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Lions Roar : May 2010
Bloodlines EvEryonE says JaPan is a difficult country to adopt from. not only are there few children up for adoption, but it’s the only country in the world where you need to get the extended family’s approval for the process. Bloodlines are seen as all-important; one’s ancestors are one’s link to the past. the family registry, or koseki, goes back generations and lists each birth and marriage, tying family to family. When we got married, I did not take my husband’s name, and this caused a commotion at the ward office when the clerk said there was no “official space” to put my own name on the form. my husband stood his ground. “Well, make a space,” he said, knowing that was impossible. one thing about bureaucracy is that it most definitely cannot make a space. It would have been much easier for him to request or insist that I change my name, but he didn’t. He just waited for the bureaucrat to find a way to remedy the situation. I kept my own name and was added to the koseki. then doubts start to flood my mind. If we succeed in adoption, I’ll be bucking the system again. I know how difficult it is to raise a child, let alone one who is adopted in a country that is not particularly open to adop- tion. In Japan, most adoptions are kept secret. some children don’t even find out until their parents die. so we brace ourselves and ask my husband’s father for permission. I find out, to my surprise, that his own father was adopted. samurai on one side, gangster on the other. my husband has them all in his ancestry—geisha, gangster, samurai, rickshaw driver. this assortment of characters pleases me, makes me feel less strange for my difference, more welcome. my father-in-law says yes. We ask his sister, since she lives with us. she says yes. We breathe a big sigh of relief. But still I worry. all the possible scenarios tumble through my mind: I am a Westerner and the child will not look like me, so everyone will know he or she is adopted. I know of foreign women who don’t take their half-Japanese children to school because their children are ashamed and don’t want their peers to know they are hafu. and because the child is “different,” I don’t want him or her to be the victim of ijime, school bullying. that could lead to hikikomori, someone who is afraid to leave the house and spends their childhood at home. Even worse it could lead to jisatsu—suicide. I know I am being neurotic, already think- ing about the difficulties the child will face in grade school, middle school, junior high, high school, and beyond. I know I am already being a mother. I share my fears with my husband. We were both beaten up in school. “We turned out okay,” he says. It was why I studied karate and meditation, which ultimately led me to Japan. “yeah, but we got our asses kicked a lot!” “maybe we went through it so our child wouldn’t have to,” he says. “that’s a nice thought,” I shake my head. If only that were how it worked. We decide that we are already a rainbow family, he with his long hair and stay-at-home job, me with my red streaks and funky yoga studio, not to mention his family’s eccentric lineage and our strange pit-bull mutt. In a conservative neigh- borhood in a conservative country, we already stand out as freaks. Why not embrace it completely? Perpetual Yes tHE agEncy calls about a little girl. We say yes. nothing happens. months later they call about a boy. We wait. they offer the child to another family. many young couples are waiting to adopt, and we are low on the list due to our ages. I have to do something proactive. I am fiercely committed to living my dreams. If I’m not, who else will be? I contact a dozen adoption agencies. most of them don’t write back. the few who respond say they don’t work with families who live abroad. We apply in vietnam. We wait some more. finally, I make shogo call the orphanage. I insist that he tell them to stop calling us every month to ask if we are interested in a different child. “tell them to put a perpetual ‘yes’ on our file, okay? tell them that whatever child they have available, we are interested.” 69 SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2010