OKYO, Japan -- Michiko Odajima has been happily married for 36 years to a man who meets the criteria for a successful traditional marriage here: He loves her and provides for her.
"We are a good couple," she said, summarizing their relationship as only somebody from a culture that has more words for "rice" than for "love" can. "We don't complain. We don't cheat," she said.
But there's one thing she yearns to change about her husband. "He never says 'I love you.' Never!" she said. "Japanese men never say it."
In a bustling Starbucks in the center of Tokyo, Odajima gets teary-eyed when she describes countless romantic scenes from Hollywood movies in which men express their love verbally and openly "the American way" -- often in public places for the whole world to see. There's the heart-wrenching romantic apology in front of a baseball stadium or the "I-have-loved-you-since-third-grade confession" at a school reunion.
"I envy American women," she said, and then admitted she always wanted her daughter to marry a Western man in order to be kissed, hugged and adored. She was disappointed when her only daughter ended up marrying a local.