A Multicultural World

“My father is Mexican and my mother is Japanese. Growing up in Mexico, some people would call me Chinita, which actually means Chinese. Aside from that, I never really experienced any discrimination because of my heritage.

Although my whole life, there was this nagging feeling that I wasn’t completely Mexican.

“As a kid, my grandmother would record TV shows in Japan then send video tapes to us because there was no internet back then. So when I got older, I decided to live in Japan to find and develop this side of myself.

“Tokyo is great because I can find people who are half-Japanese and half something else, just like me. My research on Nikkei communities or Japanese descendants in Latin America has helped me connect with fellow bilingual Japanese and Spanish speakers, which defines my identity. One of my mentors is Argentinian but has Japanese roots. He’s lived here for 25 years and is an expert on second or third generation Japanese communities. We switch back and forth to Japanese and Spanish.

“I guess I’m trying to focus on the relationship between language and identity. It’s interesting to see people who move a lot learn how to adapt to their surroundings. You open your mind to everything that’s there because it’s part of your survival. And that means your identity changes, depending on the context of where you are. What you say changes, too, depending on who you’re talking to. It’s really interesting to be part of this multicultural world.”

At the entrance of Nogi Park





【翻訳:Junko Kato Asaumi】

In front of Nogizaka Station

Rare Experience

“Elderly Japanese women
seem to have taken a liking to me. One dark and rainy day, a sweet old lady waved to me and said, ‘Come inside the umbrella or you’ll catch a cold.’ Then another time, while I was staring at the moon by myself to wait for the lunar eclipse, some middle-aged woman approached me and said, Tsuki ga kirei desu ne (the moon is beautiful). We ended up watching the eclipse together and chatting about life.

“Those tiny thoughtful things touch my heart. The second lady even invited me to her house. When they feel like they can trust you, they really welcome you. I love their hospitality. Maybe it’s because I speak Japanese so I don’t really feel any boundaries or wall with them. They respect that you can understand their language and culture.

Being Indonesian in Japan, I feel lucky but it’s also challenging at the same time.

“Good thing I don’t feel any discrimination at the Japanese company I work for. The only downside is I get passed over for assignments overseas or business trips because of visa requirements, whereas a Japanese colleague can go on the fly.

“Fortunately, Japan makes huge investments in Indonesia, which is my territory. It’s always my time to shine wherever there’s an Indonesia-related project. I get to meet government officials and even the Japanese ambassador. It’s a rare experience and privilege to be working here. As a foreigner in Japan, you have a lot of skills that people value—language, your open mind, etc. I think it’s a plus if you live in Japan.”

Italian Park in Shiodome, Tokyo




【翻訳:Junko Kato Asaumi】

The Little Things in Life


“When I say I’m from Macedonia, people associate me with macadamia nuts. We play this game of ‘Where is it?’ Some think it’s Mesopotamia. At least older people get it. But then comes the awkward silence once first impressions are out of the way. Whatever you do though, it’s important to represent well. Because people see you as an ambassador of your country, whether you play the role or not. Your actions will reflect on folks back home. It’s a weight we all carry when we’re abroad. Especially when you’re from a small country and people haven’t met many of you.

“The funny thing about me being in Japan is that my good Japanese friend is in my hometown. She’s there to study, I’m here to study. We both wanted to get out of our own countries because it’s suffocating to live in just one place. It’s so limiting like a cage. She finds more freedom the farther she is from the system that brought her up. And I find more personal freedom here. I guess we’re both looking for inspiration, for something new—a different life.

“What I love about Japan is the extraordinary beauty of ordinary things. The things you use everyday, stuff around you that you don’t really think or care about, have aesthetic beauty. You go to a bakery and the bread has some design or it’s shaped like a cute animal. Package design is a big deal here. For example, there’s this chocolate that I really like, which I bought because of its beautiful box. It would be tasty anyway, even if it was wrapped in something plain. But presentation makes it something out of the ordinary. Even manhole covers have an artistic look and feel to them. They have intricate designs and symbols engraved on them. These small things make this otherwise stressful life somewhat enjoyable.”

at Tokyo Midtown





(翻訳:Loving Life in Tokyo

Living Between Two Worlds


“I wrote a lot about the interaction of language, humans, and society in what became my first book. I think these ideas are what constitutes a big part of my experience here in Japan. When you learn a second language it is like you have a second soul. It is like you build a second part of you, which is what I think did since I came to Japan.

“I spent a good two years on the badminton club, and I basically had to be the only foreigner amongst Japanese people. Naturally at the start I think most of us want to be a part of the culture we are living in, and that is what I tried really hard to do.

Me being a lady added an additional level to the complexity to the social situation I was in. I didn’t just have to be a Japanese person I had to be a Japanese lady.

“What that meant was I had to learn to speak in a similar tone to the others, talk about the things they talk about, act like they do. I was spending over twenty hours a week with my team while at the same time I am part of an all English taught undergraduate program. For one part of my life I was in English mode and for the other I was in Japanese mode. It was like a split personality living between the two worlds.

“I am also interested in the attitude of people towards language and what people think the common language should be. In English we accept a plurality of ways to speak the language, but in Japan people are pretty mono-centric about languages, most people believe there is one standard that everyone has to follow. Everything else beyond that is not Japanese. It is interesting that the idea of language standardization is in part a constructed belief that was started in the early 1800s. Now because of media and print, people have started to see the language as a symbol of the national identity.”

(Her first book published in Japanese can be purchased online at https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4005008526)

Editors Note: This is the first post featuring both English and Japanese. In the future we will continue to publish in both languages when the time and resources permits.”






Studying Abroad

Why did you pick Japan?

“We’re here on a one-year student exchange program. I’m a linguist. I came to Japan because I thought Japanese is interesting to learn. I took Japanese 4 years ago now and I just like the language. I speak five – Italian, French, English, Spanish and Japanese.”

“I’m studying Japanese in France, where I’m from. So in order to improve my level I guess it was better to come to Japan. I’m really in love with the history, especially the medieval one like the Sengoku jidai, this period of Japan. Also, I love all the culture, especially the traditional ones like geisha and special events like hanami (cherry-blossom viewing). They’re so different from what we have back home in France.”

“It’s weird because sometimes you go to some places and everything is different from Europe, from Western culture. But then you realize it’s not that different. It’s weird because you have both. So the culture, the way people behave, is really different; the way of thinking. But on the other hand, there are similarities which make you feel that the world isn’t so big. For instance, you’re here in Tokyo but you can find Italian things or French things even if we are on the opposite side of the planet.”

Kindred Spirits

“I’m quarter Japanese and I never suspected that I had Japanese in me at all till my mom told me so when I was 8. She thought it was way too freaky that I was so into Japan, the language, its poetry and music. I really like words. And Japanese is a really beautiful language; the way it flows is even kind of melodic. I also feel a little bit more connected to the Japanese attitude towards work and the group mentality. Like I tend to think a lot more about what other people are feeling. And I can center myself around that, like how this is going to make that person feel. I feel like that’s a natural aspect of Japanese culture. But I guess one downside is overthinking about how what I do is going to affect how someone feels and then it ends up being a situation where I could’ve gotten farther ahead or been less nervous about work if I would’ve just been `I don’t care what they think’. In America it’s cool to have that attitude. Although I’ve started to get some of that, initially I was very shy and not as outspoken as I am now. So that’s one of the things that drew me to Japan.”


Bridging Japan to the Outside World

“After teaching English in Japan for a year I decided to try my luck into stuff like media, event planning and food, because who doesn’t love food. I found a cool company that shared my vision of creating a community and catering to an international audience. They own a lot of restaurants in Tokyo and have like 80 different brands. Wired Cafe is one of them. I do PR, event planning and translation to help them internationalize, especially with the coming of the Olympics. Right now we’re working on a hotel where we can connect overseas guests with locals or people who know Japan so well they can show you places you won’t find in a guidebook. I’m hoping this job can give me a lot of opportunities and a lot of freedom to change that whole ‘foreigner bubble thing’, where foreigners can work and live in Japan but in the end it’s really hard to enter society fully. This job in particular could be a way to bring more into a better environment and create a space for both Japanese people and foreigners who would come. That’s been my thing.”Autumn03.jpg
Being a Foreigner in Japan

“I love Japan and I love living here. It’s super safe, comfortable, and food is amazing. But as a foreigner here, while considering the fact that I’ve studied for 6 years and I know people who have lived here for like 15 years (some even married to someone who’s Japanese), some people would still be like ‘Oh you can use chopsticks’ and ‘Oh konnichiwa, you have such good Japanese’. You know you’re an outsider if you don’t look Japanese. And people will always ask you `When are you going home?’ And that’s why I don’t see myself living here forever. To be sure, I enjoy Japan and I enjoy it now. But I think as a foreigner that’s something that is difficult here.”