“I got married to my wife who lives in the US and trying to meet her in Hokkaido, Asahikawa. But the government does not allow her to enter Japan. Why international families and couples have to get separated?”
An email sent by Masashi Tomita from Asahikawa made NHK investigate international couple’s situation in the COVID-19 pandemic. In this situation, are we even prohibited to see the one who we love at most? The story of Masashi and Kevonnia is not unusual for many people who live in the international society. Including myself, born among Canadian and Japanese parents. Mid-May, Kevonnia came across several obstacles, and finally got united with her husband, Masashi, in Hokkaido, Asahikawa. In the time of struggle and separation, the couple sent an important message to all of us.
“You just gonna believe in yourself and your family.
Imagine those people who are facing the same obstacle.
And hold hands together.”
Report：Frank Mitsuru Maekawa（NHK Sapporo）
Story from previous report
Mr. Masashi Tomita from Asahikawa got married to Ms. Kevonnia Antoinette Grant, who lives in Pennsylvania, US. They had prepared all documents for Kevonnia to come to Japan from the US. However, the Consulate General of Japan explained to Kevonnia that they cannot issue VISA to enter Japan because of the Covid-19 situation in the nation. The couple and all other international couples across the nation must wait for the government's decision to lift the State of Emergency across Japan.
Previous report: International Couples got separated by COVID-19 in JAPAN
It`s not just about other people
I could not think the struggle of Masashi and Kevonnia is just about their own problem.
I have also grown up among Canadian father and Japanese mother.
In this COVID-19 pandemic, I could not see my father for almost 2 years.
The couple`s struggle is not just a single matter, I found it is related to all other people living in this international society.
From this point, I have conducted this research about international couples in COVID-19 for 6 months.
The state of emergency got lifted in Japan
In late March, the situation in Japan changed significantly.
The second state of emergency had got lifted, and Kevonnia can receive her VISA to enter Japan. However, Masashi was still feeling anxious.
“Honestly, I’m quite relieved. However, we are not still sure, when Kevonnia can actually get VISA and prepare for the travel.”
It’s a long road; from the US to Japan
4 months had passed since the marriage. Kevonnia finally managed to get her VISA.
She checked out her room in Pennsylvania and got a flight ticket to Tokyo, but at this point, she found another problem, which is a PCR test. In order to come to Japan, she had to submit a test result within 72 hours after the test in a paper document.
“The test results are already posted online, however, I had to fill out the Japanese paper works and the results were only online. 3 days after they mailed back the actual reporting that I don’t have Coronavirus. But that does not help me. I had a plane ticket, but I had to cancel that. Which also extends my days in the US. “
After that, she found a new test location and drove for 3 hours to get a new paper result.
Her flight to Japan had been postponed for more than a month.
Finally, arrived in Japan. But not home.
5 months after the marriage, Kevonnia arrived at Tokyo Haneda airport.
From this point, she had to go through 14 days of quarantine.
In the usual case, international travelers have two options; isolation at hotels nearby the airport and isolation at their homes. The latter option is available for people who can use personal transportation methods, such as private cars.
However, Kevonnia cannot privately move to Masashi’s home in Hokkaido.
This issue is because she must use trains or aircraft to move to Hokkaido from the central part of Japan. Even if she uses a private car, she needs to get on a ferry at Aomori.
Therefore, Kevonnia must spend 14 days at hotels nearby Haneda airport.
There are private companies that support people like Kevonnia. They provide transportation, accommodation, and foods, but that arrival assistances cost 1000 to 2000 US dollar for 14 days. We cannot deny the financial burden related to the arrival.
Kevonnia spent about 1000 US dollars for her quarantine.
Even after the arrival, the couple cannot see each other for two weeks.
“I think my wife also feeling isolated.
If possible, I wish to spend the 14 days of quarantine together.
I acknowledge it is a tough time for both of us, but if we could overcome it,
I’m sure we can unite more strongly”.
The Day of Reunion
Mid May, more than 5 months had passed since the first interview.
After a long, cold winter in Hokkaido, it was a sunny spring day in Asahikawa city.
Masashi is going to pick up Kevonnia at a local airport.
I got a small camera to document the moment.
“it’s has been more than a year since we began to work on our marriage and more than 5 months since we got married. It took a decent amount of time. We were actually planning to reunite in the winter season. But it's almost summer right now. Kevonnia wanted to see cherry blossoms in Japan. I feel a bit sorry for that”.
The path of International Couples in the COVID-19 circumstances was an easy way.
After 500 days of separation, the airplane from Haneda brought Kevonnia home in Asahikawa.
Masashi gently looking at the airplane.
“Finally. I’m relieved at most”.
One after another, the passengers coming down to the gate.
Masashi wait silently but somehow looking around to find her figure in the crowd.
Finally, the moment had arrived.
Masashi “Finally you made it !”
Kevonnia “Yes !”
The couple seeking for this moment more than a year.
“It took a while to come here. Every day, I think about him.
I feel like my life begins here and I try to make a best of it”
If you seek, you shall find
1 out of 25 couples.
In Japan, about 500 thousand couples get married annually. International couples were counted as more than 20 thousand in total. International marriage and relationships are becoming common in domestic society.
The Japanese government is now issuing a VISA as “the consideration of the special circumstances,” for Japanese and those who have a permanent residency.
On the other hand, many international couples who are not married yet, cannot come to Japan. In addition, foreigners in Japan also cannot invite their family to the nation.
Countless couples and families are still waiting for the reunion. There are still a number of problems to solve in Japan.
Kevonnia gave us a message for those people who are still having a difficult time.
There is really no word to describe,
we know they exist but you really never have time to see them.
You just gonna believe in yourself. Believe in your family that they gonna be fine”.
Thoughts after report
Because we live in the age of uncertainty, we shall believe in ourselves.
Because we can be surrounded by negative feelings, we shall hold hands with people who are also having a difficult time.
The path of Kevonnia and Masashi taught us an important message.
Research/Film：Frank Mitsuru Maekawa（NHK Sapporo）
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