Where have you been? - Tokyo, Japan

By Peter Malcouronne

Peter Malcouronne meets the arrivals at Auckland Airport

The arrival home of Rona Sapolu, left, his wife Noriko and daughter Sahana was a happy one for his mother Toeupu. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The arrival home of Rona Sapolu, left, his wife Noriko and daughter Sahana was a happy one for his mother Toeupu. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Rona Sapolu, a 45-year-old Samoan by way of West Auckland has been in Tokyo for the past decade teaching English. With wife, Noriko, and 2-year-old daughter, Sahana, he's returning home for the first time in a year. Rona's mum, Toeupu, presently rapturously preoccupied with her granddaughter, is in the arrivals area to meet them.

It's one of those supremely happy homecomings, one that makes you forget about house prices, climate change and the Colonel Custerish ineptitude of the Black Caps. However, Rona concedes the notion of "home" has become problematic. "I guess you could say that I'm living there now," he says. "I think when Noriko and I got married, and when the baby was born, Tokyo became our home."

"It's a pretty full-on city," he says. "The crowds, the business, the chaos - it's a long way from Avondale. But it's also very ordered and organised.

"I've visited a lot of countries. Stayed in many cities. And it can be ...

pandemonium, especially in Asia. But they follow the rules in Japan. They stop at the lights; they don't jaywalk - even if it's a quiet street."

He likes that, he says. And he likes the Japanese. "They're so polite. And reserved when it comes to people they don't know. Perhaps even a little shy."

They're also very formal, something Rona kept in mind during his expert courtship of Noriko. "I was her English teacher," he says, smiling. "I received a lot of knock-backs and rejections. But I persisted - and I eventually wore her down."

He laughs. Meeting Noriko's family for the first time was, he says, a big buzz. "There are a lot of customs, a lot of etiquette. I'm not No1 with all that, but I certainly did my homework."

Rona first had to get permission from Noriko's father. Rona wrote the proposal down in English and got Noriko to translate it into Japanese. Rona spent a night memorising it, rehearsing over and over.

The next day he met his prospective father-in-law in a sake bar. It must have gone well. Just a few months later, Rona, in traditional Japanese costume - the first Samoan Samurai - walked up the aisle with Noriko.

- NZ Herald

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