Growing up I had some struggles but it wasn’t all that bad.
When I was really little, my dad worked all the time and my mom stayed at home to raise my sister and I. At the time my mom was still learning how to speak English, so when she spoke to my sister and I it was in Japanese. So my first language as a child was Japanese.
I had a very fun childhood; my parents did a great job with that. My earliest memories of my childhood was in California I felt like I fit in when I lived in California but when I moved to Colorado at the age of five, there was no one else that looked like me. I felt very different than everyone else.
By the time I had to go to school I had learned how to speak English but I had very a thick Japanese accent and I didn't really know that. In the middle of second grade I was put in ESL and I thought that was so embarrassing. None of my friends were in it and I had to get called out of class all the time in front of everyone. I was in it for about three years and eventually I stopped speaking Japanese al together. It was kind of upsetting to know I like, lost that part of me, but, I felt like I fit in here.
At my school I was the only Asian person there. A lot of kids called me Chinese and would say “you eat dogs” and that offended me deeply because I love dogs and just thought what kind of monster would eat a dog? Why do these kids think Chinese people eat them? I would tell the kids “No I’m half Japanese and half White” and I definitely do not eat dogs. But no one cared; they just thought it was funny.
So basically as a kid my whole day was stressful. I would get picked on in class. Then, when it was lunch time, I was insecure about what my mom would pack me for lunch. Everyone already said I ate dogs but when they saw how different my lunch looked from theirs the mean comments never stopped.
My mom would pack me the cutest lunches. She would cut the fruit to make them look like little flowers. She would make me onigiri which are rice balls wrapped with seaweed. And sometimes, she would make those look like little characters, my favorite was hello kitty. But the kids in my class thought the idea of seaweed was so disgusting.
As I got older, the insults only got worse. There were kids that told me to “go back where I came from” “you’re the reason for pearl harbor and thousands of lives” and I thought why would someone say that to me? I don’t understand? That’s so mean; I’m like 12 years old, or I was at the time. But at that time I had good friends that made me feel better and stood up for me.
At the end of middle school my parents thought it would be a great learning experience for my sister and I to go to Japan and live with my grandparents over the summer. I was super excited. Growing up, my grandparents would mail my sister and I big boxes of goodies from Japan, like every holiday and my sister and I loved it. I thought it was so amazing and crazy that we were going to go to a place where all these cool things and like, snacks that they’d sent us come from. When my sister and I got there we went to the Sanrio store right away. We had so much fun eating the traditional food and dressing up. We loved Japan so much.
In high school, almost no one made fun of me for being Asian; it was suddenly an advantage. Everyone thought I was smart and good at everything because I was Asian. People thought I was pretty because I was Asian and I wasn’t bothered by that at all. I was happy to be Asian and I almost never said I was half white.
Throughout high school, my parents sent my sister and I to Japan almost every summer. We loved it. We felt like it was a home away from home. But while we were in Japan, we felt like we didn’t fit in. People stared at my sister and I like we looked different or something. It made us feel super uncomfortable.
At the end of High School I met Jimmy and I had never met anyone that was interested in Japan. He told me it was his dream to go there one day. He told me about how he was super into their street fashion and their comics and stuff but not in like a weird weeb kind of way. Jimmy knew more about Japan than me. We eventually started dating and he made me feel special for being both Japanese and white. He thought it was super cool. And I’d never met someone who’d made me think it was cool to have a mom from another country. So that summer, I took him to Japan and learned a lot more about the country because Jimmy knew exactly what he wanted to see and where he wanted to go. And it was just such a great experience.
So now, looking back and reflecting on how things used to be and how I got to where I am now, it was honestly the weirdest journey, but I’m very happy with who I am, representing myself as a Japanese-American.