From non-starter to happily ever after: a Vietnamese-Japanese story

By Pham Nga   July 23, 2022 | 09:31 pm PT
From non-starter to happily ever after: a Vietnamese-Japanese story
During their first meeting nine years ago, Suzuki Fumiaki liked the Vietnamese woman but did not want to hook up with a single mother of two young children.

The technical expert at a garment factory in Binh Thuan province did not expect fate to bring them together again though.

Fumiaki, 47, says: "The first time I met her, I was impressed with the feminine dress that she was wearing. It stood out in a place full of people in workwear."

His impression of Hoang Viet Tuyen, a translator, improved further after listening to her speak with customers.

Less than a month after he took up the job, Tuyen was assigned to work as his personal interpreter.

The first day he saw her sitting next to him, his eyes lit up. But he remained very professional.

Tuyen was impressed with Fumiaki because "he demanded that everything be so perfect that I felt stifled."

He often yelled and spoke so much that Tuyen told her colleagues, "Whoever marries this man will get tinnitus.

But after working with him, she realized he was a warm-hearted person, always trying to help workers in difficulty.

She also gained more and more knowledge about the garment industry thanks to his detailed instructions.

Fumiaki’s love for Tuyen was growing stronger. Working with Tuyen was making his boring single life suddenly happier. He realized he liked going to the office every day.

However, when people asked him if he liked her, his emphatic reply was: "I don't want to love a single mom. She has two children, and I can't afford to raise her kids."

As a man who had never tied the knot, he did not want to marry a single mother. "I was struggling to choose between my heart and mind," he recalls.

He visited her house for her youngest child’s birthday and stayed until late at night.

The next day, when they accidentally met at the factory gate, Fumiaki said to Tuyen: "I like you so much. But if we get married, how can I raise your children?"

Tuyen, Fumiaki and their children in Japan in March 2020. Photo: VnExpress/Tuyen Chan

Tuyen, Fumiaki and their children in Japan in March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Tuyen Chan

After that he visited her house every weekend. He did household chores and played with the children so that Tuyen had time to cook.

"I realized she was not only an able employee but also a good mother. Tuyen's children were also adorable."

After a while he asked her to be his girlfriend, but she refused and got straight to the point: "I'm old and not pretty. I have two children. How can we become a couple?".

Her previous marriage had ended when her first child was two and the second was three months old.

Her heart still ached from the divorce and she was not eager to marry. "At that time I was not in the mood to think about love," she recalls.

But he persisted and refused to take no for an answer, telling her, "It just proves that you have worked so hard to raise these two angels."

Later that day they became boyfriend and girlfriend.

When Tuyen’s mother knew she had a boyfriend, she was worried the children might come in the way and offered to take care of them. But Tuyen decided not to leave her kids, thinking the relationship was merely owed to loneliness and one day her boyfriend could leave.

Then came another storm in Tuyen’s life. In 2016 her mother had a brain tumor. Before entering the operating room, she told Tuyen she had been scammed and had a huge debt to pay.

The surgery left her mother with intellectual disability. Her family sold all it had and Tuyen also used her salary to pay off the debt. Because they did not have a place to live, she had to rent a room for her parents and two children. Every day, the creditors came knocking and she had to work overtime to earn keep paying the debts.

During those difficult days, besides offering her encouragement, Fumiaki also came to take care of her children and fill up her refrigerator with food.

"The kinder he was, the more guilty I felt. Even though I was deeply in love with him, I wanted to end the relationship."

After three years of being together, they broke up. Fumiaki, saddened by the events, moved to Binh Dinh Province for six months to try and forget what happened. Then he decided to return to Japan. Before leaving Vietnam, he asked Tuyen to meet one last time.

But when they met, they could not bear to part with each other.

Three months later Tuyen found out she was pregnant. They decided to marry.

Fumiaki with his children at a Christmas event in 2019. Photo: VnExpress/Tuyen Chan

Fumiaki with his three children at a Christmas event in 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Tuyen Chan

In 2019, after her mother died, he took her and his stepchildren to Japan.

Both Tuyen and Fumiaki were worried when she first met his mother, afraid she would not accept an unemployed daughter-in-law with two children of her own.

But she turned out to be kindly and said: "You must not have the thought they are your own children. You must not let your husband discriminate against them. Don’t let them be hurt. I have made it very clear to Suzuki that if he marries you, he must treat them as his own children. If you have any trouble, just call me."

Knowing that Tuyen was busy, her mother-in-law often came to help her with the household chores. She bought cosmetics for Tuyen and reminded her to take care of herself.

Tuyen says, "My mother-in-law often tells me and my husband that if a wife looks happy, she definitely has a good husband."

Fumiaki cooks for his family. Photo: VnExpress/Tuyen Chan

Fumiaki cooks for his family. Photo by VnExpress/Tuyen Chan

On his mother’s advice, he bought expensive clothes for his two stepchildren. He explained to Tuyen that since they were foreign kids and not fluent in Japanese, they should dress up to not be looked down upon by their friends.

Ngo Hien, 39, a close friend of Tuyen’s, says since getting married to Fumiaki, Tuyen has become a different and happier person.

"At first, I worried about Tuyen. However, after I met Suzuki and saw him playing with his two stepchildren, I believe he is a good man."

Now both husband and wife work as managers at a garment company in Tokyo. The burden of raising children is not a problem as he had feared.

Every day he gets up early to cook along with Tuyen and prepare their children for school.

Tuyen says: "Every time I and my children come back home, the house is clean, and food is ready. He is the compensation for the misfortunes I experienced in life."

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