Lack of language skills Having patience in Japan, being both Acculturation Preserving traditional Japanese culture New Year's food Japanese are more accustomed to foreigners

Transcripts available in the following languages:

Moving here, looking like a Japanese and not speaking it really felt strange. I think if no one said anything, it would be OK, but the fact that people would be kind of upset or kind of look at you funny and they would talk and talk and talk and it’s like, “I don’t understand.” Finally, we learned, “Wakarimasen” you know, and they just kind of look at you like, “Are you just dumb? Are you retarded? Are you slow? What’s wrong with you?” Then I had people, you know, really trying to tell me what they’re doing and trying to explain something to me to make sure that I felt included and I felt so bad. So I would try to understand and I’d look like I’m kind of understanding. And when they laugh, you laugh. But in reality, I mean I understood nothing.

Living in Japan but going to an American school is like living in America unless you have Japanese friends. So my Japanese didn’t grow at all until I graduated from ASIJ, went to Sofia and joined…and started this beauty school. Because it forced me to have Japanese friends that really wanted to talk to me but couldn’t and I really wanted to talk to them but couldn’t. So we’d draw pictures and there was one gentleman in our class that kind of spoke a little English and he would be like our translator. So I mean friendships grew from that and my Japanese got a little better. I can’t say that I understood everything. I used to go home with headaches after school, especially after I graduated high school because I could understand less than half of what the conversation was. And I like talking. I’m sure that surprises you. But you know, I like talking with people and I like being with people so not being able to speak with them or understand what they’re saying or not being able to express what I want to say was very frustrating.

Date: September 3, 2003
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Interviewer: Art Nomura
Contributed by: Art Nomura, Finding Home.

FindingHome identity language

Get updates

Sign up for email updates

Journal feed
Events feed
Comments feed

Support this project

Discover Nikkei

Discover Nikkei is a place to connect with others and share the Nikkei experience. To continue to sustain and grow this project, we need your help!

Ways to help >>

A project of the Japanese American National Museum

Major support by The Nippon Foundation