Sketches of International Marriage

Rushing to the Altar: International Newlyweds Set Out as Parents


In the first installment of our series on international marriage we sit down with Canadian and Japanese couple Corey and Ryō Procopio. The newlyweds share their hopes and fears about work, family, and a new life together as they set off down the road as both spouses and new parents.

Corey and Ryō Procopio

Corey was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1987. His father (from Italy) and mother (a Nisei Canadian) operate a bakery café in Toronto. The oldest of six children, he works for Ontario Province’s employment insurance service. Ryō was born Katō Ryō in Tokyo in 1992. Her father, a chiropractor, and mother, a nurse, both hail from Hokkaidō. She traveled to Canada on a working holiday visa in 2015 and met her husband through mutual friends while working at a Toronto beauty salon.

Wedding bells chimed early for Corey and Ryō Procopio. Less than a year after their first dinner date in Toronto, the couple walked down the aisle in Tokyo on March 16 of this year. They were rushed by more than just love: In June the newlyweds welcomed their first son, Daisuke, into the family. After a brief stint in Japan the threesome now call Canada home.

Hot and Cold Beginnings

The Procopios, like many couples, met through friends. Ryō says she felt nothing special during their first meeting, being less than impressed with her future hubby’s choice in socks. Corey, on the other hand, professes he was smitten from the start. “It was love at first sight,” he beams. After overcoming some initial insecurity and shyness, the two began what turned out to be a short courtship.

As often happens with young love, one thing led to another, and after only a few months of dating the pair broke the news of the stork’s imminent visit to their families. “My mom was pleased,” says Ryō, explaining that her parents followed a similar path to marriage. Corey says that his mother and father were excited that he had found someone to be in love with—his life had revolved around work up to then—but admits that his sisters took some time to warm up to his fiancée.

Baby Makes Three

With a baby on the way, the parents-to-be stayed in Japan for the birth of their son, allowing Ryō to be close to her family. Corey used vacation days and Canada’s paternal leave system to join his wife and child, taking nearly five months off from his position at the Ontario’s provincial employment insurance service.

The couple says they share baby responsibilities. In the busy months following Daisuke’s arrival Corey enthusiastically embraced his new fatherly duties, such as changing diapers, doing the laundry, and supporting Ryō during frequent breastfeeding sessions. Ryō smiles as she describes how it has become a family affair: “We even wake up together when Daisuke gets hungry at night.”

Proud parents Corey and Ryō Procopio beam over their newborn son Daisuke.

The Procopios are still working out where best to put down roots. The young couple is open to settling down in Japan eventually, and if the situation allowed, they would prefer to spend equal time on both sides of the Pacific. Current financial conditions, however, favor Toronto, where they live now. “The pay at my job is good,” says Corey, “and I don’t need to do overtime.” He will need to significantly improve his Japanese if he expects to find an equally lucrative position in Japan, he notes.

Ryō was a hairstylist in Japan and is considering getting her Canadian license, although, like her husband, she acknowledges that she will need to polish her second language while she hits the books. There is the option of helping out at her in-laws’ bakery café, but she says she prefers to find work on her own. Job hunting, though, is on hold while she waits for her application for permanent residency to go through. In addition, she says she wants to spend a year focusing on caring for Daisuke.

Ryō is unabashed in saying that as a new mom she is more comfortable living near her parents in Tokyo. However, having resided for several years in Toronto, she also seems content to give it a go in Canada. “People here are very friendly,” she says. “It’s an easy place to live.” She points out that Toronto boasts a diverse population including a sizable Japanese community. “There are a lot of Japanese restaurants, so I won’t be lonely for food from home,” she laughs.

Corey shares his wife’s taste in food—his family on his mother’s side hails from Hikone, Shiga Prefecture—and optimism for their future. He is aware, though, of the sacrifices his wife is making. With an obvious note of concern he says he often worries about how Ryō is adjusting. “I know she is nervous about being so far away from her family and friends.” In addition to taking on his share of childrearing duties, he does his best to support her with frequent hugs, kisses, and other signs of affection.

The Procopios with Ryō’s parents and younger brother.

Future Considerations

Like many other international couples, Corey and Ryō want their child to grow up bilingual. Corey feels especially strongly about this, having come of age in a household where Italian and Japanese were frequently heard. “When talking to my Japanese grandparents,” he says, “I could understand a lot of what was said, but I never learned how to speak the language well.”

The couple speaks the language of love, but Corey also hopes to improve his Japanese.

The pair is focused on building their new life and not ready to consider another baby quite yet. However, Ryō admits that if number two did come along she hopes it will be a girl. Corey, on the other hand, is holding out for three boys.

Still young, the Procopios have plenty of time to plan a future. For the time being they appear happy to just enjoy being together as a family.

(Based on an interview by Photographs by Yamada Shinji.)

international marriage