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The Ogawa Story

Shuichi and Serena met online in 2011, shortly after the Tohoku Earthquake. She was working as an English teacher in Kanagawa Prefecture, while he was from Aichi Prefecture (a 4-hour ride by bullet train). Although they had grown up separated by five years and half the world, the two found that they had more in common with one another than they had ever experienced before.

What began as a long-distance relationship developed quickly into Serena moving to Aichi to be with Shuichi. The two began their life together and were engaged only six months after meeting! Married in the USA one year later on August 13, 2012, the two returned to their permanent home in Japan to begin their life together.

Serena loves the steadiness, kindness, and patience that Shuichi has brought into her life while he praises her for endless smiles, adventures, and a creative mind. The two now reside in Tokyo with their two adorable cats, Mucha and Freyja. They are so ready to be parents to a human child!


The First Hurdle

Shu and I had out first adoption meeting with the prefectural government on October 29th. I had been nervous about it for weeks—and for good reason!

We arrived a half hour early and we’re asked to wait in a small room for thirty minutes. This did nothing for my anxiety. Then we were guided to a counseling room with two adoption agents. The next two hours were not great.

After filling out a form on our health and family history, we were interviewed for an hour. I knew it would be quite intrusive and had prepared myself as best as I could. And sure enough—it was.

Everything was criticized and scrutinized. My weight. My walking handicap. My mental illness. My lack of solid relationship with either parent. My foreign-ness. My non-native Japanese.

The agents reiterated time and time again how difficult it would be for someone like me to be a mother, especially to a Japanese child in Japan.

I took it all in stride. I knew what they’d say even before they said it. But it hit my confidence hard.

When the interview portion was done, the explanation began. What kinds of adoption were available, what challenges the children might have, their various backgrounds, and—once again—we were told that we should get rid of our cats.

Side note: if someone can so easily throw away their pets—how does that paint them as a person willing to take in a child? Wouldn’t they just as easily have no problem throwing the child away too?

So after two hours, Shu and I left. Feeling rather disheartened and defeated. Could we do this? We took several hours to think about how we felt individually and discussed together.

Despite the hardships we may face, we want to pursue adoption. In spite of the negativity thrown my way, I do think I could be a positive mother. And in my opinion the agents did all of that as a way of testing our resolve—bullying and downtalk tend to be very common interview methods here still.

It’s kind of poo. But it is what it is.

So, what’s next?

Next, Shu and I have to take adoption and parenting classes and pass a written test—for which I must hire a translator because a lot of it is very technical Japanese. We will also have a house check, background check, and need several reference letters.

But the process is starting. We’re committed to bringing home the chosen one. (And keeping the cats.)

Serena’s Story

The purpose of this blog is to document the journey to adoption and I suppose a part of that journey is what led Shu and myself here. 

My introduction to Japan is not so different from many people’s. I loved anime growing up and Sailor Moon especially was—and still is—incredibly important to me as a person. 

I grew up all over the world with no one place to call home. From being born in California to moving to Ohio, England, Florida, and Georgia, I settled on the idea that Japan would become the place I’d been searching for. The place I wanted to be and could be “home”. 

And so, with that goal in mind, I went through my teenage and university years studying and preparing for a life in Japan. 

On June 13, 2008, I made it. My new life in Japan began and, despite the rocky start, I fell in love with this country. 

What was supposed to be a one-year adventure turned into two, then five; as of this post, I’ve been in Japan for 13 years. 

In 2011, after leaving Ibaraki Prefecture due to the Tohoku Earthquake and injury I suffered, I moved to Kanagawa. That’s where I met Shu and my adventure became our adventure. 

Obviously, there are many details missing from this account. That is by design. I was never very in love with who I was growing up; thankfully, with support from friends and Shu though, I’ve grown into a person that younger me would be proud of and perhaps surprised at becoming. 

I’m very happy with where I am and who I am.

P.S. If you’d like to support our adoption of the chosen one, we will have some folk crafts to sell shortly! Stay tuned!!

Considerations of Adoption

It’s a sleepless 1 am. I cannot promise that this post will make the most sense. But I’m motivated to write it and so I will.

Shu and I have been doing research on the topics of adoption: intercountry vs in-country, schools, mental health of adoptees, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the topics important to us—and the answers we found.

US adoption: We considered this because I have American citizenship and intercountry adoptions from the US require one parent to have citizenship. An American adoption from abroad costs up to $40,000 (20,000 on average).

Now, the main reason we considered this is because Japan is not a Hague Convention country. What does that mean?

As I understand it, Hague countries have a set of rules in place to define what is an adoptee. This can be a child that is unable to be raised by their parents, an orphan, a surrendered child, and I’m sure there are more.

Non-Hague countries define adoptees as orphans. This is where it gets a little odd. Because Japanese parents can relinquish their rights as a parent and make their child into an orphan essentially. But, there have been cases of them later rescinding this to reclaim the child from their adoptive family.

Basically, Japan really values blood bonds of family and has largely used adoption as a means of inheriting names or companies (a topic for a future post).

A Japanese in-country adoption costs ¥2,000,000 or about $20,000. As of now, shu and I have settled on a Japanese adoption.

But why?

My main concern in bringing over a “foreign” child was the language barrier if we adopt a child under six. And another major concern was bullying.

Japan is not the melting pot that America can be. Here, people who are different are told and reminded just how different they are. A child doesn’t need that just because they may be white, Black, or Hispanic.

We considered enrolling a child from the US in an international school. Sadly, it’s beyond our annual budget. Even private school pushes the budget. However, with bullying being less prevalent in private schools than public schools, it’s something we’re open to.

So, there we stand right now. A Japanese adoption.

Which also means—in an effort to understand everything school-related and technical contract Japanese—I will be enrolling in Japanese classes to improve my reading.

We still have a long road ahead and there’s still so much I need to know. But I feel like we’re making the right choice for our family and getting closer everyday.