E / 30s
Japanese, American / Grew up in California / Lives in Melbourne
ON GROWING UP
I grew up in a very multicultural area where my high school was a very even mix of all different ethnicities, white, black, all kinds of Asians, Mexicans, other types of Latin people. I was always raised around different ethnicities, until I moved until I came to college, where it was like Asians, whites, Mexicans, but mostly Asians and whites, very little black people. It was weird because I had heaps of black friends growing up.
It was interesting growing up as mixed race because I have an indigenous Japanese background. I have dark skin, I’m hairy and tall — and that’s from my Japanese side. So that’s even weird because I don’t even relate to Japanese people. They’re smaller, paler, less hair. So when I’m hanging out with Asians, I’m always like so much hairier and darker than they are, but then I have that bit in my eyes.
Food wise, we very rarely had Asian food, because my mom was cooking, so it was like white food. But every time I’d go to my grandma’s house, it’d always be Asian food.
Food is such a cultural sort of soup of everything. Gatherings revolve around food. Food is …what makes people comfortable. It’s the smells that make that bring back memories of childhood.
With my home, I always had the smells of classic American food. Then every time I’d be at my grandma’s house, it always be Asian food. It was just very stark difference between those smells and those memories.
Also, my grandma grew all her own vegetables, herbs and would make her own medicines and things like that. It was more organic, sort of earthy, sort of vibe. Then at my house, it was more like — not. Now it is. But yeah, it wasn’t when I was growing up.
Probably the biggest thing was that I had a Japanese name. First impressions are the most important things that you can ever have with a person, place, thing, concept. With a Japanese last name, for good or bad, usually first impressions when you’re being introduced to someone, when someone’s like, Hey, you should meet someone, or Oh, this person is going to be in your class… There’s a name — usually not associated with the picture but people expect this person to look like this, or act this way or whatever, and then showing up… Doesn’t look like what would have thought.
Then there’s always that questions that come from having a name that there’s a disconnect between the expectations of the name versus the person.
Then later on life, I grew to appreciate it. But I think maybe in beginning it was probably a bit, just being a child not having that confidence. Now that I’m older I can really appreciate it, I definitely wouldn’t have any other way.
AS AN ADULT
I think as an adult, you have less issues with dealing with this. I work in a fairly white collar job. So I just don’t deal with sort of people that on a day to day basis don’t act like children.
I don’t have to deal with children but when you deal with children, there is a sense of figuring out your place in the world, making fun of people.
Maybe it’s just my personality or how I held myself, but I can’t ever imagine being hurt or having memories of people making fun of me in a negative way. Some people obviously had that sort of thing growing up. But I don’t feel like I have any memories of it.
As an adult, I quite enjoy having that aspect to myself. It’s something that I’m doing in my future, bringing together Eastern medicine mindsets, philosophies, with Western medicine mindsets and philosophies. It’s very interesting because as a child growing up, I really looked at my grandma as backwards because she was growing her own vegetables, and making her own medicine, had this massive library of books and herbal things. I just didn’t appreciate any of that. I was like, why don’t you take pills, etc, then I have to just come full circle in my life.
It’s also as a bit weird that I was raised in Western culture, which is white dominated that is probably the easiest aspects to come to the surface or accepted by society, or the default path. It’s just all right this is the western mindset, white culture, ideology of values or processes or systems … As I’ve gotten older, or just become more in tune with that, maybe it wasn’t as accepted.
Well, it’s funny, thinking about, the whole one side, just being much more dominant culture in society and it’s just easier — and all the things in the media — I used to watch so much TV, everything, the media, it’s like Western culture. A lot of Eastern cultures are put off as some sort of exoticism or ancient / esoteric values, as opposed to, modern sort of Western values.
All my cousins are half Japanese, half white, and it’s all Asian fathers which is also rare. It’s taken a while for me to really understand the significance of that because there’s this whole weird thing that’s hard for me to realize because I didn’t have to have to deal with that. I have the positive aspect of being mixed race, there’s so many positive aspects of being mixed mixed race especially when you get older and you don’t have to deal with children mentality. I know there’s like a lot of stigma for an Asian guy dating a white woman and it’s definitely a lot easier now but I can only imagine for my parents how difficult that must have been for my dad and all my uncle’s as well. But they were also indigenous Japanese so they weren’t like small, they had dark skin. My dad is darker than me, much bigger than me, and hairier.
EXPERIENCE WITH THE OTHER ETHNICITY
I haven’t been to Japan. I had to get my passport when I was 16, to go to Japan. I saved up money and was going to go with my school, and then it got cancelled. Then I had another trip planned and that one got cancelled as well. And then I just kind of like gave up.
Growing up in Sacramento, I went to some Japanese festivals, community stuff. I was really into Japanese culture. That’s why I really wanted to go. I studied a lot of Japanese design.
Japanese people are really zenophobic. If you weren’t born in Japan, or if you lived outside of Japan for a long time, you’re not Japanese anymore. It’s pretty intense. I haven’t been but I’ve just heard of all these different stories of if you’re born outside Japan, and you go back you’re not Japanese. You like second class Japanese.
ON RACIAL CONFUSION
I’m like a chameleon. I get everything and anything. Middle Eastern, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, I lost count of all the different random places and just comes down to what in their history growing up in the experiences, whatever was an ethnic population — could be their own — that I remind them of. I have different features and all different types of things going that people see what they want to see in me a lot of times. So they’ll see, if they’re from the middle east, they might think I’m part middle eastern. In California, they think I’m Mexican. In Hawaii, they think I’m Hawaiian. It’s awesome for me when I travel, well obviously, if I’m in some sort of really white place with very fair skinned people or even then they’ll think I’m the minority of that area. It’s just really nice traveling I never have this feeling of standing out, which I kind of quite like.
It’s really funny when someone actually picks it up. It’s usually only if people have had a half Japanese, half white friend before.
I had one experience in Melbourne. It was very vivid, someone thought I was an Indian or something, and was like ‘Fuck off and go back to fucking India, mate’.
I’ve never even been called Indian before!
The only time I’ve ever experienced any racism in Australia, it was actually pretty recentky. I remember being very confused how to feel about this cuz no one’s ever called me Indian before, and it was so insignificant too and just this person like railing off this hatred for this race.
I was just confused about society, I didn’t really feel bad about myself. I just felt more like sad for society than me being hurt. It was more just like sadness that people like that exist.
I don’t really have any memory, I’m sure it definitely that happened to me at some point but I was pretty resilient and just wasn’t a person that got picked on. Or if I was or had been, I’d just brush it off — I was pretty happy go lucky, a pretty resilience kid.
WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU
Things always turn out better when you collaborate!
It’s funny because a lot of people that will say mixed raced people are really attractive. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say mixed race people are unattractive. It’s always like people saying I wish I had a mixed race baby.
So it’s funny, because there’s a history of racial purity and fight against the other but then there are others like, let’s have a mixed race baby.
I always liked design, art and everything. I always try to take things from all the different cultures, styles and things. I think that’s why port cities are so vibrant historically, because of the exchange of ideas and things like that.
It probably had some aspects of my love of travel, living in different countries.
I just think being mixed race, just from birth has always been reinforced the idea taking things from different ideologies, and places, countries, cultures, and how it’s just, it’s good to take in like to take inspiration from different places. How no one sort of culture or people have all the answers.