The Couple Who Met in a Love Temple in Japan

Photo-Illustration: Photo-illustration by Stevie Remsberg; Photo: courtesy Alexis Tirado.

When they first met, Josh Dalrymple and Alexis Tirado lived on different continents thousands of miles apart — he was from Melbourne, Australia, and she was from New York City. Then they happened to share a tour bus in Japan, where they were both on vacation (ancient “love stones” were also involved). Less than a year later, they got married in L.A., where they live together now. Here’s how it happened.

What were each of you doing in Japan?
Josh: I wanted to take a big vacation on my own, without the hassle of doing what anybody else wanted to do, so I booked a two and a half week trip by myself. I was at the tail end of my trip when Alexis and I met.

Alexis: I had recently broken up with a guy, and I’d always told him, “Oh, we should go to Tokyo.” And then, after we broke up, he went to Tokyo! When my friend told me, I was like, “That motherfucker. I’ve been telling him to do this forever and he does it once we break up?” So I decided to go to Japan with my friend Patrick. We grew up together, and he’s like a brother to me.

Josh: He also looks like a Calvin Klein model.

Alexis: He does. And I’ve known him since I was 4 years old. So I planned this two-week trip to Japan for us, and I booked a bus tour to see the temples in Kyoto. The tour was actually sold out on the day I planned for it, so I had to go on my second-choice date. It’s a good thing that happened, because Josh was on the same bus and that’s how we met.

How did you make actual contact?
Josh: The temple where we first saw each other, and then talked on the bus afterward, was the love temple. Alexis thinks I was creeping on her but, you know, that’s fine. Alexis, what was the temple called?

Alexis: It’s called Kiyomizu-dera, and I read in my guidebook that it had love stones — if you touch them, you’re supposed to receive love. I was like, “Pat, we gotta touch these stones!” The way it works is that the stones are about 30 feet apart from each other, and you’re supposed to rub one of the stones, keep your eyes closed, and walk from one stone to the next. If you can successfully walk between them with your eyes closed, without any help or direction, then you won’t need help finding love. But if you need help, that means you’re going to need some assistance, whether it’s Tinder, a matchmaker, friends, whatever it is.

Josh: I don’t think in ancient Japan they were like, “Ah, you’re going to need Tinder.”

Alexis: Well, anyway, Pat did it first. And he’s handsome and wealthy and a nice guy and touched the two stones flawlessly, of course. And here I am, this short Puerto Rican girl, always picked last in gym class, trying to get between the two stones with my eyes closed without falling on my face. There were all these people being like, “Go left! Go left!” I finally touched the other stone, and I think like 20 tourists clapped for me.

Josh: I had seen her earlier on the tour, asking the guide all these questions. I really wanted to go up and say something witty to her, and then I saw Pat and I was like, “Oh, I better not. Looks like that’s her boyfriend.”

Alexis: We caught each other’s eyes, though. Then I touched the love stones, and we got back on the tour bus, and I noticed that the cute guy who was checking me out was sitting near us. I overheard him talking about visiting Hiroshima, and I was like, “Oh, how was it? What did you think? My friend Pat and I are thinking of going there in two days.”

Josh: I clarified about 20 times. Like, “Your friend right? Just your friend?”

Alexis: After that, I gave Josh my business card, which has my Instagram handle, and he immediately followed me. So I messaged him and invited him to get ramen that night with this girl Mahli from Melbourne and me. We went to this local, low-key spot that I’d read about, and then we went to karaoke. A lot of people were like, “How did you know that Josh wasn’t going to go for Mahli?” But I just felt like we were vibing, right?

Josh: Yeah. I mean, I was attracted to you and I wasn’t attracted to her. But when we told my mom this story, she was like, “Why couldn’t you have just gone for the girl from Melbourne? That would’ve made things so much easier.”

Alexis: So we were at the karaoke place, and Mahli left to go to the bathroom. I think I was singing to Drake’s “One Dance,” and Josh and I kissed in the karaoke room. And then she came back and we straightened up like we were in eighth grade and our parents had just walked in.

Josh: We didn’t want her to feel like the third wheel.

Alexis: We kept singing and hanging out till 4 a.m. And then we all shared a cab, and we dropped off Mahli at her hotel, and Josh and I went back to his hotel room. And we just had this whirlwind, 36-hour romance.

But then Josh had to go home to Australia, right?
Josh: Yeah. Alexis was at the beginning of her trip, and I was at the tail end of mine. So we hung out until I had to leave, but when I went to the airport, we were both like, “We’ll see each other again.”

Alexis: Because we could only hang out for 36 hours, I didn’t need to be cool in front of him. I was like, “I’m in Japan. Hopefully I’ll see this guy again, but if not, let me just be vulnerable and raw and open with him.” Also, during the time I was in Japan, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer. And Josh’s parents are both cancer survivors. So we had some really open talks about that.

Josh: It definitely felt really comfortable really early.

So how did you keep in touch?
Alexis: Well, after he left, I visited this cool museum in Tokyo, the Mori museum. They were doing this thing where people could write a letter to someone, and they would send it in a year. So I wrote this letter to Josh, dated December 9, 2016. I still have it. It says, “Dear Josh, we only met a week ago. We spent 36 hours together, but I can honestly say that I am in love with you.” I was like, “Oh man, he’s going to think I’m a crazy bitch, but whatever.”

And did he get it?
Alexis: Yeah! But by then, a year later, Josh had moved to L.A. and we’d gotten married.

So what happened when you got home?
Alexis: Well, I came back from Japan, and when you’re single and you go on a big trip, it’s like all the fuckboys come out of the woodwork. “How was Japan? Hope it was good. You wanna hang out?” And it’s like, “Brad, I haven’t spoken to you in six months, and no. No, thank you, Brad.”

Josh: What’s she not saying is that this guy tried to ask her out on a date, and that led to us deciding to do an official long-distance thing.

Alexis: When I returned to New York from Japan, I had all this clarity about how special and profound this connection was. I told Josh, and he said, “I was going to wait until Christmas to say something. I didn’t want it to be too soon. But I feel the same way.” This was, like, two weeks after we met!

When did you see each other next?
Alexis: We made plans for Josh to come to New York City in March of 2017. At the time, I was working at Upworthy, and the company was not doing well. I got laid off in January, and the first thing I did, before I even got my severance package, was book a two-week trip to Melbourne. I met Josh’s family and friends, and everyone was just so wonderful and warm and delightful.

Josh: And then, literally nine days after Alexis left Australia, I left to go to New York. The timing worked out well.

Alexis: Yeah. Josh came to New York City and met my family and friends. And after that, I applied to jobs in L.A. and got an offer here at BuzzFeed, where I work now. And Josh moved to LA too, in September of 2017.

Josh: I had planned to ask Alexis to marry me when I got to L.A. I had been in conversations with one of her best friends from college, Ryan, and we went back and forth on what the ring should look like, and the plans were all in motion. But it was hard. When you’re used to sharing every single thing with a person, it feels deceptive to leave this really big thing out of your conversations. It just wasn’t a secret I could hold onto for three months. We were in downtown L.A., not far from Little Tokyo, so I planned to go out for ramen and do it then, because Japan was such a great part of how we’d met.

Alexis, did you think he was going to propose then?
Alexis: No, not at all. I thought he’d live with me for a little while and see how it went, and maybe propose near the end of his visa in November. But he did it right away.

How did it go?
Josh: I love quizzes and trivia. I’ll write quizzes for people’s birthdays. So I wrote a quiz about things that we had done together, and I went through 19 questions and then, when I got to the 20th question, I was like, “Ah, I need a prop for this.” And I pulled out the ring and asked Alexis to marry me.

Alexis: So, we got engaged and then we were just like, “We might as well just get married right now.”

Josh: We wanted to start out life together as soon as possible. We didn’t want to waste any time. So we organized a wedding at the Beverly Hills courthouse on a Wednesday afternoon.

Alexis: It was a civil ceremony. My sister flew in to be a witness with her husband, and one of Josh’s good friends happened to be in town at the same time, so he was there too. We’re planning on doing a proper wedding one day. But we ended up getting married on November 15, 2017, in the Beverly Hills courthouse for $90.

So you got married after you’d seen each other four times, basically?Alexis: The fourth visit, yeah.

Josh: It’s worked out even better than I could’ve expected, to be honest.

This article has been updated since publication to reflect that Alexis’s dad had kidney (not colon) cancer and that she was laid off in February (not January.)

The Couple Who Met in a Love Temple in Japan