Ten Days in Japan
Growing up in California during the 1960’s, it seemed that my face could never deny my Japanese ancestry. Though I’d never set foot outside the United States, people would ask,
“Where are you from?”
“No. Where were you born?”
“No. What ARE you? Are you Chinese or Japanese?”
“I’m American. My grandparents immigrated from Japan in the early 1900’s. My parents and I were all born in California, so we are all natural born US citizens.
“Oh. So you’re Japanese.”
And I didn’t believe it would be any better in Japan. To the native Japanese, I wasn’t Japanese enough, as I was not fluent in the language or customs.
Many years later, I wanted to reconcile my feelings about my heritage: it was time to face Japan.
I arrived in Tokyo, armed with my American bravado and an “Excuse me. Does anyone here speak English?” I wanted to be in Japan, but leave no doubt that I was American.
Japan – her sights, sounds, smells – so foreign and yet so strangely familiar. I was in awe.
Ambivalence towards my ancestry began to fade.
I lived the moments of my first ten days in Japan.