Refine tag filters

Listing posts

Almost here

jason

Hiromi is finally due to arrive in Seattle on Tuesday. It would probably be smart to get the small errands done that I have fallen behind on, but I've only made a small dent. I've got a rather long list.

I have to pick Hiromi up at the airport, which is likely to take longer than usual thanks to the extra time involved in processing her visa. I'm still debating whether to take the whole day off  from my day job on Tuesday or just skip out for the morning.

This week is sure to be busy, as we have a full dance card almost as soon as she arrives. I'm hoping to have a day to relax sometime in the next month.

Our travel plans have firmed up. We'll be in Japan from August 13 to 28th. We have to be in Tokyo from the evening of August 17 to August 20th (though we might be able to make a little day trip on the 19th).

I'm hoping we'll head up north, though I'm not sure how far north, between August 14 and 17th. From the 20th-28th, we have no pressing obligations, so I want to find some way to go as far west as Kagoshima, maybe spend a little time in onsen. If possible, I'd like to stop in Karatsu and Hagi. Hiromi's got her eye on Takamatsu to see a friend, and I think Fukuoka might have been on her list as well.

I usually avoid the JR Pass these days, but this is the first time Hiromi will be eligible to use one, so we're going to be crazy and do the complete opposite of the style of travel I've been accustomed to.

Normally, I prefer to make a couple of small trips and not spend too much time in transit. But every once in a while, the whirlwind tour has its place... And I haven't been further west than the Kansai region in about 6 or 7 years, so it'll be nice to get to the other side.

Technorati tags: ,

Tokyo embassy interview date scheduled

jason

Yes, I know I'm a slacker and all that. I promise I'll be somewhat motivated to write more in the near future. I might even cover something more interesting than the frustrations of navigating the US immigration system, like food.

I do have some good news, though it throws a wrinkle in my budget for the next several months. Hiromi got an interview date for her permanent resident visa at the Tokyo embassy.

It turns out that it's on her birthday, August 18.

She didn't want to be separated on either our anniversary or her birthday, so it looks like I'll be making a short trip to Japan in mid-August.

Ouch. Mid-August. That's going to hurt in at least two ways.

The average daily high temperature in Tokyo during the month of August is 87F (courtesy Weather.com), and it generally doesn't cool down below 75F at night. It's also incredibly humid.

The last time I visited Japan during the summer, it was late July, and my very light summer shirts soaked all the way through with sweat just minutes after going outdoors. You should have seen me walking through Kamakura...

Needless to say, for the last 7 years, I've avoided revisiting Tokyo in summer.

The other source of pain is this: mid-August is Obon season. Flights will likely be quite expensive, as will almost all over our lodging and travel. That's not even considering the impact of massive fuel surcharges and fee increases on airfare that have hit hard this year.

Hiromi has been tentatively planning to come to Seattle mid-July, as she does have a perfectly adequate spouse visa, and she also has some plans in Dallas for late July. As I've mentioned before, we wanted the most expeditious way of getting permanent resident status. Barring any disastrous complications, we should be able to quickly move on to the next steps, like finding Hiromi a job (anyone in Seattle need an experienced localization/globalization tester or PHP/Rails hacker starting in late August?), and moving out of my very confining Fremont apartment.

Technorati Tags: ,,

9 months later

jason

No, Hiromi hasn't given birth (and, by the way, neither have I). But we're now on the cusp of 9 months since Hiromi and I had our minimalist courtroom wedding ceremony.

As of last night, Hiromi tells me she got her passport back from the embassy with her K-3 visa, which allows her to enter the US painlessly.

Of course, as usual, there are some complications. Hiromi's work obligations, a friend's wedding, and incredibly high airfare mean that she'll not actually depart for Seattle until sometime in July... While her visa allows her to go back and forth, coming in June, then making a special trip back to Japan in early July seemed financially not so prudent. Right now, all the "cheap" tickets cost around $1200.

I miss being able to find $515 round trip tickets, taxes included, from Seattle to Tokyo.

We've elected to have the interview for the actual immigrant visa in Tokyo, so, unless the National Visa Center moves at light speed, there's a good chance she'll have to make a trip back to Japan sometime after July. The other option would be to do an "adjustment of status" in the US, which is somewhat more expensive and arguably more convenient, but we won't be able to start that process until she arrives in Seattle. That means it would be at least October before she'd have work permission. It also assumes that US Customs and Immigration Service moves at something approximating reasonable speed.

After almost 5 years together, it's hard to imagine that we were once just coworkers in different offices, 4800 miles apart, and knew each other mostly from email, bug reports, and one or two lunches during business trips.

In a few months, we'll be hunting for a new place to live, finally. After 4.5 years in the tiny apartment I choose only because it was "good enough" and cheap enough in anticipation of starting a new business, I'm looking forward to finding a place where we can comfortably entertain dinner guests more often. I thought I'd be in that place for a year or two. So much for temporary.

I'm glad the wait is almost over. Just a few more hurdles...

Technorati Tags: ,,

208 days

jason

Coming home from the gym tonight, I read an email on my cell phone announcing that my petition for Hiromi to come to the U.S. has finally been approved.

It's a relief. It really only means that we've started round three of the waiting game, as the next layer of bureaucracy enters the picture. But the most grueling, time consuming part of this process is now over.

It's been 208 days since I filed the petition. We spent about 3 weeks after our minimalist wedding gathering documents, filling out forms, correcting forms, mailing them back and forth, reviewing them with my attorney and an immigration paralegal, and accumulating a small fortune in legal bills and government fees.

The approval means that we now wait again... in about a week, we should be assigned a visa number after the National Visa Center receives the petition, which will be forwarded to the consular service at Tokyo embassy. Sometime after that, Hiromi will receive a new stack of paperwork to fill out, and I expect I'll have to assemble a bunch of financial documents as well.

If we're lucky, within a month after the documents are sent off, Hiromi will get an appointment for a medical exam and an interview.

I'm not sure yet, but there's a reasonable chance Hiromi will be able to come to Seattle by late May.

Maybe I'll finally be able to concentrate during the daytime again...

Technorati tags: , ,

Vancouver treats

jason

Briefly reunited for a couple of weeks during the Christmas and New Year's holiday, Hiromi and I spent most of our time in Vancouver quietly. Most of our previous trips to Vancouver had been rather quick and hurried, and we ended up choosing where to eat without any particular research or care. This time, though, we had the opportunity to do a bit more exploration, and we made some pleasant discoveries.

The exchange rates made even the cheaper dining options a bit expensive. Hiromi's whim to eat some sort of Mexican food led us to a place that made many of Seattle's mediocre chain yellow-cheese laden places seem almost gourmet, and we paid almost twice as much for the privilege. But we also had plenty of favorable experiences.

Cru in VancouverWe met up with some local members of eGullet.org, a food community site that I participate in, at Cru, a Pacific Northwest focused restaurant on West Broadway. We decided to mostly entrust the chef with decisions on the food, and they made one or two dishes just for my benefit (I was the only vegetarian) that weren't on the menu.

I can't recall a single misstep in the menu. Mostly simple, elegant dishes focused on the ingredients, the food was pleasant and carefully prepared. I was particularly happy with a mushroom risotto garnished with some pea sprouts. We had a nice Syrah and some complimentary sparkling wine. The interior had a cozy-but-contemporary feel, and felt very relaxed. It resembles Seattle's Veil in some ways, but has perhaps a bit more comfortable atmosphere.

Eggy pasta with the last possible chanterelles

mashiko-and-vancouver 207 

We stayed in a little Yaletown studio apartment, which gave us the luxury of eating at home reasonably often. We kept most of our meals simple, constrained as we were by a minimalist pantry and a more basic set of kitchen equipment than I have at home, but most everything we produced worked fairly well. I carried some basic magic from my pantry in Seattle: olive oil, Spanish paprika, a little argan oil, soy sauce, mirin, salt and a pepper mill. We had a little salad with macadamia nuts and dried cranberries, along with an improvised version of my yuzu dressing.

One night we had a simple wide noodle egg pasta with some truffled sheep's milk cheese, shallots, cream, and some of the last possible chanterelles of the season.

Raw brie!

mashiko-and-vancouver 163

I had brought a couple of varieties of crackers with me from Seattle, mostly because I wanted to make use of them before they lost their charms. During our stay in Vancouver, we went cheese hunting on Granville Island, and came home with an excellent raw milk Brie de Meaux, a truffled sheep's milk cheese from Italy, and some soft nice chevre from Salt Spring Island. The raw milk Brie was spectacularly flavorful, with an almost grassy, pasture-like aroma... I really haven't ever had a nicer one. I'm not sure who they bribed to make it possible to sell in Canada, but we delighted in knowing we were eating something that's essentially forbidden in the US. Even when I was living in Germany, I don't think I ever managed to find a raw Brie. The truffled cheese was also very nice, and the chevre worked particularly well as a stuffing for sweet dates.

Hiromi had a craving for cookies on Christmas, so I made some thumbprint cookies with a black currant jam.

West Restaurant & Bar in VancouverWe had a quiet evening on New Year's Eve, as we had planned a special dinner at West in lieu of attending some sort of New Year's Eve party.

We had some nice pre-dinner cocktails, though thanks to our indecision on the drinks the first course or two passed before we really moved on to the wine. We had sort of imagined we would order a B.C. wine of some sort, but when we asked for something in the Syrah/Shiraz world, the waiter steered us toward the French or Australian options, so we gave up on drinking local in favor of an excellent French Syrah, priced fairly reasonably at around $85.

Hiromi had the West Tasting Menu ($129) and I had the vegetarian ($89). My amuse, a truffled cauliflower pureed soup, served in an espresso-like cup for sipping, was a pleasant way to start things off, and Hiromi had some little seafood treat that she was quite pleased with. We both had a beautifully presented marinated beet dish, in which a soft chevre was sandwiched between slices of beet, brightened by a simple vinaigrette and pine nuts.

Hiromi's next course was seared foie gras and duck confit and pear salad, and I had a shaved truffle-heavy frisee salad sprinkled with some translucent crispy wafers of unspecified origin. The truffles were almost overpowering in my salad, but I still ate every bite.

Hiromi was thrilled by a seared scallop dish with a delightfully rich-yet-refreshing cilantro sauce, which she thought would be enjoyable even by people hostile to cilantro. The vegetarian course also featured a bit of cilantro, adorning a surprisingly endearing ginger and tomato braised artichoke.

The next course, a fillet of sturgeon for Hiromi with fennel jam and artichokes, and a bell pepper confit risotyo for me. Both solid, nicely executed dishes.

The only misstep was in the fifth course, and the same error affected both of us. Hiromi received a lamb dish, and I had an "open raviolo" with butternut squash. Both of these dishes were accompanied by some unspecified savory foam and some sauteed wild mushrooms, and that's where the disappointment hit us: somehow they had been oversalted. When eaten together with another component of the dish, they were tolerable, but they were too salty to be enjoyed on their own merits.

The cheese course and dessert course took our minds off the imperfect 5th course. We both had a dark molded mousse (or "Marquis") between two rectangles of chocolate, served alongside a vanilla tapioca. For me this triggered a bit of nostalgia, but Hiromi has little to no experience with tapioca puddings, so it was more of a novelty for her.

We had a little grappa, one serving of a local dry, but slightly harsh B.C. product, and a fruity and memorable Alexander Platinum.

Service was not as flawless as our previous experience at Lampreia in Seattle, the only comparable meal we've had at a restaurant. The server was occasionally distracted, perhaps having too many tables to accommodate, so it took several attempts before we could order our drinks; of course, one was due to a bit of indecision after learning one choice wasn't available that night. But I was pleased to have a carefully constructed vegetarian tasting menu, an option that wasn't on the table at Lampreia. For that, we'd need to go somewhere like Rover's.

Hiromi's comment, after trying West, was that Lampreia seemed to delight in simple flavors occasionally constructed from impossible-to-imagine components such as a cracker made almost entirely from tomatoes, ravioli made with skins constructed from pineapple, and other fanciful pieces. On the other hand, in West's cuisine, every ingredient was recognizable; the effort seemed spent mostly on carefully composed, sometimes complex sauces with surprising, but not jarring flavors.

I've done most of my extravagant dining in Japan, in ryokan (Japanese inns), where the food is an elaborate but essentially rustic experience. I've not really done much in the way of true kaiseki, except some scaled-back versions in Kyoto. But I'm actually probably more familiar with the conventions of Japanese style multicourse dining than I am with the French tradition. I lived in Germany as a student with no money, so "fancy" dining meant going to a restaurant serving burgerliche Kuche and getting bland croquettes with overcooked vegetables, or perhaps a very, very buttery omelet.

I'm still excited by the experience of a place like West or Lampreia, but part of me wishes dinner included a Japanese bath and a place to sleep.

We got home early, around 9:30, thanks to our early seating. I think we were up until around midnight, because I recall hearing shouting and fireworks outside, but we weren't part of the revelry.

Hiromi goes snowboarding while I drink lousy coffee

mashiko-and-vancouver 192

It's probably a good thing we had an early night. Although we were awake enough to hear the revelry at midnight, on New Year's Day we planned to wake up unusually early so that we could take Hiromi on a day trip to her first home in Canada, Whistler, B.C.

We haven't been to Whistler since Christmas 2003, when Hiromi made her first visit to the US to see me. Somehow I convinced myself to take a lesson in snowboarding, and then proceded down the mountain very, very slowly the next day. This time, I had a little cold, and my knees aren't what they once were, so I decided to opt out.

I spent most of my day drinking very mediocre coffee and hacking code on a pet Ruby on Rails project. When Hiromi was done for the day, we stopped at the home of Fusaki Iida, a snowboarder/writer/teacher that she knew when on working holiday in Whistler earlier in the decade.

My cold got particularly nasty at night. It was bad enough that, even though I'm sure Hiromi was completely worn out from snowboarding by the end of the day, she ended up making a run across the street to the pharmacy and took over making dinner while I collapsed on the bed, still in my wool coat

By the next morning, though, I felt much better... I was a bit congested, but not anywhere near the condition I went to bed in. The massive doses of hot, artificially cherry flavored cold medicine did the trick. Or maybe it was only a 24 hour bug.

During the trip, we also met a couple Hiromi's friends, from the days when she was living in Vancouver. We had coffee and desserts at Ganache down the street from us, and chatted for far longer than planned back at our apartment. We met another friend at Caffe Artigiano, which has decent coffee too.

A bit of good news arrived just after Christmas... After 4 months, the United States Customs and Immigration Service finally acknowledged receipt of our petition for Hiromi's permanent residence status. That particular step normally takes about 2 weeks, but things have been unusually sluggish. The attorney sent off the next batch of paperwork for her visa, which was acknowledged about 3 weeks later. We don't know how long it will take until Hiromi's visa is approved, but it's been a long process. The spouse visa is supposed to be done within three months or so, but can only be filed after the first petition is acknowledged. We're now expecting the permanent resident petition to be approved before the actual visa application, which adds some complications to the process.

You'd think I'd be more motivated to cook

jason

Actually, I have been cooking, though mostly haphazardly and without particular care... I'm also less patient, and not generally willing to dig out the camera.

I'd like to blame this ennui entirely on the US Customs and Immigration Service, though I'm not quite sure that's entirely fair. It has been rather depressing to observe absolutely no change in status for I-130 applications on the USCIS web site's receipting update page, at least not for the last 8 weeks or so. This week I'm slightly more optimistic, as they've indicated that all the I-130 applications have been forwarded to Chicago. Perhaps next week I'll hear something.

It turns out one of my coworkers is facing the same thing, as he filed for his own wife about a week after me. I imagine a lot of people are similarly frustrated right now.

In about 10 days I'll be heading off to see Hiromi in Vancouver, BC for a couple of weeks, as we can't be sure Hiromi would be allowed to enter the US even as a tourist, since we've already filed an application for permanent residence. The convoluted logic of US immigration law makes it hard to enter as a tourist to see your spouse, because you might have immigrant intent. If we were both living abroad, and didn't have a pending immigration petition, we could actually enter under the normal visa waiver program that Hiromi has previously used for most of her trips to Seattle.

I'm hoping to eat well in Vancouver... we'd like to make a trip to Vij's and perhaps Lumière or something similarly celebratory... of course, we're probably going to be equally happy just cooking simple meals in our rented Yaletown apartment.

My impatience has gotten considerably worse in the last month, but of course, there's nothing I can do... Shouganai.

Saturday I visited (and co-arranged) a party celebrating nabe, the broad category of winter one-pot dishes that mark the arrival of winter in Japan. We had four varieties of nabe going in four different pots, and 27-30 people. Kimchi nabe (Japanese-styled kimchi jjigae), Ishikari nabe (a Hokkaido salmon and vegetable nabe), tounyuu nabe (fresh soymilk seasoned with miso, with tofu and shungiku, in this case), and a kinoko tofu nabe (mushroom and tofu nabe), for which I prepared a yuzu-meyer lemon-daidai ponzu.

This Friday night a few friends have been kind enough to arrange for a nice dinner at Carmelita, my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Seattle. I haven't been since Hiromi's birthday last year. In 2006, Hiromi and I did some role-reversal reversal: I took her to Carmelita on her birthday, she took me to a football game on mine.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Travel plans: October 24-November 6

jason

My little brother took off the entire semester to save up money so that he could come to Japan to attend the family wedding Hiromi and I had planned... then our plans became complicated.

William was committed to making the trip, wedding or not, so I'm dragging him along on a quite different itinerary.

The schedule that worked best for us turned out to coincide with a weekend trip Hiromi had planned with her parents in Nikko. After discussing things with Hiromi, I slightly adjusted the plan so that we'd all be able to travel together.

We're also planning a trip to Mashiko on November 4, but most of the time we'll be in or near Tokyo. I'll do my best to post photos during the trip... I've been a little sluggish about posting recently, but that's mostly due to work-related exhaustion, and other minor frustrations.

If your path might cross mine, please let me know. Perhaps we can have tea or a little lunch...

Technorati tags: , , , ,

The distractions of being a long-distance newlywed

jason

Again I apologize for being so distracted of late... Since Hiromi left, I've been rather unmotivated to write anything. I have barely been keeping up reading blogs I'm subscribed to in Bloglines. I've just been working, cooking, eating, sleeping.

Well, that's not entirely true. I've gone out to eat a little bit, too, though generally fairly lowbrow or even actively disappointing stuff. I'm still arranging weekly Japanese-speaking meetups and spending a little time with friends. I haven't become a complete recluse, but I've just appreciated staying semi-hidden for a while.

Thanks to everyone who sent kind words when I posted about our courtroom ceremony.

It turns out that our plans for a family wedding in Japan became a bit complicated due to my mother's health. We've decided to postpone that ceremony until my mother thinks she can travel... the whole point of having the ceremony in Japan was to have our parents there. If things work out, we've considered having our family ceremony in the winter, but we're more likely to wait until spring, or perhaps arrange the ceremony as a renewal of vows around this time next year.

We had a bunch of documents to assemble in order to apply for Hiromi's visa and permanent resident status. Under current regulations, these documents get filed in a rather curious order: first, a petition for permanent resident status for an immediate relative. Then, when the receipt of this petition is acknowledged, I file a petition for permanent resident status for a fiance (precisely the same immediate relative. Finally, Hiromi makes an application for a non-immigrant spouse visa at the consulate. Then she can come to the US. So we get married, then engaged to marry, and then we get to see each other finally. Then we pay a large fee for an "adjustment of status" when her permanent resident status is finalized.

Had we been a little more prepared, we could have made sure these documents were ready before Hiromi left. Of course, her original purpose for this trip was not at all to get married, but to go to a dance workshop in California and spend few leisurely days with me before going back to Japan. So we only had a small subset of the stack of papers we needed ready to go, and of course, we had plenty of small complications getting the rest of them together.

On Thursday, my attorney sent off the paperwork for the first form, the I-130. It turns out that it's been taking much longer than usual just to acknowledge the receipt of this document. Currently, it's around 3 weeks, from what I can tell.

I'm glad we engaged the services of an attorney to help with the process. Although I've filled out almost all of the forms myself first, the paralegal involved on our case caught numerous small issues that could have complicated the application process, resulting in additional delays.

We were somewhat optimistic in thinking that it should take 3 or 4 months for the visa to be approved. It looks like that's only true for the initial petition itself under optimal conditions. Thanks to a surge of applications this summer related to some fee increases, processing is running far behind schedule, from what I understand. Beyond that, it may take a fair amount of time to get an appointment at the embassy in Japan.

Although we've been in a long-distance relationship for most of the last 4 years, it's even more frustrating to have so much of a wait ahead of us now that we've officially committed to spend our lives together. Most of the ugly paperwork stuff to get Hiromi here is done; now we just have a lot of waiting, and a number of large checks to write.

We've been entertaining the idea of meeting in Vancouver, BC, or somewhere similar for a week or so around the holidays, where I could still conduct my day job remotely without too many complications, and we could have some time together. And I'm still planning to go to Japan for about a week sometime this fall, though it's no longer connected to our wedding ceremony plans.

I promise to get back to food posting shortly, and probably even a few business-related postings... I have a fair backlog of photos to plow through, and I've been taking advantage of the simple cooking that summer ingredients invite, sometimes spending less than 20 minutes to prepare what turn out to be very nice meals.

Reunion and union

jason

Sorry for my absence the last couple of weeks. Did you miss me?

I've been a bit distracted.

Certificate of Marriage

Certificate of Marriage

Hiromi and I have been quietly planning to marry in September in Japan... most of our friends and family have known about it for a while, though I haven't been shouting it from rooftops...

I guess it's time for that to change.

In the lobby of Seattle Municipal Courthouse

Entering the courthouse

A little over five years ago, I met Hiromi in person for the first time while on business for Microsoft in Japan. We weren't really working together directly on anything at that time, but several people from the MSN Japan team went to lunch at Misato-ya in Chofu with me, and Hiromi may have been the person to suggest that we go to the popular organic vegetable teishoku restaurant whose korokke and unpredictable okazu I still crave. I'm pretty sure I spent all of lunch talking about food, cooking and ceramics, probably exhausting anyone who wasn't interested in my personal obsessions.

On another trip that year, Hiromi wasn't even in the office. She had been surprised by a brain tumor and was unable to work for a while while it was being treated.

Somehow Hiromi remembered me a couple years later when we started working on something together. It's rather embarrassing to admit now, but at first I wasn't entirely sure which Hiromi I was working with. There were two contractors named Hiromi on the team back then.

Anyway, I planned a little vacation to Japan after about a year without any business travel. Hiromi invited me to meet up with her on a trip I made to Japan in 2003. We had dinner together one night, and then went touring around Yokohama on another.

I owe my entire relationship with her to my clumsiness... While we were walking around in Yokohama, I nearly ran into a post in the middle of a shopping center, she grabbed my hand to pull me out of the way, and never let go. The wind and rain that day was furious, and a brief trip outside left us chilly and well-soaked. Our lives would be permanently intertwined that day, though I don't think either one of us really knew it then.

In Chambers with Judge Judith Hightower

Seated with Judge Hightower

I didn't really deserve her... I sent all sorts of mixed messages when we first started dating. I was conflicted about starting up a long distance relationship, as I'm sure she was. It took more than a year of trips back and forth before we removed all the ambiguity. Yet somehow she stuck with me.

Things evolved, and Hiromi decided to come to Seattle to take some classes so that we could get to know each other better. Somehow she didn't become bored of me. I don't know how I managed to keep her interested. I wasn't at my best. I was, as now, juggling a day job and my fledgling internet business, more exhausted than usual, and occasionally a bit depressed that I couldn't devote all my energies to that project. But we stayed together, and it became harder and harder for me to imagine my life without her.

We seriously started thinking about marriage, but neither of us was in great financial shape. She went back to Japan, after a little under a year in Seattle, so that she could start earning some money again. I started saving money while paying down some business debt.

At the time, it seemed like it was best to marry in Japan and arrange for the immigration paperwork there. Perhaps a bit sentimentally, we picked the anniversary of the day that I nearly walked into a pole in Yokohama, which coincidentally turned out to be a taian day this year, an auspicious day for a wedding.

Then immigration policies changed again, and we learned we wouldn't be able to start the process of bring Hiromi back to Seattle until after I would return to Seattle after our September wedding... And at first we were just resigned to a fate of things taking longer.

I had a little conversation with my attorney earlier in July to discuss our plans, and he said it was too bad we didn't just get married when Hiromi was still in town. If we weren't hung up on the date, he said, we might have been able to speed things up by starting the application process a bit earlier. I realized that she'd be in Seattle briefly after attending a dance workshop in California, and we started discussing having a simpler municipal wedding before our bigger family ceremony next month.

Well, that's what we did... perhaps a bit hurried... Hiromi's ring won't even be ready until just before I go to Japan, and we haven't figured out mine yet. The judge kindly provided symbolic rings for the ceremony.

There's still a long way to go before we're really together, but now the end of our long time living apart is finally in view.

Exchanging vows

Making our vows

Ron Mamiya, the presiding judge of Seattle's Municipal Court, had requested to do our ceremony because he shares Hiromi's family name, but Hiromi's tight schedule meant she'd be gone before he returned from his own vacation. Instead, the Honorable Judith Hightower took care of our ceremony in her chambers. She kindly indulged us taking lots of photos, actively encouraging the two camera-wielding witnesses to move about the room for the best possible angles. She even took a few shots of our group together.

Our witnesses

Judge Hightower's snapshot of everyone

Hiromi's former manager Tsuneo, a couple of layers removed, attended at Hiromi's request as a witness. Our friends Jennifer, Hal and Noriko also attended.

After the ceremony, on the steps of the courthouse

Outside on the steps of the municipal court

Unfortunately, this was also one of the briefest trips Hiromi's ever made to Seattle, and we didn't really have a lot of time to enjoy each other's company after the wedding. We had a little dinner with Jennifer and we came home early in the evening. We only had one night before I had to take Hiromi to the airport.

This was the most painful trip to the airport I've ever made.

I don't remember us posing for this

I don't remember posing for this 

Fortunately, I'll be in Japan again in just over a month. There's still a lot of planning to do, and I'm not sure how we'll get everything all done by then, but I'm sure we'll figure things out.

Just before dinner

Outside the courthouse

I was surprised at how much this small ceremony changed the way I look at Hiromi. I was completely inarticulate on our way outside the courthouse afterward, but a thousand thoughts were racing around my head. Even at my worst, most selfish moments, I haven't been able to imagine my life without Hiromi for a long time, but everything became so real to me all at once. I was more than a little overwhelmed... after going to the airport yesterday, I was completely useless for the rest of the day.