Kenta Okazaki says his book on his late Chinese wife was inspired by her mother’s book on the couple, which touched the heartstrings of readers in China as a "pure romance between a Chinese and Japanese."
The mother's book about Okazaki and his wife, Zhan Songhui, who died of breast cancer at the age of 33, was released last year as Japan and China were experiencing a historical low in bilateral relations due to a territorial dispute and the perception of history.
Although his life in China was overshadowed by the strained Japan-China ties, Okazaki's book, “Huihui: Nicchu no Umi wo Koeta Ai” (Huihui: Love transcending waters between Japan and China), was intended as a narrative of his wife's life for the seven years after they met. Huihui is his wife's nickname.
Okazaki’s book was published in Japan this month by Bungeishunju Ltd. An offer has been made for the film rights.
Okazaki, 37, met his wife at a welcome party for foreign students at his alma mater, Kwansei Gakuin University, in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in late 2004.
Instantly attracted to each other, they decided to get engaged three months later.
They were waiting for their wedding date when they were hit with the devastating news that Huihui had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Okazaki immediately quit his job as a high school teacher and flew to China to care for her.
He tried various avenues to earn a living such as working as a sales representative for a Japanese-affiliated ad agency and opening a curry and rice shop.
What added to his distress was the deteriorating ties between the two countries, as protest rallies against Japan became a common occurrence in China. The anti-Japan fervor reached a fever pitch when demonstrators took to the streets, overturning Japanese vehicles.
But Okazaki could not dwell on the protests as every second was treasured while his wife was fighting cancer. He devoted his full attention to caring for her, together with his parents-in-law.
“No matter how much time and energy individuals take out of their lives to help improve the political situation between Japan and China, it won’t make a difference,” he said. “I was determined to focus on what I needed to do, instead.”
Despite the loving care by Okazaki and her parents, Huihui passed away in June 2011. “I never ever want to leave Kenta” was among her final words.
Okazaki was tormented by a sense of enormous loss for many months.
But last year, he decided to give voice to his memories of his beloved wife after her mother’s book on the two was warmly received.
“I just wanted to describe the life of Huihui as an individual person,” he said, “before we talk about things at the national level.”