Not being on or the other




Being a new second generation Japanese American is not easy. On one side, the Japanese scruitnize you for not being like them or your body language is "not the same" as them. On the other hand, I lived in a world where I could not related with my American side, especially living in the central valley of California. The valley, as often it was known was an interesting place when I was there during my middle school and high school years. The region was changing slowly yet retaining some old American ideals. My parents came to the United States not part of the Japanese corporations, import/ export, or business but to continue the Buddhist missionary work for the existing Japanese American community. Friends and classmates at my school made interest and wild assumptions about me without me knowing what was lurking inside their heads. One thought I was here to get away everything and was predestined to go to some great ivy league school and climb up the corporate ladder or the like... or do something that affects the business or political world somehow. Amidst all the assumptions, there was one fact that confirmed their assumptions or were surprised to know of my background. In middle school and high school, during lunch or break a few friends I knew boasted about or shared that they were related to families that came to America via the Mayflower or had connections with the early colonists in the 16th century. When they asked me about my relations, I told them that my family existed since the 13th century and traded with the Portugese when they came to Japan in the late 16th century. They had no words to respond with. I wasn't sure if they were surprised or were conjuring up something weird in their heads, like as if they just met some royal prince by accident over peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Although this fact didn't lead me to be with the any groups in high school or be part of anything for homecoming or in the yearbooks, it was rather interesting to see their responses. Yet, these facts at times created an odd barrier between friends of mine and myself. I did not share the same preferences as the friends I knew and I sensed that there was something un-American in me that may have kept some distance. This was my American side. For the Japanese it was a different case.

With the Japanese they saw Japanese who were born outside of Japan as a group of misfits or those who were not like "us". We didn't speak the same language, same expressions, or confirm to anything. At times it was odd and fun to take note if you went to Japan once in a while. However, often even with Japanese living here in the United States often people blurbed that they noticed that I was not Japanese. In the beginning it really got to me. I would contemplate, "what did I say that was un- Japanese?" Or "What did I say that makes them to stare oddly at me?" It bothered me often to the point that I might have gotten crazy or what. As time passed, I got immune to the cacophony and noise. At one place I tried to apply a job for, the committee member said that I was not "Japanese" enough for the job. That snapped me. I could have done something legal about it. Yet, as my head cooled I ended up thinking, so what, if I was not "Japanese" enough. They didn't know squat or care about Japanese history or culture. Could they explain to me about the traditions of Japanese tea and why the aesthetics developed are derived from literature and visual culture? Yet I continue to walk on a path where I have a complicated relationship between the United States and Japan. Odd? Meh. I just continue to walk to where I should be.