外文标题：China’s Brides in Japan: ‘I Was Gambling on Life’
Li Aiping, a Chinese woman from northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, heard from her Japanese friend that marriages between Chinese women and Japanese men tend to be unstable, with one in three such marriages failing.
As a mother of two children, Li felt lucky that she was among the remaining two thirds, although her marriage was not always plain sailing—there were times when she had left home to stay with her aunt in Tokyo, a war orphan who went back to Japan in the early 1990s.
Marriages between Japanese and Chinese citizens have been the most common type of cross-border unions in Japan since 1996. According to statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, marriages between Chinese and Japanese exceeded 10,000 for the first time in 2000, accounting for a third of the country’s total cross-border weddings. The number of Chinese (mostly women) who acquired Permanent Residence status as the spouse of a Japanese person has surged from less than 30,000 in 1993 to 100,000 in 2008. Meanwhile, the divorce rate for Japanese-Chinese marriages has remained as high as 40 percent since 2003.
A Bet on Life
Recalling her marriage decision 15 years ago, Li said, “It was like making a bet on my life. Luckily I won.”
In 1999, 24-year-old Li broke up with her ex-boyfriend, a descendent of Japanese war orphans, before he moved to Japan. The boyfriend’s mother refused to accept her on the grounds that she was impoverished and had many brothers and sisters.
Hit by the breakup and out of impulse, she made the decision to marry into a Japanese family. She selected her future husband from the photos and resumes of several Japanese candidates at an intermediary agency for cross-border marriages after paying a fee of 40,000 yuan (U.S. $6,452).
Soon after she married, she had her first child and since then has been a housewife for seven years. She started work at the age of 32 at an electronics factory.
Now she has bought a new apartment for her parents in her hometown and can afford holidays for them to the warm Sanya in south China’s Hainan Province.
In Li’s hometown of Fangzheng County in Heilongjiang, over 200 local women were married to Japanese men each year between 2010-2012. Statistics show remittance from Japan to local families amounted to some 80 million Yen (U.S. $650,000) annually, a major source for relieving these families from poverty.
The Only Choice
With the development of urbanization and the decline in birth rates, Japan has witnessed a decrease in rural populations. Meanwhile, many girls in the rural areas are not willing to marry with village men and have thronged into cities, making it hard for rural men to get married. Faced with the pressures of passing down the family line, they resort to cross-border marriage as the only choice.
Women in Fangzheng enjoy an advantage in finding Japanese spouses due to a large network of Chinese nationals in Japan. “In the eyes of some Japanese, these women, who cannot utter a word of Japanese, marry Japanese farmers for money,” said a Chinese citizen who lives in Japan. In Fangzheng, marrying a Japanese countryside man is also regarded as a “sacrifice of an individual’s happiness for the whole family’s sake.”
“Although such comments are lopsided, what they refer to does exist,” said Wang Hongwei, a girl from Dalian, in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, who married a Japanese man in 2001.
The language barriers and the cultural differences, coupled with the void of love between the spouses, have led to increasing conflicts in the family and eventually divorce, she said.
Shadows from Historical Past
Although Chinese brides living in Japan do not feel much pressure from politics, the historical issues between China and Japan and the national sentiments associated with them are like a seemingly healed wound, leaving a dull pain in unfathomable weathers.
During their daily life, Wang, her family members and friends seldom talk about the historical past between China and Japan. However, whenever her husband got drunk after a gathering with colleagues, he would “apologize again and again.”
When her mother came to Japan, her father-in-law would also apologize. “Then my mum would forgive him” with diplomat-like words such as “this is the issue of the Japanese government. Ordinary Japanese and Chinese always enjoy each other’s friendship.”
“My parents-in-law are also victims of the war,” said Wang. Her mother-in-law lost her step-father and brother-in-law in the war.
Wang’s elder sister Wang Zi, who also married into a family in Sukagawa, Fukushima, could not help but think about the war between China and Japan when she had a big quarrel with her husband. She never shared these feelings with her husband, because “it would hurt his feelings if I said it out loud.”
As accustomed to apologies from family members and friends as her sister, she did not imagine that her son could apologize to her. One day after arriving home from school, her son, in Grade One of junior high school, told her that he studied about the Japanese invasion in China in his textbook. She was surprised. Her son then took out his textbook and showed her the pages, pointing to the facts of wrongdoings that the Japanese had made and expressing his apology.
Whenever Wang Hongwei goes back to China, she tells her son to speak Chinese and not to act like he is from Japan. She herself often stays indoors except when having dates with old friends.
For the Chinese brides who have acquired Japanese nationality, homeland is a word associated with complex experiences and feelings. Wang Zi still remembers the first time she went back to China 19 years ago. Excited after landing from the plane and “imagining that my countryman will embrace me with wide arms,” she was told to “stand in the line over there, Japanese,” by the man at the customs after flipping open her passport.
One the eve of the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival two years ago, when the family watched the moon on their lawns, her daughter quoted a line from “A Tranquil Night” (Jing Ye Si) by Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) poet Li Bai, which goes “Bowing, in homesickness I’m drowned.” Hearing the verse, her eyes ran over with tears, feeling that the 11-year-old daughter seemed to understand her feelings as a stranger in the country.
She has kept her sister from teaching the kids to read “Spring View” (Chun Wang), a well-known poem by Du Fu of Tang Dynasty on the theme of war-torn land, because “it is too sad.”