I’m British and my wife is Japanese. We are always being asked how we met.

In 1998, I went back to England for the first time after leaving in 1991. The cheapest flight I could find was Hiroshima to London via Singapore. On the same day my wife left Japan to spend a year in England studying English. She also looked for the cheapest flight she could find, and ended up flying from Tokyo to London via Singapore. So, we ended up on the same flight from Singapore to London.

It was a large aircraft with 3 seats, 4 seats, and 3 seats across. I was seated on the leftmost seat in the middle, and my wife was seated on the rightmost seat. In between us was a married couple, with the wife sitting next to me. From the moment I sat down, the lady next to me started to ask me questions. The first was, “Where are you going?” which seemed a little strange since we were sitting on an aircraft bound for London.

The questions continued.

Where do you live?  :  Japan

What do you do there?  :  Translation and interpreting

Can you speak Japanese?  :  Yes

Is she (girl three seats away from me) Japanese?  :  No idea!

As soon as I said I didn’t know where the girl was from she leaned across her husband and asked, “Are you Japanese?” The somewhat confused girl gave her a puzzled look and just answered, “Yes.” That was enough. As she was explaining, “He speaks Japanese, so you should sit here”, she was already standing up and removing her baggage from the overhead compartment. The aircraft was already taxiing along the runway, and the stewardesses were all buckled into their seats, but that didn’t stop her from switching seats with the girl in the other aisle. Looking back now, I think she just wanted an aisle seat for herself, but it was all over before anybody could stop her, and there we were for the next 15 hours.

The girl that had been planted next to me was on her way to the UK to study English. She had worked three jobs to save up enough money, and hadn’t borrowed anything from her parents. She didn’t speak any English at all, and said that she thought it would be better to just go to the UK and learn than waste time and money trying to study in Japan. After the 15-hour flight, we arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport and collected our suitcases. She was obviously confused about where to go and what to do, I decided to help her through the immigration procedures, and help her find the person from the English school that was there to meet her. On finding the correct school, and confirming that her name was on the list, I turned to go back to my father who had come to meet me. She still seemed unsure of herself, and a little scared, so I explained that while I would be going to Mexico with my parents for a couple of weeks, and then returning to Japan six weeks later, that if she had any problems she could always call my parents who would try and help. So, I wrote down my parents’ telephone number for her, and left to find my father. I didn’t know her family name, and never imagined that she would get in contact.

However, . . . the evening before I was scheduled to return to Japan, she called my parents’ house. “Thank you for your help that day. I’m settled in at my home stay now. I’d like to send you a postcard, so please tell me your address”. I didn’t really expect her to send a card, but told her my parents’ address in the UK. And, as planned, I returned to Japan the next day.

A couple of months later, my parents told me that a postcard had arrived. I just told them to send it out the next time they sent something. The postcard eventually arrived, so I sent a postcard back. Then a letter came, so I replied with a letter. We kept in touch while she was in the UK by letter, and then by email when she returned home (to Saitama). One day, she asked if she could “come and see Fukuyama”, and so she did. That was October 1999, more than a year after we had met on the plane. We met again in Tokyo when I went there on business, and agreed that she would spend the New Year’s holiday in Fukuyama. Over the New Year we decided to get married. That was the fourth time we had met. I went to visit her parents in February, and she moved to Fukuyama on the 1st of May 2000.

International marriages involve some paperwork and time, and when that was all prepared we decided to register our marriage on the second anniversary of the day we met on the plane.