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Story ID:9547
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Tokyo Honshu Japan
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By Fred Wickert

I got a phone call from the nursing home today where my wife is a patient. The news is not good. They are giving her the maximum amount of oxygen they can but her blood oxygen levels are not enough to sustain life. It has happened before and she has recovered and she may this time but each time brings her closer to the end.

It got me thinking of the day we married over 55 years ago. I met my wife, a Japanese beauty, in Tokyo, Japan in 1955. Three years later we were ready to tie the knot.

I worked all night on the midnight shift and then went to her house to get her. We went by train to down down Tokyo and to the American Embassy. There I went to the counter and told the man we had come to get married. He told me we have to go to the Japanese Ward office to get married there first. He explained that we were in Japan and so had to be lawfully married in Japanese law before we could get married in American law.

I got the address from the gentleman and Tae and I left the American Embassy and hailed a taxi. We gave the driver the address and he took us there. When we entered the building we were amazed. It was undergoing some renovations. There were large sheets of cloth suspended on lengths of rope to catch falling plaster and other debris. Plaster dust was everywhere. We saw a counter with a teller like window so we went to that window.

An unshaved man in dusty black pants, a dirty and sweat stained undershirt and sandals came down off a ten foot step ladder and went through a door and then reappeared inside the teller like window. I gave him the papers I had been given at the embassy to take there. He examined them for a few moments, took a large rubber stamp and tapped an ink pad with it, stamped it on our documents twice, signed his name and told me that would be so much yen. I don’t remember the amount but it amounted to a little over a dollar. I paid the man and he returned the papers to me. He then left the window and returned to the step ladder.

I turned to Tae and asked if we were done and she said she guessed so. That was our first marriage. There was no ceremony, but the papers showed we were legally married under Japanese law.

We stopped at a restaurant and had lunch and then got a taxi back to the American Embassy. We entered the embassy lobby and Tae had a seat on a sofa there. I approached the counter with documents in hand, proving we were married to the satisfaction of Japanese law. The man took the papers and walked over to a desk. He laid those papers down on a folder, sorted through a few other papers, picked up two of them and came back to the counter. He had me sign a form, then took a chrome plated hand tool and applied the seal of the American Embassy to two certificates he had in his hand, slid them across the counter to me and said, “There you are.”

I picked up the two forms and saw that they were duplicate copies of a marriage certificate. I asked, “Is that it?” The man replied that it was. I turned to look over at Tae and she was scratching her nose.

I walked over and told her that we were all done and we left the Embassy to get yet another taxi to take us to the train station. We had no ceremony at all, but we had been officially married that day, August 8, 1958, not once but twice.

We took the train back to her residence, where she prepared dinner for us. After dinner I lay down and went to sleep for two hours. We were short handed and I had not been able to get the night off and had to return to work for the midnight shift.

The following March I took my bride with me to the United States. After I got home and while I was on leave for thirty days before reporting to my next duty station in Orlando, Florida, we got married in the Gilboa Methodist church in accordance with God’s law.

It has been a wonderful almost 56 years together Tae. I always told you that if you want a divorce you will have to get three of them. Now it seems it will not be divorce to end this marriage, but it will be death do us part. You will not be required to do that three times. Once is more than enough.

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