Shijo-Tsushin #13 November, 1997

impressions

by Shuichi NAKA


I'm also a what they call "kikokushijo" although I honestly really don't know what they mean by this since I don't feel like I've returned anywhere. I spent the first half of my life in the States, then moved to Japan when I was fourteen. At the time, I couldn't speak a word of Japanese so I assume you can imagine what life was like for me. I transferred from an ordinary American junior high school to an ordinary Japanese public junior high school, and the minute I stepped in the classroom, I felt like a panda who was just imported from China. Gimme my bamboo shoots, please, and stop starin'. Life hasn't exactly been the same ever since.

Now I'm past thirty and I still have a serious identity crisis. Am I Japanese or American? Who do I root for in the Olympics? Should I buy Ford or Toyota? Do I cheer Akebono or Takanohana? But then, I realize that the number of so-called "kikokushijo's" is increasing (the fact that I found your site surfing the web is evidence of this), and they (or should I say we?) are becoming a conspicuous group in society. I was flabbergasted to find numerous web sites for translation/interpretation agencies run by "kikokushijo's", which made me wonder, how do they do it? Have those people found themselves a niche in society? Did they find assimilating easy?

I don't know how many years you were abroad, but I guess my case would be more similar to, for example, children of foreigners who have come here with their parents. I haven't met very many "kikokushijo's" who spent as much of their formative years abroad as I have. Have you? It is a truly difficult thing to re-program your mind from one culture to another. I remember a friend who is an ethnic Korean saying she gets very confused at times about her identity, and I knew exactly how she felt. However, the "kikokushijo's" these days seem to be able to blend into society easily (although I know they have their problems, it's just that they seem more inconspicuous these days). One reason is probably the fact that there are more Japanese schools abroad, and companies are cutting the duration of overseas tours. Thus, I believe their children find it easier to retain their Japanese identities. I really never had one from the start, though.

However, there are those who have problems, or else you wouldn't have your web site. I believe that the problems "kikokushijo's" face are similar to those faced by, for example ethnic Koreans or Japanese-Brazilians. It comes from this country's homogeneity. In America, or Brazil, or India, for that matter, since society is multi-ethnic, it acknowledges individuals from other cultural backgrounds more readily. Furthermore, especially in the States, individualism is a God-given right, something that hasn't quite been attained in Japan. Japanese society is improving, no doubt, but there are still subtle barriers towards individualism, which I (and I'm sure the US trade negotiators) run into every day.

I am impressed by your web site, and at the fact that this vague group of people called "kikokushijo's" have come this far. Keep up the good work.


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