“I was born and raised in the U.S. where my parents, who are Japanese, met. They have been living in the States longer than they have in Japan and had never planned to return.
My parents enrolled me in a Japanese school in America. It was once a week on Saturdays and at the time, I hated attending. Most other students were children from Japan who would eventually return after a couple of years, for their parents work. Due to cultural and pedagogical differences, I did not fit-in with the majority and struggled to see the benefits of attending. Today, I am thankful for my parent’s decision. The Japanese language skills I have now would have been difficult to attain had I not attended the Japanese school. By high school, I began studying Japanese on my own, my biggest motivation being that I did not want to lose the only form of communication I had with my grandparents and relatives.
I would say that I am fluent in Japanese now, but there are still many technical terms and cultural mannerisms that I have yet to learn and adapt to. My physical appearance is that of a regular Japanese person, so expectations do not always match up to my behavior and at times, explaining misunderstandings can be a strain. However, this is only more incentive for me to stay active and spread knowledge on the unique characteristics and erring presumptions surrounding the “Nikkei,” or namely Japanese-Americans.
In the summer of 2011, I was on my way to Japan for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. Before taking part in the program, I had both American and Japanese citizenship, but upon employment I was required to renounce my Japanese citizenship. It was not an easy decision, to say the least.
For a long time, I was unsure of and pondered my identity: Am I Japanese or American? I was only sure that I love Japan and wanted to live there at some point, at least for a short while. Probably because I feel that Japan is, alongside the US, one of my home countries and my roots lie there also.
I urge more Japanese people to experience life overseas and explore beyond the vacation itinerary boundaries. The people in this country provide, in my opinion, the best hospitality for visitors and that is something I pride my Japanese self in. On the other hand, I sense that there is still a great amount of stereotypes and misconceptions present in this country in terms of foreign countries and the people who live there. My hope is that by exposing oneself to a variety of cultures and worlds, the 'scary' image of living in other countries disappears and each individual’s world expands and becomes fuller in return.”