Home
Feature
The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Travel
Tech Know
Sports
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Music
Japan Beat
Clubbing
Art
Stage
Books
The Agenda
Listings
TV
Movies
Dining Out
Sake
Wine
Tastemaker
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
Classifieds
Jobfinder
Horoscope
Mailbox
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
Archive
About Us
Subscribe
Search
Distribution Points






 PAST ISSUES
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ainít Easy Being Green
769: íTwas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Letís Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: Iíll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes íRí Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japanís Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters ďRĒ Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthingís Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Cafť Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Childís play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged
By Ai Uchida

The other half

Think you know what living bi-culturally is all about? Think again

Ai Uchida is a singer-songwriter for the Tokyo-based music group AVANT GARDE

I am “half.” In Japan, this means I am half-Japanese. Recently, I have been on the receiving end of one too many uninvited pieces of advice on why I should act more or less Western/Japanese, and it has come to my attention that you need to stop doing that. Heads up, people—there is a third culture unique to Japan. It’s made up of well-educated, diplomatic, successful people who are doing a lot of interesting things all over the world, even though they’re often misunderstood in their home country.

I’m not talking about being misunderstood by Japanese, I’m talking about being misunderstood by you. I’m suspicious you don’t realize that when two cultures overlap—as they usually do for a child with parents of different nationalities—a totally new culture is created. Contrary to what the term may imply, being “half” does not mean being “incomplete.” So, if you are not half-Japanese; if you are not multicultural (not to be confused with “bilingual,” please); or if you are multicultural, specifically half-Japanese but are having a bit of an identity crisis about it, I’d be gratified if you would continue reading.

You may ask, “What’s the big deal? Isn’t everybody with one Japanese parent and another parent of a different ethnicity ‘half?’” Not necessarily. People with one Japanese parent are certainly ethnically half-Japanese, but not always part of this cultural group. There are many factors that distinguish these people from others.

For one, Japan will almost always be the country where their identity is cultivated. I am half-American and half-Japanese, but when I’m in the States, I am nothing more and nothing less than an American. Ironically, this is the great thing about being an American. But in terms of building character, I would not consider a half-Japanese person who was raised all his or her life in the States as being “half.” There can be exceptions anywhere, of course, but a similar notion can probably be applied to half-Japanese kids raised in other countries. I believe a person must experience the mental and emotional process of growing up in contemporary Japan to identify with this third culture.

Secondly, half-Japanese people automatically have some kind of identity crisis that they must work through in order to come to terms with themselves and in order to find a happy medium between their parents’ cultures. This might take place at age 9 or 90; it might be a momentary realization or one that arrives after $200-an-hour therapy sessions. My point is, there comes a time—unique to most multicultural people—when they reach a very real and conscious understanding of who they are. I am not implying that they become “more” after reaching this point or that they are “less” before it. I’m simply saying that, once becoming “fully half,” they have the freedom to build on a sense of self—as does anybody who is at peace with his or her character. Inevitably, this leads to a deeper appreciation for life.

Actually, I see a similar quality in many young people who are not ethnically Japanese but who have spent a significant portion of their lives here. I also see it in Japanese who have spent a great deal of time abroad. I believe that they have the same mentality and face similar challenges when defining their relationships with people and events around them. All of us grew up understanding by instinct—or, when we were children, by simply accepting—the rules of two or more cultures that often clashed. We’re the ones who empathize with the tension that Japanese feel when a foreigner does something unexpected or socially unacceptable. We are also the ones who can justify why the foreigner behaved that way.

And here I return to the reason why a bilingual person cannot be confused with a multicultural person: It is very difficult to study a foreign culture with the aim of assimilating into it. Culture is an intricately and illogically arranged web of delicate ideas and traditions. There are simply things you don’t “get” unless you were there when the web was woven around you.

Maybe you have half-Japanese kids, maybe your girlfriend is half, or maybe you have been working here for 20-plus years and you know everything about Japan. But you’re mistaken if you think you and I are in the same boat. Unless the web was woven around you, the best you can do is speculate about how people like me relate to the rest of Japan and the world. And you know what? Most of us are doing great. We’re figuring things out as we go along, just like you are, and we’re doing all right.
So, please, enough of offering “advice.” You might want to take notes instead.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

top