I have been dating Ben, a helicopter pilot in the United States Navy, for three years. He is currently stationed in Atsugi, Japan and has been there for a year now. In fact, he moved to Japan on Valentine's Day 2008. I live in Des Moines, Iowa, so it has been an adjustment.
I was able to visit my Ben for about 3 weeks over Christmas and New Years this year. We had talked about marriage many times by this point, and I wasn't going to be surprised if he popped the question, I pretty much expected it at some point over the visit. I mean, we only get to see each other once every 5 to 6 months, so it's a now or never deal! Imagine my delight when, on my very first night in Japan, he tells me, "I love you so much and it has already been so incredible having you here that I need to give you your Christmas present early." I freaked out immediately, thinking that he was going to propose right then! He left and came back with a necklace box. Inside was a beautiful pearl necklace. I was excited and devastated all at the same time. He told me, "Sorry to give it to you early. This is your big gift!" I raved about the necklace. I mean, it's a gorgeous pearl necklace, I can't be ungrateful!
The next day we left to go to Hakone, an upscale mountain town a couple of hours away. Ben had booked a night in a ryoken, which is a traditional Japanese-style hotel with an Onsen, or natural hot spring bath. We had been excited about visiting the hot springs since he moved there, and I had made him promise that he would go with me at some point. We made it to the ryokan and checked into a beautiful wooden villa. I assume we have a room in this place but, we have the whole thing including a private indoor and outdoor spring! You would think that I might have suspected that this would be a great engagement venue, but instead I'm clueless because of the pearls. We changed into robes and let them know what time we would like dinner brought to the villa, and took our first dip in the onsen.
Dinner was an elaborate traditional five course meal with our own personal server preparing items in our kitchen and bringing it to our tatami room. As the courses keep coming, we are stuffed. We visited the onsen again while our server cleaned up the food and laid out dessert. We went back in for the dessert (delicious fruits), and at the end of the meal I jokingly fell over on the floor complaining about the immense amount of food now residing in my stomach. I headed over to Ben to give him a big "thank you" hug for the incredible experience, and he asked, "Will you marry me?" and handed me a pearl ring (matching the necklace!), explaining that this was a stand-in ring until he could make it back to Des Moines and we could pick out the real ring together. I was floored. I couldn't have been happier to say, "Yes!"
Fast forward a week. We celebrated Christmas together and then his sister, her best friend, and two of our best friends came to Japan to visit and spend New Years and Ben's birthday. They all knew he was going to propose and said congratulations as soon as we saw them. I was quite fond of my pearl ring, and Ben always prefaced showing it to people with "this is the stand-in." I told him to stop because it was perfect on its own. On Ben's birthday we created a picnic with cheese, bread, sake and wine, and headed over to a duck pond near his apartment in Yamato, Japan. Well, he got down on a knee while we were sitting at the picnic table and proposed again in front of his sister and our friends. This time he had a beautiful diamond ring that his sister had brought from Iowa with her.
Whenever we visited something beautiful in Japan during the trip, he would lean over and say, "I would propose again, but I'm out of rings." My heart melted over and over again during those three weeks. Needless to say, I was spoiled rotten and I have a great, albeit long, engagement story and an even more wonderful fiancé! We are getting married on December 5, 2009, and then I will be joining him for his last year stationed in Japan.