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Japanese Immigrant Finds Love on the Internet - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34062 Broadcast September 4, 2000

Every week on New American Voices we bring you the individual stories of immigrants to the United States, who talk about some aspect of their experiences in this country -- their work, the education of their children, the challenges and pitfalls of everyday life. Today, for a change of pace, we'll focus on a very modern experience: how a Japanese immigrant found love on the Internet.

Her name is Ritsuko Namihira Schiff. She is slender and petite, with long black hair which she wears in a bun at the back of her head, held in place by a single chopstick.

Ritsuko Namihira emigrated to the United States from Japan attracted by the opportunities this country offered for work and for travel. And indeed, she found a job that she loved, and travelled abroad and throughout the United States. But, as she says, while pursuing a career she never had the opportunity to meet the right man. At a colleague's suggestion, she placed a personal classified ad on the Internet.

"It was like a very simple sentence: I am thirty-seven, looking for a sincere man, perhaps I mentioned that I'm Japanese and 37 and looking for a sincere man, period."

Fifty people replied to the message the first day. Ms. Namihira chose four candidates, Brian Schiff among them. The relationship developed slowly, at first.

"Well, at first I was still screening, so I was sending e-mails at the same time to four people back and forth, but I targetted Brian at the end because he was very nice and very honest about himself, so I trust my instinct and stick with it, so we sent e-mails back and forth maybe twenty, twenty-five times before we decided to have a blind date."

This correspondence over the Internet served to introduce Ritsuko Namihira and Brian Schiff to each other - as, in another age, conversations in the family parlor would have done.

"I discovered that we do indeed have so many things in common, like what kind of food we love or where we love to go, or things you like to do, these things, you know. I was so amazed. We were like almost two of a kind."

The next step was to arrange a meeting. Corresponding via the Internet, Ritsuko Namihira and Brian Schiff had no idea where the other lived. It could have been anywhere in the United States, if not the world. When they finally exchanged phone numbers and addresses, Mr. Schiff discovered that Ms. Namihira lived two kilometers away from his home in northern Virginia. They arranged a first date in a local restaurant.

"He visited me at home and brought me flowers and drove me to the restaurant, so he was a very gentle man. I guess maybe a little bit nervous, but he was very nice. But I was also very very nervous, and the first thing I did at the restaurant, I said, "Brian, let's exchange our photo ID". To make sure that he's a real person, so I asked him for a government-issued ID, and I showed him my driver's license, as well. So everything that you say is correct, and I'm speaking to the right person."

In contrast to the many stories about men and women who meet each other on the Internet under false pretenses, lying about their age or job or looks, Brian, like Ms. Namahira, had been totally truthful.

"Everything he told me through e-mail was true, so then our relationship prospered, and then it was like almost every day that we were talking on the phone or visiting each other, because you know, we were just around the corner, 1.8 miles away, maybe about five minutes driving from my house to his house. Amazing."

The couple was married in a Jewish ceremony last October. Ritsuko Namihira, now Mrs. Schiff, says she likes living in the United States.

"I'm very comfortable living here, there's people from all over the world, and everybody's different, and nobody criticizes your being different, everybody respects your individuality."

Next week on New American Voices - a Kurdish single mother and her teenage son talk about the differences in the way they adjusted to life in the United States.