Amy and I met in 2010 while studying abroad in Japan. We were both twenty and to green to understand what was happening with headlines everywhere pointed to the country’s struggling deflation and what would happen between us on a micro-level.
At first, we avoided one another, not on purpose but because we seemed to have very little in common. I was a reluctant yet consistent people pleaser, accepting every social invitation that came my way while she had no problem shutting down the very same ones. Our interactions were limited to small talk in the communal areas. In the kitchen, I let her cut in front of me to use the stove. By the genkan or entryway, she’d open the door for me after I slipped on my boots- that kind of thing.
During the first week, our cohort of 20 University of California students would walk to campus together. The commute was more than an hour, which was enough time to turn strangers into fast friends. Amy and I naturally gravitated toward one another, physically (we would accidentally brush shoulders and not apologize for it) and intellectually (we would discuss what we learned in class and our readings). The setting was romantic, too, with cherry blossom petals falling at our feet. It often rained, and we sometimes had to huddle under a flimsy umbrella.
One morning I noticed Amy’s plaid boxers peeking from her jeans. This drove me wild because I was always curious about tomboys but had never been close enough to one to develop an attraction. This was at a time when folks were much less fluid than they are today. The girls I knew back home who wore boxers were queer. It was a small detail but seeing her boxers led me to rethink (and blush about) all of our interactions. Privately, of course, but somehow I knew.
Soon she began to invite me to meet. Alone. We would do lunch specials and tea at cheap restaurants, pick up freshly made dorayaki (fluffy pancakes filled with sweet red bean) from the mall, and grab groceries together. There was nothing odd about the things that we did, but we’d often do them in secrecy. Our conversations continued over text messages long after we’d gone to bed (and this was when we had flip phones).
A few mutual friends of ours began to notice our closeness- a vagueness, they called it- and tried to add some clarity to the situation by asking Amy if she liked women. This scared her, and she reacted hotly, saying that she didn’t. She wondered why they would even think that. The subject was dropped, but we continued to spend most of our time together. Her reaction is more understandable to me now than it was then. It isn’t easy to come out of the closet when you don’t even know you’re in one.
The program ended four months later. Amy went home ahead of the rest of the group, which was crushing, but I played it cool. On one of my last nights there, I was laying on the beach with a friend and confessed my heartache. She told me to let it go. And I did, which was a strange yet relieving thing to do considering we hadn’t defined the relationship.
Two years later, Amy reached out to meet for tea. We fell back into our old pattern of engaging in lighthearted small talk that didn’t really mean anything. This continued until 2013, when I moved back to Japan to teach English. Before I boarded the plane, she emailed me a confession: she loved me and always had. I spent the plane ride in disbelief.
In the fall of 2013, she visited me in Chiba, where I was assigned. We traveled to Yokohama, Tokyo, and Kyoto. One evening in Kyoto, we skipped the tourist attractions because it was pouring rain. Then she kissed me. The following January, we began dating officially. You might say that we had an extended honeymoon period, which comes part and parcel with long-distance, which we did for two years. One of our favorite memories was a getaway to Niseko. Where we experienced an onsen, or hot spring, in the snow. It was like being in a snowglobe.
Today, we are married and have two rambunctious dogs, Benji and Sylvester. We were one of many couples whose wedding was affected by COVID-19, but we decided to go through with a small ceremony in front of my family home in April 2020, ten years after we first met. Afterward, we ordered dishes from our favorite Chinese restaurant and picked up an Edwards® Hershey’s Chocolate Crème Pie.
We spend most of our time running our specialty tea company, PARU. Which is focused on teas from underrepresented tea-producing regions and celebrating local artists’ work. It had always been Amy’s dream to start her own business, and I’m in it for the educational and community aspects (tea has a long and fascinating history, and it brings people together much more than you might think). I’m working on a novel outside of this, which has been a funny and enjoyable process because our past experiences partly inspire it.
I met Emily B Photo through a former co-worker of mine from when I worked in tech. When she invited us to do a styled shoot, we were at this point where we felt like we wanted to do something we wouldn’t normally do. For example, we took up baking and surfing, which have helped us see the world in much simpler terms. To extravagantly put on our love on display in the middle of a pandemic sounded like it would feel just as freeing. And it was.
Photography by Emily Beth Photo
Accessories & Bridal Jean Jackets Jay Kay Braids and Bridal
Cake Nura Bakes
Cinematographer Anh Vu Studios
Decorative Elements The Balloon Mami
Engagement Rings Emi Grannis
Gown Boutique Mia Riley Designs
H&MU Ruby Whalen, Jessie Gaston
Planner & Stylist Pop Up Shot Club
Prop or Furniture Hire Cutie Pie Events
Shoes Jessica Simpson
Signage & Stationery Spilled Ink Calligraphy, Rosemontlane
Suit Designer Friar Tux, Stitch and Tie
Venue Westcliff Park, Newport Beach
Wedding Rings Sandhya Sur