangers to me.

Most of the men and women congregated in small groups. It was obvious to me that women came prepared in groups, while men came alone but grouped up out of necessity.

Despite feeling anxious at being all alone, I felt quite out of my element, and stood there like a statue until the event formally began.

It was at that point that I caught my wife's attention. She too was alone, and as far as I could tell, very shy.

Once formalities began, we got to sit down with each person of the opposite sex for 5 minutes each, and then move on. We were told to make small-talk, but not talk about our work, and not to provide private contact information.

I actually did not like the majority of the women I spoke to, because I felt that they were too self-involved, too demanding, too assertive. But when I got to sit with my wife, it was obvious that we hit it off straight away.

We did not talk about work, money, success, or anything of the sought. It was merely small talk, just a little banter and fun.

So I thought she liked me for me.

In any case I didn't really pursue her, except for the fact that she managed to get my mobile phone number by nights end.

Come next day, I really cooled off on her, and decided that if she called, I would simply make up some excuse, and hopefully she would get the idea.

And so it happened, problem is, she didn't get the message.

So she kept calling, and calling, and calling, and finally I guess I simply caved in to her ongoing request to go out one night.

So try as I may, I can't see how I missed those vital calling signs of things to come....or am I missing something here?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

We bought a new house, but…

Well, we just bought a new house.

Its actually quite big, even majestic really. It cost an absolute fortune.

I was happy where we lived, but my wife wanted opulence.

We will move in the next few months.

However my wife and I have come to an impasse.

My wife’s salary goes into a separate bank account, and despite my best efforts, its always been kept out of my reach. In fact I don’t even know how much she has saved.

We have, I say embarrassingly, been living on my income alone since we got married.

Now with the new house purchase, I have demanded that she contribute to the purchase with all her saved funds.

She has refused.

Surprisingly she has been referring to this purchase as “her new house”, and yet she expects not to contribute to it at all.

Given our troubles in the past, this is simply not on.

So I have laid down my terms to her. Either she contributes to the house with her funds, to the extent that she has saved, or I will simply borrow against the house that we have, so that the burden is shared.

I have accepted that our first house will be split equally or thereabouts should we ever separate, despite she never contributing, but I will not make that mistake again.

She has been acting very upset over this, but her expectations are remarkably unreasonable.

This is not an issue that I am prepared to compromise on. If I am to be fair to her, I also have to be just as fair to myself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mr Cat, meet Mr Pidgeon

"Mr Cat, meet Mr Pidgeon...the rest I leave to you."

So goes the old saying, which indicates the strong order of things that seem to drive so much of the human condition.

Much like the laws of nature, so with humans, our likes, our reactions, our affiliations and our nemeses.

Or so I thought.

A few months ago I started seeing a new patient, an elderly Chinese man who was suffering from moderately advanced Parkinson's Disease. In the consultation was his daughter, a feisty, assertive but genuinely caring woman, doing all she could for her father, as well as the gentleman's wife, a woman in her eighties who could not speak any English, but seemed to be the decision maker in the unit.

This man was luckily very responsive to first line treatment, and at least for now many of his symptoms have come under control, resulting in a better quality of life for this man, and as is almost always the case, for his long suffering wife.

At our last appointment the wife expressed her delight that she could now go for long walks without worrying about her husband, who she previously believed needed 24 hr monitoring. In response, I jokingly mentioned that since they live close to me, that she could come and visit my mother-in-law.

Given all that they had in common, their age, their heritage, their language, the vicinity to each other's households, I thought this was a no brainer, and this would provide my mother-in-law an opportunity to mix with other people, and have broader interests and independent friends.

So naively, I arranged for us to meet one day over yum cha.

From where I was sitting, everything seemed to go smoothly. There was a lot of chatter, a lot of smiles. My mother-in-law and the elderly women seemed to talk the most, and why not after-all, they were so remarkably similar.

Well in the days and weeks after that lunch, I slowly noticed that there was no reference, no discussion about the new friend.

At first I barely noticed it, but I kept on asking my wife whether her mother saw her new friend today, in a way feeling chuffed that through my handy work, my mother-in-law had benefitted.

My wife would respond without asking her mother, with a bland "no".

After a few weeks of this, it occurred to me that this simply didn't sound right, so one night, while lying in bed with my wife, I asked her why her mother had not seen her new friend since the yum cha.

My wife said that the woman called 3 times, but her mother didn't want to see her.

I found this so strange. My mother-in-law has so few friends, so few peers of the same age, and she had such a burning desire for conversation, how could she not want to see her new friend?

After more prodding, my wife finally spilled the beans.

She said:

"My mother doesn't like her. She feels that she is below her."

My wife continued:

"My mother was a teacher back in China. This woman was just a commoner."

"My mother now has a son-in-law who is a doctor. This woman's daughter works in a factory. How could you think they would have anything in common. All you have done is embarrassed my mother."

Ditto! Maybe there are some things about the laws of nature that I have yet to fully understand!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lingering Dream

Things have pretty much settled down in my relationship, at least that's what I have been telling myself.

However I have recently had a very vivid dream which has kinda thrown things upside down for me, at least emotionally.

I am still baffled as to what it means, and why it has appeared now.

My dream has me separated from my wife, contemplating my future.

In reality I am 7 years younger than my wife, but in my dream I was 20 years younger than my wife, as irrational as that may sound, but it felt like an unquestionable truth.

In this dream I also felt a sense of comfort in knowing that my wife was probably too old to have another child.

This I felt freed me to consider my future, where I had decided that it was time for me to meet another woman.

Here's the crunch though, I got into a conflicting mind-set, trying to work out whether I should allow myself to enter a relationship with another Chinese woman, or a woman of any other race.

I kept going back and forth, convincing myself of one approach only to realise the problems it would evoke.

The conflict I was experiencing was quite palpable. At one point I felt that for my own well-being, I should try and avoid any woman who has the same cultural emphasis as my wife does.

But I kept getting pulled back to the very real needs of my child.

I kept fearing, maybe irrationally, that were I to have another child who looked 'caucasian', that my son would not see this chiild as his sibling, and in a way my son would see me as emotionally abandoning him for my other similar-looking child.

I felt the only chance of ensuring my son still felt part of my life was to have another euro-asian child, to look essentially like my son.

I know that this makes little sense and quite possibly my son, given these circumstances, would care less whether his half-sibling had blonde hair or black hair, but obviously this dream means something to me, but exactly what I don't know.

It is one of those dreams however that lingers on, troubling me evening when in the back of my mind.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?