“There are 55 minority groups in China, and I belong to one of them. I’m Uyghur. I’m from Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which is in Northwestern China. I came to Japan right after the 2011 earthquake. Before that, I was working at a youth hostel when I thought of studying overseas. I wanted to see the real world. So I ended up in Tokyo and I’ve been living here for the last 8 years. It was a hard decision. Living alone in a foreign country can be very tough. But it’s also liberating and empowering. Back home, I always had to ask permission from my parents. Now I must chart my own course in life and figure out how to make money. And Japan is not cheap. When I was in Japanese language school, I had to support myself through part-time jobs. I also had to pay tuition since my parents couldn’t really afford to send me here (but they helped a lot, despite being against the idea).

“Right now, I live a comfortable life. I can buy the things I want and see myself in Japan long-term. Although in the back of my head, I’m thinking of the next step. The decision to stay here after language school was the biggest of my life. However, I still worry about my finances in the future. For now, I’m happy. I have work and I teach Uyghur cuisine on weekends. It’s a spicier version of Uzbek food.”