How we met: ‘I was shocked, because he had the same name as my late boyfriend’

When Takahiro first spotted Emily at a birthday party in 2009, she was carrying a distinctive pink camera. “I’d never seen one before, so I went up and asked her about it. I was looking for an opportunity to speak to her,” he says. But when he told her his name, her reaction wasn’t quite what he expected. “I was shocked because he had the same name as my previous boyfriend, who was killed in a car crash a few months earlier,” Emily says. Though she had only dated him for a short period, she was devastated by his death. “He was very young and it was all over the news, so it had been quite a hard time for me.” Though she didn’t believe in fate, she says the chances of meeting two people with the same name “felt spooky”.

At the party they chatted about their interest in photography, before she invited him to see her band play the following night. It wasn’t until a week later that she told Takahiro about her previous boyfriend. “I suddenly understood why her expression went a bit funny,” he explains. “It all made sense.”

Emily, who is originally from Tasmania, had been living in Japan for three years and was working as a teacher when they met. “After he came to my gig, we had our first date in Starbucks and some of my students came in. They were asking if he was my boyfriend, which was embarrassing,” she laughs.

Within a week, though, Takahiro had asked Emily to meet his family. “I thought it was fast,” she says, “but it felt so normal and natural to be together. It was the first time I’d felt that with another person.”

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A few months later, Takahiro had the chance to be interviewed for a job in Jamaica, but didn’t take up the offer. “I knew it would mean leaving the country for a couple of years. I turned it down at the very last minute. Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to stay.”

Over the next two years, the couple explored Japan, taking their cameras with them everywhere they went. They also shared a passion for food, and enjoyed trying out ramen restaurants and whisky bars in new places.

“We would travel to see my family regularly and I also had the chance to visit Tasmania in 2010, which was beautiful,” says Takahiro.

Emily and Takahiro on their wedding day in 2011.

Emily and Takahiro on their wedding day in 2011. Photograph: Provided by Emily Millar

A year later, they got married in Sapporo in northern Japan, where they lived at the time. “It’s not an easy place to get to, so it was a small wedding. We celebrated with 20 of our closest family and friends who came from Tasmania and Japan,” says Emily. “Then we went on honeymoon to Hawaii, which is a really popular destination for Japanese couples.”

She adds that she didn’t have to change her name like most Japanese spouses must do by law. As she was a foreigner, it wasn’t compulsory for the couple to have the same surname.

The couple speak English and Japanese. “I do get homesick sometimes,” Emily says. “It’s nice that he understands my language and perspective.” She says he is easygoing and a great sounding board when she is feeling stressed; he loves how open-minded and accepting she is. “She’s also a brilliant cook. When I first met her, she wasn’t good but I never told her. She’s amazing now though.”

The couple are now living happily in the area of Japan where they first met, with their four-year-old son. However, Emily admits she misses her home, and their long-term plan is to move to Australia. “Just before we met I had been planning to go back to Tasmania, but now I’ve been here 13 years because it just felt right,” says Emily. “I’d never believed in finding ‘the one’ or anything like that. But when he told me his name I had this internal freakout. It’s been 10 years since we met but I’ve never met another Takahiro since.”

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