Rumor has it that being a foreign woman married to a Japanese man can be difficult. Surely, we’re vastly outnumbered by what some call “charisma men”: those not-totally-Adonis-type Western men who end up with knock-out Japanese women. Plus, foreign women, especially Western ones, frequently get a bad rap: we’re seen as loud, demanding, and just a few sizes wider than our Japanese counterparts.
Now, I’m definitely an outspoken, not-quite-zero-sized Western woman, and anyone who has been reading this column lately knows that I could, just possibly, be construed as occasionally demanding (at least when it comes to insisting that my lovely husband make reservations, immediately, at the latest new restaurant.) So I’m not necessarily out to debunk all myths about foreign women or wives. But I am here to tell you that there’s one thing we foreign female spouses definitely have going for us: an organization, open only to international women with Japanese partners, called the Association of Foreign Wives (AFWJ).
What I love most about AFWJ is not the tips shared about in-laws, doctors, or travel: it’s that I can always find a group of great women to go for chocolate with me.
Being an ever-eager AFWJ member, I recently invited three fellow wives to my favorite sweets café: Ek Chuah French Chocolatier, near the Tanimachi-6-chome subway stop in Osaka. Ek Chuah is in a charming, restored 200-year-old storehouse, with white plaster walls and dark wooden ceiling beams. The first floor feels like your chic great-aunt’s living room, with plush velvet chairs and antiques. On one end is the glass-walled kitchen and display cases holding fresh-made truffles, cookies, dipped fruits, salted chocolate bark, and the brilliant creation of chocolate-covered potato chips. Upstairs, tables sit beneath framed candy wrappers circa 1960-1990 from around the world, with large windows overlooking a courtyard.
Our outing to Ek Chuah comprised a diverse group, and together we ordered a slew of items as varied as our life-stages. L, my first friend in Japan who thus holds a special place in my heart (especially after she recommended me to her colorist), is a striking early 30’s Brit with short, spiky blond hair and dark pink highlights. After leaving Japanese husband #1, she’s had a string of men chasing her. P, a California girl, has been married to a sexy Japanese surfer for 20+ years. She looks 30, has a grandchild, and was wearing a purple mascara in a shade I craved. D is a new friend, a mid-Western American with flowing blond hair and great curves who recently had her first child. And then there’s me, newly 40, newly-married, new to Kansai, and always hungry.
We discussed L’s latest love over her hot chocolate with framboise liquer and “Theodore cake,” a sponge-cake layered with rich chocolate cream (Y1050 for the set). Then I grilled P on where she bought her mascara while she indulged happily in her ice-cream parfait: three rich scoops nestled between fresh fruit and a hot chocolate sauce, hardened into a candy shell and topped with sprinkles (Y998). Then D brought up politics, and I learned I actually could love a Republican, especially when she shared her banana-fudge cake with me: fresh bananas tucked into moist chocolate and topped with just-whipped cream (Y578). Sensing more political ground to cover, I was about to launch into my argument supporting gay marriage, but I got sidetracked; the waitress brought my fondue, deep chocolate mixed with my two favorite food groups--fresh cream and kirsch--and fruit for dipping (Y1785). Because I figured I needed to hydrate while eating, I also ordered a beverage: dark hot chocolate with mint liquer (Y735).
All in all, it was a perfect afternoon: great friends, great food, lots of giggling, and a few good makeup tips. It was so enjoyable, I’ve now decided that ladies who lunch are passé: next time I join my gaijin-wife-girlfriends, I’m once more going to recommend we skip the salad and move right onto dessert at Ek Chuah.
TEL：06-4304-807711:00-22:00 (21:30 last order)
Subway stop: Tanimachi-6-chome
Menu in both Japanese and English with extensive pictures; limited English spoken by staff.