Monday, December 27, 2010

Here is a little something I wrote

A friend of mine was watching an "Xtra Normal" clip. If you are not familiar, it is a program that lets you write a scene and it will plug the scene into a simple animation. Much of the humor comes from the fact that the voices are kind of monotone. Anyway, the scene my friend was watching was about the Iron Man and how the guy wanted to train for it and the woman was making fun. My friend found it amusing but noticed that the woman in the animation was wearing chopsticks. In her hair. Alarmed, he emailed me and asked if I wanted to write a scene. So I did. Who am I to say no? I'm mostly delighted more people are spotting the chopstick wearing phenomenon. Happy Holidays!

Special thanks to Pete G. for making the video and my husband for the script help. Not sure why it's so damn big.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Did You Get Fat?

Japanese people are typically thin. We're noted one of the healthiest and longest living nations in the world. So you'd think people would be happy with the way they look, but no, we're just as obsessed with diets and appearances as people in The States. When I was growing up, most of the models in fashion magazines were Westerners because that was thought to be more beautiful. That trend has changed over the years, but many of the popular models are what we call "Halves," which means they are half breed of Westerner and Japanese. If you have ever seen a Japanese "Manga" or Anime, the characters' eyes are large, and hair color often not black. Cosmetic surgeries to make an extra fold in your upper eye lids are popular and even colored contact lenses are a fad amongst young people. If you watch any info-mercial, it's all products that will make you look thinner and younger.

Japanese people are also often thought to be polite. This is generally true, EXCEPT on two occasions. One is in a crowd (like subways) and two is about people's weight. I didn't really notice this second characteristic until I was married. I would bring my husband-- who is not lean, but pretty average US man sized--and my mother would tell him how he looked (which was often that he gained weight) within the first 5 minutes of seeing him. Even if he had lost weight, she would add a comment like, "good! a little more to go, yes?" I was horrified and had to pull her aside to tell her that he was very self conscious and that it was not OK with me for her to comment on his weight that way. She seemed surprised by that fact but respected my wish. But then, on one trip, my politest, sweetest friend said "did you get a little bigger?" to him which almost caused him to punch her in the mouth even though she was pregnant (the most unfortunate thing in this case was that she speaks flawless English, so I couldn't mask or soften the comment through translation). My husband, who had been so open to everything Japanese, gave me a look at this point as if to say, "what's with your people?" After that, I realized when I describe someone to my mother, she often says, "oh, the chubby one?" and I have to pause to think if we're talking about the same person and often when my parents are talking about friends and relatives, they begin by saying whether this person got fat or thin.

Then I started noticing that fat people are great in Japan, as long as they are funny and on TV. And by "fat", they are about average or would be categorized as "slightly overweight" in The States. And most of their jokes are about being fat, and other comedians would also do endless amount of fat jokes in front of them, which seems so mean by American standard.

And yet, Sumo wrestlers are respected and hold a certain high status in our society. They are not to be made fun of, but admired for their size.

Seriously, what is with my people on this?

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Chopsticks in Hair

I got a Bed Bath & Beyond catalog in the mail and this was what was on the cover:

It is a Cuisinart type contraption that "slices and dices" that is named---Ninja. There are about 11 things wrong with that name alone, but here is what I focused on:

Where do I begin?

1. She is a white lady
2. She is carrying a pair of martial arts weapon (Ninjas carry swords) that have tomatoes on them
3. She is barefoot (a bad idea for Ninjas and chefs)
4. She is wearing--you said it--three chopsticks in her hair

Seriously. It's 2010. Surely you could have at least an Asian male dressed more accurately for this. It's not like you can't get a picture of a ninja on the internet.

image borrowed from:

There, was that so hard?

Monday, November 1, 2010

So This Is Halloween

Last night, I took my 3-1/2 year old daughter trick-or-treating. We have taken her to a local outdoor mall Halloween event in the past two years, but felt that she was old enough to understand and appreciate the door-to-door candy solicitation. So while my husband stayed home to hand out candy, she and I ventured out into the darkness with flashlight in hand.

Halloween does not occur in Japan. Therefore, I have no childhood memory or tradition around this holiday. When I came to the States, I was 15 and attended a boarding school. The school had an event during where each dorm would take turns running to other dorms to obtain as much candy as possible in our pillow cases. We would all stand in the doorways of our rooms and just chuck candy at people who ran past us. They gave us something like 3 minutes to run. In addition, they would have a special dinner in the cafeteria with the costume contest and what have you. It was a good time. By the time I got to college and several years after that, Halloween was just parties with friends in costume. Then by the time I outgrew that, I lived in a house to receive trick-or-treaters, so that is what I did.

As I held my fully costumed daughter's hand and looked around on our street for a good house to visit, it occurred to me that I had actually never done this before. And suddenly I had a slight bit of stress to do it just right for my daughter's first experience. I had to call my husband to make sure that I understood the rules--that houses with jack-o-lantern were the ones to approach, but the ones with front porch lights on with no pumpkins confused me. He advised me that when in doubt, just go with the houses with jack-o-lanterns so that is what we did.

Daughter and I had practiced what she is supposed to say so we went from house to house, knocking on doors or ringing doorbells. My daughter got better at it with each house and seemed very excited in between to find the next house. We ran into several other kids, many in large groups, walking and I felt that I had succeeded in introducing my daughter to this very American tradition that I have come to enjoy so much.

This kicks off the time of year full of things I have learned after age 15 that I love. And while it was odd to run into a "first" in this country after being here for so long I realize those things will come up more as my daughter grows up and experiences parts of life I never did in this country. That is why it is handy to be married to a native.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Et Tu, Child?

A girl about the age of three approached me, pointed to an Asian boy across the way and said, "that's your kid." I said, "actually, that is not my kid. But that one is." And pointed to my daughter who was at a water fountain. The girl looked back and forth, stared blankly at me as if to say "what are you talking about?" then ran off.

My daughter doesn't look very Japanese, so I'll give her that. But I've actually run into this a lot teaching and being around white kids and they actually think all Asians are related. Especially if there is one Asian adult and a child--to them, it's a no brainier that we should be family.

My tactic has been to sit on my hands so that I don't punch them in the mouth. They don't know. Yet.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dude, that is NOT my name

On more than one occasion, people have called me "Kim." This is after I have told them my name. Which is nowhere near Kim. One of them was a college professor in an acting class which only had about 12 people.

In my elementary school English class, we used text books such as Dick and Jane. In one of them, there was a picture of an Asian girl and her name was Kim. Jet black hair with a very harsh bob, slanty eyes, the whole deal. Sometimes, it was an Asian boy and HIS name was Kim. I used to think "is that what we look like?" Perhaps this is where it's coming from. I have known some Kims in my life, and they all have been white--or Asians with the LAST NAME of Kim. I am not saying that there are no Asian women with the first name of Kim, but when people have called me Kim, I couldn't help but to feel "Oriental." I felt like what they were seeing was that picture from that book. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

On a different note, my legal first name is Mina. I don't go by this name (my parents gave me a nick name that I go by), but when a telemarketer call, they ask for Mina. Except they can't pronounce it right. They say, "Myna." OK. How do you pronounce T-i-n-a, or better yet G-i-n-a? Seriously people. Stop panicking. Just say it like it's spelled.

Epilogue: my husband is white. Very white. And on more than one occasion, people have called him "Patrick." That is not his name. And these were white people saying it. I guess he just looks like a Patrick, whatever that means. Racial assumptions are color blind. Awwww.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

English in Japan

People often ask if I spoke any English when I came here. I spoke some. But very little American idioms or slang. People in Japan begin studying English at 7th grade. If you go to a private school like I did, you start at 1st grade. My mother teaches English. My father used to conduct business in English so they are both fluent. My mother in particular was really interested in us learning to speak English so my parents have arranged to have American college students living with us as we were growing up. So I suspect that my ears were more trained than the average Japanese kid. But as far as learning the language--I really didn't have the command.

English in Japan is taught very academically. There are actually very little conversation in classes. Just lectures on how to apply the grammar and construct sentences. I once got an incorrect on a quiz because I answered, "this is a pen" to a question "what is this?" The correct answer in this case was "it is a pen" because that is what the text book said. My mom, who believes in teaching through conversations, actually went and said something to the teacher on this one.

Because of this method, people in Japan can't really speak English, but can comprehend it if it's written. And Japanese people really like things written in English because it looks cool. I am certain that many of you are now familiar with I think this site started as just posting things from Japan, but now it has branched out to things from other countries. One of my husband's hobbies when we go to Japan is to grab things or take photos of funny signs in English. Here are some of our favorites:

A clothing store--clearly.

Store that sells fun socks

I don't even remember what this was

Not what you think

And finally....
To which I uttered, "YOU store my ducks."

But then this is a flip side I get to enjoy. The random Japanese words people in this country wear on their shirts and, in many cases, skin. I knew a guy who had a Japanese character on his arm. The character looked like this: 
実, which means "meat of a fruit." I asked why he had that on his arm, or more importantly, what he thought he meant, he looked horrified and said, "truth..?" Now the word "truth" looks like this:真実. You see, his tatoo artist omitted a character. I would seriously like to be a proof reader for tattoo parlors. And I found this delightful site.

Roughly translated, here is the order of what the shirts say--and it gets progressively worse:
1. I am Japanese
2. Pay up, you jerk
3. Big Dick (yes, that is what it says)
4. Hemorrhoid
5. I am a freak
6. Low self-esteem

Then shirts are repeated.

I suppose it's just universal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is what I'm talking about

A friend of mine sent me this photo via cell phone--it's a page from Kate Gosselin's book and the caption reads:"Maddie did her hair up in chopsticks and was proud to celebrate her Asian heritage."

This taught me three things:
1) I have a friend who gets what I'm saying and who might now understand what I see. Blog mission accomplished.
2) Children are being TAUGHT that sticking chopsticks in their heads is Asian, even if their grandparents are real Asian (as opposed to fake Asian, referred to as "Banana"--yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Terrible, I know).
3) There are probably more Kate Gosselins in this country than I care to admit and they must be stopped. One. At. A. Time.

I thank you for your continuous support.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Spoiled Brats Nation

Japan is a service oriented country. We say, "the customer is God," which is about 10 notches higher than "the customer is always right." For example, in the height of the economy, if you drive into a gas station in Tokyo, approximately 5 uniformed attendants ran to your car as they all shouted "welcome" at you. One would knock on the door (yes, I said knock) and when you opened it, he would kneel down by your side so that his head was not higher than yours. You tell him to fill it up, at which point he'd ask for your ash tray (assuming you smoke) so he could clean it. He would pump the gas while four others would wash your windows and mirrors, and ask if you have any garbage and throw that out. The first attendant would return with your ashtray which now contains these tiny scented balls. You'd pay, then as you leave, one attendant would get into the street and stop traffic for you to get out, as all of them take their hats off and bow as you are driving away.

I have taken numerous foreign guests to Isetan Department Store at 10am sharp when the store opens. This store has a grand entrance, and as the big clock strikes ten, young, beautiful, uniformed ladies with hats and gloves will put their hands on the door ceremoniously, and swing the doors open. As you walk in, for the first five minutes or so, every sales person on every floor stand by their station and bow to you and say "good morning" as you walk by. It's like you are a friggin' royalty. If you shop in a department store while it's raining out, they will cover your paper bag with a clear plastic bag so it won't get wet.

Trains and subways, which are vital part of Tokyo life, come every 2-5 minutes, depending on the time of day. If they are late, they apologize profusely. Oh, and by the way, cab doors open and close automatically so you don't have to do it. I had a friend from the States who tried to close it and got into a wrestling match with the door and panicked the driver.

Interestingly, waiters are more attentive in the states because they make tips. We don't tip in Japan, so while they are very polite, they don't come back to your table and check on you like they do here. You have to flag them if you need something.

If you grew up with this kind of service everywhere you turned, please imagine the horror of arriving to the United States with this unrealistic standard. My brother once described United Airlines as "the airline where bear-like women chuck bread at you" and I couldn't fight him. If you are used this:

You'd think that too. Every time I fly United, I can't stop laughing because this phrase goes through my head. I am now accustomed to US culture and know that if you go to a gas station, you're lucky to find a squeegee that works. It is not appreciated, but just assumed that trains and planes will run late. When you call any customer service, you have to gear up for a big fight. We are alarmed and delighted here when people accommodate you. But coming from Japan, people are appalled. OR, they seem really spoiled.

Please imagine Japanese people standing by a cab waiting for the door to open. I wouldn't blame Americans for thinking those people were crazy.

But here is the flip side to the nation of crappy service. People are self sufficient in the States. Most people will try to fix things themselves to save money. Stores like Home Depot don't really exist in Japan, at least none of that size. When I tell my friends we painted our own walls, they seem impressed. I don't bother to tell them most people do much more. I just happen to have a husband who supports the Japanese philosophy and picks up the phone when something breaks. And I'm fine with that.

Last fall when we went to Tokyo, I left my purse (that contained my passport and wallet) on the plane. Panicked, we ran to a United agent and she ran around on our behalf to track it down. When she successfully retrieved it, she came running and apologized for taking so long. Yes, she apologized to us for helping us. I felt home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Happiest Place on Earth--to nap

We have a Disneyland in Tokyo. When I say this, people often say, "Is it like the one here?" To which, I am compelled to say, "Yes-except that Mickey Mouse has slanty eyes." But I don't. Because, that's right, I am a nice Japanese girl.

Between LA and Tokyo, I have been to Disneyland about ten times. To answer the above question seriously, yes, it looks exactly like the one in the states but the workers are Japanese UNLESS they are playing specific characters. Then they are imported. But they all have been trained in that Disney fashion so they are super smiley and bubbly in the same way--which is nice and creepy at the same time. There are some differences in rides--you can actually take a tour inside Cinderella's castle, but no Matterhorn in Tokyo, and things like that.

But the biggest difference is in what the visitors think are most important. Japanese people are coo-coo for the parade. The sight you would NEVER see in the States' Disneyland is the dads, who have been dragged there, are all napping on picnic blankets HOURS before the parade to secure the best spot for their families.

Let me give you the back story for you to understand what is happening here. The dads (as we call, "salary men") in Japan are exhausted. They kill themselves for their company, working crazy long days to afford the best education for their kids, commuting long ways every day. All they want to do on their day off is to sleep. But they can't because they have the obligations to the families to entertain them. So they take them to Disneyland. But then they are too tired to walk around so they happily take this job of "securing the spot" for the parade because there, they are left alone and can nap. So what you get is the odd sight of homeless-like behavior of grown men just sleeping on blankets with newspapers over their faces, but they are dressed too well. And it's on Disneyland's Main Street. Some of them spend the entire morning just napping, which is the most expensive nap you can ever have, but if that's what it takes, that is what they do.

Just to expand on this dad thing, my older brother who lives in Tokyo and has three daughters once mumbled "it's really hard work being a dad, you know." He didn't mean the regular dad stuff that you might think of. There is also this event in every school that happens in the fall called "Undokai,"which translates to something like School Olympic, where every class competes in some athletic events and the family attends and it's a big to do. But this is also another place where dads are sent at as early as 5am to secure the best spot on the field to watch. Then during it, there is usually a relay race or sort by dads and if you don't take part, you will shame your kids, so no matter how sleep deprived, you do it. According to my brother, most dads are horribly out of shape and don't own any good running shoes. So during these races, you see dads not making the corners well, face planting, glasses flying off and not winning, which shames their kids anyway.

If you ever visit Tokyo, you will see these men on the subway, sleeping deeply. If you get on the subway late at night, you'll see these men drunk off of their butts and sleeping. Please don't disturb them.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Japanese Manners: Things that will make Japanese people gasp, or look at you funny

Today's post is all about things that I have encountered numerous times in this country that I feel are important to point out. Some have to do with manners, some have to do with cultural misconceptions, but I am here to say, please don't do (or assume) the following:

The top three things you are not supposed to do with chopsticks (aside from wearing them in your hair, OBVIOUSLY):

Stick them straight up in your food (particularly rice) and leave them there
This is related to the Buddhist tradition in which we offer food to the dead, so it's thought to be very bad luck to do at a table. It's the most common mistake made by foreigners. I've intercepted this move many times.

Passing food from chopsticks to chopsticks

Also related to the funereal tradition. In the old days, family members of the deceased picked up the bones after cremation and passed them from one person to the next with chopsticks into a box. Not good to do at a table.

Using chopsticks as drum sticks Don't do it. I know they look like drum sticks. It's like the urge of the Westerners to crack the chopsticks and hit all the dishes. It's just rude and embarrassing. This is just common sense-not related to any religious thing.

There are many other things you are not supposed to do such as; grabbing your chopsticks in your fist, touching one food (your own) then another, point at someone with them, stir up your food with them looking for something good, etc. But these are less known even amongst native Japanese.

Here are some of the other manners around Japanese people you might find useful:

Don't ever bow to a Japanese person with your hands together. If you do that to me, I will punch you in the neck. On the inside, of course, because I'm a nice Japanese girl. We bow with hands gently folded in front of us and deeper and longer you bow, the more respect you show (or the lower your rank is compared to the person you are bowing to).

People is some of the other South Asian countries (such as Thailand) bow with their hands together, but the only time we put our hands together is when we pray, and occasionally, when we are profusely apologizing (but I think that's only done between friends and never in polite company).

Geishas are not prostitutes. They are traditional entertainers whose job is to make your private parties enjoyable by carrying conversation in their beautiful Kyoto dialect, dance traditional Japanese dances, play instruments, and pour your drink. There are many books out there about the life of Geisha that will tell you the complex life style of a Geisha girl, but the bottom line is that they don't take your money in exchange for sexual favors.

Sumo wrestlers are not for comic relief. I realize this is a very hard concept to swallow and frankly I don't blame people for thinking so, but Sumo Wrestling is one of the oldest traditions in Japan and is regarded as a royal sport--as in our Emperor attends it, like the royalty in England attending Wimbledon. They symbolize strength and power ( I believe Japan had their best Sumo Wrestler open the Nagano Winter Olympics) and are very well respected, especially if you hold a high rank. They are not the same as Pro Wrestlers in the States.

The gong is not a Japanese instrument. It's just not. You may not care, but I do.

And no, we don't all know each other. I've had, on more than one occasion, people ask if I knew so-and-so from Tokyo. Seriously. And I don't mean by children. I have friends who say that jokingly, and I play along (having a good time doing so), but I found myself speechless when this happened. I didn't know where to start. So I just used to say, "no, no I don't."

Soon, I will write a post about misconceptions of America in Japan.

chopstick images from :
bowing image from:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

For the Good of the Team

Japan is a nation that prides itself on discipline. It is understood that if you want to be good at something, you put in decades of practice and even once you get good at it, you shouldn't be happy with yourself and you keep working on it (I think Akira Kurosawa said he felt like he was just getting the hang of things when he got his lifetime achievement Oscar). We don't believe in instant gratification.We don't complain, because if we do, we are big babies and we bring shame to our families. There are no such things as short cuts. As an example, people who do the traditional Japanese puppetry called Bunraku, have to spend at least 20 years to become the master.

Bunraku puppets are operated by three people--the master puppeteer manipulates the head and the right hand (and voices the puppet), the next rank puppeteer works the left hand, and the apprentice works the legs.

You spend 10 years at your position before you move up. 10 years. Everyday. Just on legs. But that amounts to an exquisite art form where the puppets move as if they were alive, even though the three puppeteers are in full view of the audience. Total discipline, teamwork and a lifetime commitment. That is the Japanese way. And it seems like no matter what you get into, you always start by being the person who has to clean up. That's just a side note.

Along with that, Japanese people respect seniority. Whether in social or professional setting, if you are in a company of someone older than you, you address them in "Keigo" which is a polite form of speech. Even if you hold higher position than this person, you still address them in that language out of respect for their life experience.

This whole concept was introduced me when I was in 7th grade. I went to a posh K through 12 private school in Tokyo. Once you entered middle school, you were in the big leagues. You choose your after school "club" activities and you invest the next 6 years of your life (which felt like the equivalent of 20 adult years) into this club. At this particular school, there were three top clubs that were known to be hard core: Volleyball Team, Basketball Team, and Drama Club. These three were known to have the scariest, meanest upper classmen but they also had the most respect from the entire student body because they were good. I signed up for the Drama Club.

The season (?) at the Drama Club consisted of three events: one-acts called "Practice Plays" where 9th graders direct the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in 4 different plays. Typically we had two co-directors per piece and they divided the rest of the kids evenly. We had a couple of months of rehearsals and then we performed with no costumes or set, and mainly to the 11th graders who held the highest position in the club (12th graders don't participate in club activities in Japan because they are all preparing for the college entrance exam and therefore shouldn't have any fun). The main purpose of the "Practice Plays" were to see the next generation directors and actors. Once a piece was performed, the cast and the directors get up in front of everyone and get critiqued, which was so scary.

The other two events were public. A fall play which was to take place during our school festival (a big to-do in Japan where every club holds an event, sells things, sells food, and raises money). And a spring play. The plays were selected by vote, and the 11th graders who were appointed to direct the piece conducted casting sessions. At the end, we wrote down our preferences on a small piece of paper and they sorted it out. Now, here is where the politics came in. If you were a 7th grader, it was understood that you didn't get cast. So you don't even ask. You can start to ask for a role at the end of 8th grade. Maybe. So,if you were a 7th grader, you pick a crew position you want to do and you put that down. The entire production was built by teams. You had your cast, set and props, costumes, and lighting. Each team had an 11th grade leader and the number of students per grade were evenly divided into those teams. It was amazing. We had upward of about 50 kids spanning across 5 different grade levels building a show with only occasional supervision from the faculty.

But this was the backstage drama. If you were on the bottom of the totem pole, you were pretty much nothing. 8th graders kept tabs on 7th graders and if you were considered to be "out of line," you were disciplined--and by that, I mean you were bullied. If you were walking down the hallway during school time and encounter any upper classmen of your club, you stop, you wait for them to pass, and you bow and greet them in a military-like fashion. You keep your head low and you don't make eye contact because that's considered rude. If you don't do this right, you get surrounded. If you speak up too much during production meetings as a lower classman, you get surrounded. If you stand out in anyway, you get surrounded. I got surrounded one time because the glasses I was wearing was "too stylish," whatever that meant. And if you get surrounded, you just stand there, bite you lips, apologize and move on (did I mention there is a very high suicide rate among kids in Japan?).

But then the pay off was that when you became an upper classman, you got to act like a big shot. Our class decided to take it easy on the 7th graders a bit, which made us all feel better. I got to have some really juicy roles and learned A LOT about what it takes to mount a play and how to direct them, even. Sort of. I experienced what it's like to move up a ladder, shut your mouth and observe, how to follow direction as well as be a leader all before I was 15. There are three of us out of that group who work in theater professionally. That doesn't seem like a lot, but I think that's more than many of the grade levels around us, so that's saying something.

This is not to say people in the States lack in discipline. I work with youth doing theater and I know a lot of kids with a great deal of commitment. And I know that sports in this country is also really hard core. But there is something uniform about the Japanese people and their discipline. It must be the way we are schooled--or something.

If my daughter says she wants to get into theater, I will have her sweep the stage for 10 years first. That is all I'm saying.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Playing the Japanese

For those who don't really know, I work in theater. I have turned into producer/director in the past several years but once upon a time, I actually made my living acting. After getting out of college with the degree in performing arts, I quickly learned that opportunities are different for those who are labeled as "actors of color" (I would be the yellow one, I suppose). Not exactly less, but just different. This was in the 90's and mixed race cast on traditional shows were still new. So I worked a lot with a couple of theater companies that liked doing that sort of thing.

Aside from theater, there are variety of film work for actors that general public would never see. You got your traditional Hollywood films, TV shows, TV commercials--local and national. But then you got what we call in the business, "industrials," which is training films to be used within companies. They are not at all artful and often full of technical terms that are difficult to memorize, but they pay really well. I know actors who do mostly these gigs. And here is what I discovered in doing these. Generally speaking, theater world is less racist than on-camera world. For example, I have played a number of roles on stage that is not traditionally Asian. However, for these on-camera gigs, I got called in if they needed someone to play the Japanese. And often a Japanese who didn't speak English well, or spoke English with a thick accent, or a tourist. Some gigs didn't care if you were actually Japanese (given by the fact that there were other Asians called who were Chinese, Korean, and even Filipinos--I say "even" because in my Asian opinion, Filipinos and other South Asian people don't look Japanese), and some did. I did them all.

I once did a local PBS spot about learning English as a second language and played a Japanese woman who spoke very little English. They wanted an accent. As I have moved here at 15, I have an accent but it's slight--or so I have been told. I actually worked my butt off to not have an accent so that I can be taken seriously. Ironically though, for my profession, people wanted a thick accent for comedic affect. So now I can do a various degrees of Japanese accent. ANYWAY, for this gig, I was going in with this big fat accent and they had a dialect expert on the set. An older white gentleman who was on headset to make sure all of the "ethnic"actors brought in had authentic accents. I'm not sure why, but I got nervous. What if my accent isn't good enough? Will they fire me??? But thankfully, when I got done saying my lines, the lad just looked at the director and said, "yeah, that's pretty much spot on."

My most surreal moment of playing the Japanese, I must say, was in The Spanish Prisoner. This film was directed by David Mamet and was shooting in Boston where I lived. There was a call for a Japanese actress to play a US Marshall who could also look like a high school girl (if you watch the movie, you know why). My agent called me in and I read for the part and apparently it was down to me and this other woman who ended up getting the part. I was too tall--that's another thing. I've been told I'm too tall for an Asian. Like I'm faking it. But Mr. Mamet wanted to throw me a bone and had me play a Japanese tour guide. A step up from playing a tourist, I suppose. My agent kept saying, "he has written this part in specially for YOU" and yet, in the script that was given to me, there were no lines written. He just wanted me to speak Japanese in the background of the scene. So I played the tour guide behind Campbell Scott and Rebecca Pidgion for two days (of which I was mostly shot from behind after I spent 2 hours in make up) and at the end of the second day, Mr. Mamet walked over to me, introduced himself, and asked if he could record me speaking Japanese for the scene. What am I going to say, I'm too busy? So I stood in the corner of Logan Airport waiting room (where the scene was being filmed) with David Mamet and the sound guy with the big microphone and translated what he wanted me to say on the fly. He thanked me for being in his movie and commented on what a beautiful language Japanese was. As strange as that experience was, I have to hand it to Mr. Mamet for his commitment to hire actual Japanese people to play his Japanese extras. He sent his people searching for authentic Japanese through the consulate and faculty of language schools. I met some interesting, non-actors on that set as well as getting to sit very near Steve Martin--I like to say I had lunch with him. Had I gotten that US Marshall part, I would have shot him in the scene but alas, that was not to be. But I still get a check in the mail now and then. I think my last one was all of 87 cents. No joke. I want to tell SAG to please stop it.

It's odd playing a stereotype. You are doing what you fight against every day in your personal life and making money off of it. When I went to a cattle call for Miss Saigon on Broadway before it opened, there were protesters. People were saying that Asian women were so often portrayed as hookers and this show was not helping. I was interviewed by NPR while I was in line. I said, "while that is very true, this show is also giving opportunities to so many Asian actors who would otherwise never have a chance to be on Broadway."

These days as I sit in my house watching TV, I naturally pay attention if a Japanese character is actually being played by a Japanese actor. It has gotten a lot better in the last 10 years, but still, there are so many times when they are played by an Asian actors who obviously doesn't speak the language and are just killing it. I just look at my husband and say, "why didn't they just call me? I'm right here."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just Keep Driving

Not too many people realize this, but in Japan, we drive on the left side of the road. This is something to do with the British influence on our culture--we have a mesh of European influence that also seems to surprise people when they find out. As for example, we have many many bakeries with French style breads. So many and successful that one of them opened a franchise in Paris.

Anyway, we drive on the left. So naturally, we walk on the left, look for the traffic first on the right before crossing the road, etc. When this is ingrained in you, it's hard to correct. Even after 25 plus years, I have a hard time. When I come face to face with another pedestrian, I avoid left. They avoid right. We do the dance. I do it EVERY TIME. I tell myself "go right, go right" but my body just goes left. Then the person I am approaching senses the weird tension and focus on my face and they just stop because they don't know if I am going to attack them, which complicates the matter even more. Then we do the dance and I just run away shouting "so sorry!!!" I'm a total SPAZ.

Much like any other Metropolitan cities in the US, Seattle has a Chinatown. Officially, it's "International District-Chinatown" that used to be Japan Town back in the days until the WWII internment camps wiped out the neighborhood. Now, it is a collage of all Asian cultures and it's a great place to eat. However, the traffic is a MESS because--I hate to say it--but Asians can't drive or walk. Seriously, I don't know why they don't just put traffic lights at every corner because 4 way stops are just a circus. Asians, no matter where they come from, just step out into traffic whenever, blow through stop signs, and park randomly. They (I'm saying "they" like I'm not one of them) go 35 miles an hour on the on ramp of the highway and go 50 miles an hour in the fast lane. Every time my husband and I pass a bad Asian driver, we scream in unison, "you are not helping the cause!!!" I don't know it's because there is a longer history of us walking than driving or it's driving on the other side of the road thing, but I have to say, this stereotype is 90% accurate. For Japanese people, I can attest that pedestrians win. Even in a crazy city like Tokyo, people on foot will stop traffic to get across the street--and they win, because there are so many of them. The key is to act like, "I don't see you, so you won't hit me."

My mother is 82. She is very active, independent and always comes to visit with an international license when visiting so that she and my father can go about their days without relying on me or my husband, which is lovely--and frightening. Once, she went out shopping and when she returned, she couldn't parallel park in front of our house. She came into the house asked if I could park the car for her because she couldn't quite get the angle right. I go outside to find her rental car almost perpendicular to the parking spot, the back wheel on the curb, with the trunk open. The trunk was open because after she gave up, she figured at least she could unload her goods. This is also the same woman who scratched her car ALL THE WAY AROUND without getting out of her parking spot at her own house in Tokyo because she couldn't get the "angle right" to back out and kept turning in a small space, THE WRONG WAY. My father was laughing so hard when he was telling me this on the phone I had to ask him to tell it twice to fully understand what he was saying.

I also spent 13 years in Boston. I realize every big city on the east coast prides itself on having the worst drivers in the country, but Bostonians are seriously intense. They are aggressive, mean, and honk the horn if you even THINK of making the wrong move. If they encounter a bunch of Asians crossing randomly, they will just hit them and then scream out the window for being a "f*cking re-tahd" with the middle finger strongly pointing upward. It would not be pretty.

As for my driving, I try to be good. I don't have a single moving violation to date and my husband, who is an excellent and critical driver seems to think I'm alright. It's my personal quest to reverse the stereotype but as ponder my DNA and Boston driving experience, I'm not sure how successful I will remain as I get older. I'm seriously considering making a bumper sticker that says, "I'm Asian. Please forgive."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hollywood Short Hand for "Exotic"

I've mentioned before that people here (in the US) ask me about Japan like I know everything. The same thing happens in Japan when I go home--I somehow become the spokes person for the US pop culture. One friend of mine once said, "Have you ever noticed that characters on American movies and TV often eat out of Chinese food container with chopsticks? Why do you think that is?"


Turns out it's true. Ever since she told me this, I can't help but to look for it and if you are watching a drama, you will inevitably run into a scene where (often white) people are poking around Chinese containers with chopsticks. This must be the Hollywood code for "we're urban and stylish and we eat with foreign cutleries." But this is also not too exotic since, as my father-in-law put it, no matter how rural, you will find a Chinese food restaurant in this country, which is a totally separate blog about Chinese immigrants. Everyone loves Pizza too--but Chinese food must look better on film.

This looks odd to a Japanese person because most of these actors seem to be struggling with chopsticks. "Why don't they just eat things with forks?" I think is where my friend was headed. And I didn't really have a good answer for her.

On a slightly different note but on the same topic, I have noticed that American film and television series don't really put any emphasis on food. As you can see, I've written a lot about food on this blog in a five posts I've put up. This is not because I have some sort of food obsession. Well, OK, may I do. But what I mean is that I come from a culture that REALLY enjoys eating. We are proud of our food. We put a lot of energy into making things taste good all the time and in every place. We love to get together over good foods, love to take trips just to eat things from a certain region, and in most news related or variety show, you see food segments and separately, there are numerous cooking shows (as evidenced by Iron Chef, which ran on a major network for 8 years to very high rating). And we don't separate those out to something like a Food Network Channel. This is all regular, prime time TV. And not just Japanese food. We love ANY food. In Tokyo, you can eat just about anything. My husband who has been to Japan seven times with me said that he has never had a bad meal in Japan. Sure, he's had to eat some weird crap labeled "delicacy" but even then, he could tell that it was prepared well. I would like you to note that this is coming from a man who used to not touch mustard as a child--not even the container.

Anyway, with all this interest in food, it's natural that this culture would seep into the fictional life style. In Japanese television drama or film, you will find scenes that involves eating. Guaranteed. And actors don't just poke around. They EAT. I mean they eat a lot. There was a legendary Japanese novelist and teleplay writer named Kuniko Mukoda and her scripts were almost always about family affairs. She captured complicated nature of family dynamics that often took place in '40s and '50s and she would have these great family dining scenes in which intricate dialogue and pauses would take place while they ate. I went through a phase of watching many of Ms. Mukoda's work, and I once read that she was known for having a menu in the script, like "a left over curry for breakfast." Like rice balls, curry is also thought to be the Japanese soul food. That specificity and familiarity made the scene even better both for actors and the viewers.

I find these cultural portrayal of food interesting. I feel like Americans have love and hate relationship with their food. Things come in huge quantities and while there are so many choices, the flip side is the constant reminder to be thinner--"here, eat all this stuff, but stay at 100lbs." My father once innocently said, "Why don't they eat less so they don't have to work out as much? They look so unhappy." He was saying this as we walked pass a gym where you could see people on treadmill. I told him it wasn't that simple--but it was to him.

So look next time. See if you can spot the Chinese container on TV. And after you do that, go rent "Tampopo."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What to Speak

As I have lived in the US for over 25 years, I now dress like I'm from here. And because of this, wait staff at Japanese restaurants and other Japanese retailers often begin conversations with me in English. OK, so maybe it's because sometimes I am with my very white husband and not-very-Japanese-looking daughter. At any rate, I am a stickler for wanting to speak Japanese to a Japanese person unless we are in the company of non-Japanese speakers, so that has become a mission.

Here is the game I play: if they greet me in English, I answer in Japanese. This then will turn the rest of the conversation in Japanese. However, sometimes, they don't hear my response or think that I spoke English ( I will later blog about what people hear when they expect a specific language out of a person, no matter what) and continue to speak to me in English. If I have my daughter with me, I then will use her by speaking to her in Japanese very clearly. If two or three of these attempts fail, I just give up and act like I'm from here.

The hidden trick to the game: to know FOR SURE that they are indeed, Japanese. There are a lot of Koreans and Chinese folks who work in Japanese restaurants, and sometimes--yes, even for us--it gets confusing. Often, they have distinct enough accents that I can tell, but sometimes they speak a couple of Japanese phrases well enough that it throws me for a loop. I order items from the menu pronouncing the name of the dish precisely to see their reaction and if that does nothing, I once again give up and just stick to English. It gets all weird though if I realize half way through the conversation that s/he is Japanese.

The thing that is the oddest is at a Japanese book store. Now, I know FOR A FACT that they are all Japanese there--they kind of have to be to have the knowledge of the books and be able to look things up. Even then, sometimes I would go there, buy Japanese books or magazine, and they still speak to me in English. "Really? Why would you chose to speak to me in Japanese if I'm obviously going to read all of this?" I want to say. But instead, I answer them in Japanese.

This all sounds like a lot of work, but it actually isn't. It's all part of my routine and pretty effortless--AND makes me laugh a little. I suppose this stems from me trying to hold onto my nationality, and the words of my mother when I was leaving home which was, "don't forget where you come from. Don't lose the Japanese part of you." I was confused by this remark and was somewhat irritated that she would say that when all I wanted was to immerse myself in all things American, but as these things go, that stuck with me. I have made concerted efforts to try to hold onto my native tongue by reading and hearing it (through video and pod casts) even during periods of times when I didn't get to speak it for months at a time. I didn't want to be labeled when I visited and speak like a "returnee," (a term for someone who went abroad and returned) which is to jumble both languages and speak awkwardly. As I wanted to be totally fluent in English, I also wanted to remain fluent in Japanese, which is harder to do than you might think. So I force total strangers to join in my personal quest. Because sometimes, that's what it takes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Japanese people are coo coo for thank you gifts. If you go to a wedding in Japan, you get more than a small match book with names of the couple and date of the wedding (not that there is anything wrong with that). You get a gift. I mean, a substantial gift that would require them to put in a shopping bag. Some of them even give you a catalog from which you can choose an item. Even if you go to a funeral, you get a gift--like a handkerchief (note: people in Japan carry handkerchiefs so this is something everyone uses). It's a joke that we can all continue to give each other gifts until we died.

I recently sent a care package to one of my closest friends in Tokyo who is caring for her dying mother. I've known Kayo since birth and though we never attended the same school, we have been good friends and we've kept track of each other. She is one of the first people I call when I get home and we make sure to see each other. Unfortunately, she is facing what most of us in our age fear and dread which is having to take care of our parents, seeing them fade away while working and raising our kids. Kayo holds an executive position at SONY, has a daughter who is 5, and is commuting to her mother's hospital to see her and talk to the doctor and drops in on her helpless father who feels victimized by all this. She has a husband who is highly capable, as well as a father in law who is very involved with her daughter, but because her older brother lives far from Tokyo, she is burdened with most of the decision making and responsibilities. My mother who has visited Kayo and her mother told me that Kayo was nearing a breaking point from stress, which broke my heart.

This is when the distance becomes frustrating. If I were there, I would go visit her mother, maybe take her daughter to play with my daughter, or do any other number of things to help. But I can't. So I decided to send her a package--American style. Care packages in Japan, though is common from mothers to their children when they move away, is not done all that often between friends, which is strange in a culture that LOVES to give gifts. The term "Care Package" doesn't even exist in the Japanese language as far as I know. I went and got her some spa items that she can use at home in a Japanese bathroom that is good for stress. I bought a cute outfit for her daughter, a nice coffee from Seattle's reputable coffee shop that is not Starbucks (because that exists in Japan), and a pashmina for her mother to use in the hospital. I wanted her to know that I was thinking of her and her mom. I didn't know if they would like any of this, but I felt like I wanted to do something.

This morning, about four weeks after I sent the package, I received a small package from Kayo. In it was a thank you letter from her and a separate card from her mother. She said that she was so deeply touched by the package and everyone loved their gifts. But this is what was amazing. Under the letters, there was a cute little blouse rapped delicately. This colorful cotton blouse flares out at the bottom, has cute puffed sleeves and has three little buttons, one of which is decorated with a tiny knit flower. I knew this was for my daughter and as I looked closely, I noticed that there was no label in it. It was handmade. I looked back to the letter and it said, sure enough, that she made this for my daughter. She said that she has been wanting to sew but hasn't had the time or the mindset and making this cleared the cobweb in her head. This was her thank you gift to me.

I almost cried. Then I felt kind of stupid for buying her kid an outfit from Old Navy.

I was blown away and humbled by her capacity to be this thoughtful in the midst of such hardship. I don't even know how she found the time or the energy and there she was, thanking ME for taking the time in my busy schedule to put a package together. And she did this in less than three weeks--I have yet to finish a quilt I started 4 years ago. I was so grateful for our friendship that started in our parents generation that is now carrying down to our children despite the distance. And I was reminded of the culture that puts as much thoughts in thanking someone as giving. Kayo could have just sent me a card or an email--but no, she went out of her way and gave a piece of her heart to me and my kid.

I don't imagine giving that blouse away even after my daughter outgrows it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Home is where the food is

There is a movie called, Spirited Away by a brilliant Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of my most favorite films in which the protagonist, Chihiro--an ordinary 10 year old girl-- is suddenly faced with a curse that turns her parents into pigs, and thrown into a world so strange so rapidly that all she can do is to try to survive without understanding what is happening. Then, about 20 minutes into the film, she is led by her guardian Haku to a safe place, for the first time. He hands her a rice ball to eat. Chihiro takes it, starts eating, and begins to sob uncontrollably.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I moved here when I was 15. I went to a boarding school in California, thousands of miles away from home. I spoke very little English, but having been raised by parents who were very international, bilingual, and survived World War II, I think I must have had the personality (or the stupidity) to just jump in. But during the first year here, I gained probably about 10lbs. I basically put on the "Freshman 10" in my sophomore year of high school. I was pretty skinny prior to that and being a dancer and all, I was used to that particular frame of mine, so this was a bit of a shock, especially to my mother who didn't see me for a whole year. "Well, you look...healthy," she said when we reunited.

In retrospect, this was a classic case of using food for comfort. Hmmm, let's see-I leave home, go to a new country that doesn't understand my language, meet a whole new set of people, get a room mate, eat in a cafeteria three times a day, and oh, sit in series of classes in which I would have to look up every other word, in order to even follow the question being asked, let alone answer any of them. No stress, not big deal. I was hungry all the time. And I tried and ate everything. And we snacked a lot in the dorm. And my exercise was cut down by about 80% coming from maneuvering around Tokyo every day to living on campus where everything was in spitting distance.

I missed my food. I missed having Japanese rice, my mom's cooking or anything that resembled Japanese food. My uncle would come by on some weekends and take me out to Japanese restaurant which was such a big treat. There were also a dorm staff who had a rice cooker and she would treat some of us to rice now and then. But that was it. I had no access to the things that provided me comfort everyday that I didn't even realize.

I totally get why Chihiro sobs in that scene. A rice ball, which is an equivalent of PB&J connects every Japanese person to their childhood when their moms made these for them. If someone handed me a rice ball after my first week in the US, I too, would have sobbed.

When I was a sophomore in college, I moved into an apartment. I then started cooking for myself. I got a rice cooker and with what I could afford at the regular super market, I started piecing together how my mother cooked. My mother is a spectacular cook. I enjoyed watching her cook, and because of that, always wanted to learn how. I started helping my mother when I was about 10 and she gave me responsibilities around the kitchen. I used to pretend I had a cooking show of my own. So with that, I relied on my memory of how things tasted, and I started cooking every day. Then my weight came off. It may also have had something to do with the schedule of a college student which included about 20 hours a week of rehearsals that included dancing as I was a theater major and living once again in a city. Regardless, the food gave me comfort in the right way and gave me back the body I recognized. I could still only afford to have sushi when my parents came to visit, but I was less desperate for my home because I could create that good, healthy feeling myself now.

I was starting to flirt heavily with my husband when I introduced him the book, Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. During the course of the story, it talks about many great dishes but there is one in particular called, "Kastu-don" that is described in detailed. It's breaded, deep fried chicken breast marinated with eggs and broth, over a hot bed of rice. It's Japanese soul food. I was nervous about having him read this because he didn't know much about Japan or Japanese food and I
loved this book. My heart was going to be broken if he didn't like it. But he read it in about two days and told me that he really wanted to eat this. So I took him. We were living in Boston at the time and on the Cambridge side, there was a row of small restaurants in a basement of a building where they served foods like this in a most authentic fashion. I watched him eat every bite of it and when it was all gone, he told me that it was one of the best things he has ever eaten. I can't describe the relief I felt at that moment--this man that I was pretty certain I was going to marry just accepted my culture by eating it.

It's been over twenty years since I first started cooking for myself and I still cook almost everyday. It helps me to keep connected to my home, and now with a daughter, it connects her to it too. She seems to enjoy her rice balls, especially when it takes the form of Hello Kitty.

photo from http://www.imageshare.web

Saturday, March 20, 2010

That's not sushi

It is amazing to see how the perception of sushi in the States have changed since I first arrived in the US in '83. Case in point:
The Breakfast Club. Molly Ringwald opens up her lunch and everyone is grossed out. I remember feeling a little bid sad about it when I saw the film. I was a junior in high school, my second year here, and feeling self conscious of my foreignness. Like any teen-ager, I was trying really hard to fit in and learn to speak like a native--I actually worked my ass off so that later in life I can turn a phrase like, "ass off" effortlessly.

Anyway, I felt like I came from a place where our food was only understood by wealthy jet setters. But if you recall, the 80's was where the Japanese culture was making its way into the pop culture of the US. Business men bowing and camera flashing tourists became a staple of comedy films, "Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto" was in the top chart, and while vaguely offended, I thought "well, at least people know who we are." Many of my friends were interested in trying sushi but still the notion of raw fish grossed them out a lot.

Fast forward to 2010, and living in Seattle especially, sushi has become everyday stuff, which is delightful. But here is the stuff. There is now a pile of sushi places that are just terrible. And by "terrible," I mean not at all authentic. I mean you won't find these "tempura roll" type of crap in a sushi shop in Tokyo. I mean people from Japan would frown upon them. I get snotty when my white friends suggest a sushi place and say, "it's really good." I have a series of questions like:

1. Is the chef Japanese?
2.Is the clientele Japanese (fastest way to see if an ethnic restaurant is authentic is to look at the clientele)?
3.How do they cut the fish?
4. How does the rice taste?

I ask these questions with much passion and slight bit of anger that by this point, most of my friends are sorry they said anything at all.

Sushi is a cuisine. Like anything traditional in Japan, to become a sushi chef is a LIFETIME commitment. Most people start young, like 18 or younger, and for the first several years, you sweep and wash dishes. You don't even get to look at the fish, let alone touch the knife for quite some time. There is an artistry in making sushi, from how perfectly you prepare the rice, how fresh the fish is, and the balance between the cut of the fish with the rice-long cut of fish over a small amount of rice is considered perfection. And yes, the whole point of sushi is to eat the fish raw, and no, you should never eat sushi that are cheap. So sushi making is not like flipping a burger. It's done with a lot of training, and with national pride. We take it seriously (OK so flipping burger may also cause some national pride and seriousness, but you know what I mean).

A side note: the kind of sushi that are served in America is also what we call "Edo mae zushi" which is only served in the Tokyo area. If you go to different parts of Japan, sushi is prepared very differently. Also a side note: conveyor belt sushi is indeed very authentic. Apparently there are more conveyor belt sushi shops than a regular shop in Japan. Last side note: we don't have any restaurants that combine sushi with other stuff, like teriyaki chicken. Sushi places just serve sushi, noodle places just serve noodles, and same for the tempura shops. Every place sticks to its expertise.

Back to my point. When my husband and I go to a sushi restaurant, we sit at the counter (OK, so this is not so true lately with the toddler, but if were alone, this is what we do). The right way to have it is to chat with the chef and order one fish at a time. You don't order from the menu, you ask them what's good that day and make your choice from there. It's even more decedent if you start with some sashimi, as you drink your beer, then launch into the sushi. You then later have soup, if you wish, possibly with some shell fish in it. Chefs get excited when we do this, because Americans (unless they are really savvy) don't do this--I think that they don't know to do it. I have been told by sushi chefs that I order like a pro and it's a joy to serve a costumer like me, which makes us both feel like hot shots. And naturally, it makes us snottier. It is somewhat evident that the chefs' souls are dying a little bit to make this massive sized rolls with five things crammed in them and I am happy to make them happy--because their happiness bring me good stuff to eat AND you often get bonus items, just for being Japanese.

But here is the flip side. I have an uncle who lives in Oakland. In fact, he is my only relative in the US. He's lived in the States since the 50's and has obviously observed these things much longer than I. He once told me that the measure of a successful Japanese restaurants in the US is how packed they are with Americans. Because they are eating the foods that is foreign to them and enjoying themselves and coming back. He says it is easy to go after the natives, but a really good business men would figure out ways to get people in who didn't know these foods existed. So really, who cares if its REALLY authentic? It's giving chefs the opportunity to work abroad, get to know the Americans, and hence the cultural exchange is being made.

I see his point. Who cares?! But I do. A little. Well, maybe a lot. But then how many kinds of ethnic foods am I eating and loving without really knowing how authentic they are? See? It's hard to be me.

Photo credit:,

Friday, March 19, 2010


It makes total sense. You have long hair that you just want to twirl it up and stick something in it to hold. Chopsticks seem totally like the most obvious answer. Totally. But my friend in Tokyo asked me once, "Why do Americans put chopsticks in their hair?" Then it occurred to me that we eat with those. And yes, that would seem weird. Since then, my eyes would obsessively catch women with chopsticks in their hair like it's my personal mission.

I have a friend who is from Japan and has lived here almost as long as I have and she uses chopsticks in her hair. "You're not helping the cause!!!!" I yelled.

I am a person of two cultures, to both of which I feel close. Some might think that I must have become completely Americanized by now, and though that is true in many sense, people don't realize that you become the "expert" of your home country when you live in a foreign land. People ask you like you know EVERYTHING. So in that sense, I have become more aware of my nationality by living away from it for all these years.

I am married to a guy so white he calls himself "pink." I like him because he had no prior interest to anything from Japan--including women. He picked me because of me, for what its worth, and not because of where I come from. He has since become very versed in Japanese culture and seems to understand my joy and struggle. We now have a kid.

This blog is about my thoughts and observations of the two cultures. Nothing heavy. Mostly stupid. If you find it interesting and entertaining, I am happy.