Staying above water

Here is a summary of my 20s:

  • Exploring how I wanted to present myself, now that I had expendable income for awesome haircuts and clothes, that would maximize my confidence and allow me to do my job in a male-dominated industry.
  • Exploring hobbies outside my job: Drag, Dragonboating, Film
  • Exploring relationships and friendships that tested my limits and had me thinking about what I need in a relationship.
  • Celebrated being me in a female body and loving women.
  • Developed an understanding of how presenting as masculine has the power to trigger people.
  • Developed an understanding of how presenting as feminine has the power to control people.
  • Representing my dad at family functions

Here’s a summary of my 30s so far:

  • Understanding what it means to live in a foreign country, and the privilege of being educated in America.
  • Growing motivation to consider more responsible actions from either masculine and feminine sides.
  • Being more masculine presenting makes me want to be more feminine, but being identified as feminine makes me want to appear more masculine.
  • Realizing that I embody characteristics of both, and constantly fighting against my mind to not blame my masculine or feminine side as being responsible for what might be considered my “quirks”.
  • Ignoring what people think, and just do what I’m good at.
  • Recharging from the efforts of ignoring what people think.
  • Trying to know myself as more than an extension of my family.
  • Continuing to fight imposter syndrome with more humor and acceptance.
  • Realizing that connecting different cultures is very important to me.

What triggered this was looking at Instagrams of young trans men who seem very successful, accomplished, full of potential for life, and happy. And in my current headspace, I wonder why I don’t have the desire to do a similar transition so that I would feel less undeserving of partners who are looking for stability and safety in this patriarchal society. I needed to reflect what I’ve considered as a source of my power as someone battling being of a minority ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. I think that’s enough to deal with in one lifetime!

I have had deep conversations with women who felt they were trans because they didn’t feel like they didn’t fit in the gender they are known as. These are beautiful women with ambition and desire for power. Unfortunately, they come from modest families and don’t have the connections to help get them started, so they have to hustle more. It’s energy-draining, and they work incredibly hard and sacrifice emotional and physical health to achieve their goals. Finding mentors would be easier as they wouldn’t be objectified by male bosses, people like Mike Pence.

Chasing dreams

My dad tells me to always have a dream. I think what he’s trying to say is to always find a way to stay alive. For a guy who escaped death, and probably living with survivor’s guilt, I trust this advice.

I’m living a dream. Maybe not THE dream, but definitely one of my dreams. It’s taken me half my life to achieve, some pretty lucky opportunities, and lots of lowered expectations.

The thing is I have too many dreams, so I end up having issues with FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, or a sort of grass-is-greener syndrome.

In the game industry, what I appreciate the most is working with the team. But the audience that we are creating products for could learn a thing or two about how to treat women as equals. Coming to Japan, and hanging out at BitSummit for the first time this weekend, it’s great to see girls attending and enjoying the games for themselves. But then I heard a guy having a one-sided discussion with a girl who only giggled, and I mentally rolled my eyes.

I am finding that my passion in making games has changed to provide an alternative way for people to learn. It’s a medium that I enjoy learning how to figure out things, and I want to share that.

But I gotta work on communication first.

Happy and visible


神原 琴美さん(@kambara_kotomi)がシェアした投稿 –

I feel obliged to share this very happy picture of me with this very dapper lady, Kotomi, that I met at Osora ni Niji wo Kake Mashita, the only openly gay, female-owned bar in Aomori while on our way to eat the freshest and delicious uni in a quaint little town called Sai (thank you Xan Wetherall for sharing your hidden food treasures!).

When I saw the cafe bar, I was awestruck, not expecting to find a rare place I’d only heard about. Social anxiety hit me, and I was nervous to come in. As a masculine-of-center Asian-American female, I was excited to meet Kotomi. She was hanging out having a smoke, noticed I was family, and happily welcomed me inside. I shyly introduced myself to Okacchi, the bar owner, and ordered  some liquid courage in the form of the best Aomori nihonshuu Okacchi had in stock. We talked about Tokyo and mutual friends, and when I was inebriated enough, video conferenced a mutual friend, and had the best night with people I felt at home with in Tohoku that I’d had in a while.

Kotomi and I still follow each other on Instagram. The other day, she posted a picture of a meeting room, with the caption “Domestic partnership in Sapporo will begin on June 1st, 2017! It’s decided!” It was great news, and even better to know that it would allow Kotomi and her friends the opportunity for a family life.


神原 琴美さん(@kambara_kotomi)がシェアした投稿 –

When same-sex marriage or domestic partnership laws in Asia take the time to consider what’s right for the community (rather than trying to prove its modernity, or make money off of us), it gives me hope. I had always felt that the LGBT movement for Asian-Americans was missing something: our ethnic motherland did not recognize us, therefore, neither do our parents or grandparents. Ideas like being gay is a Western invention (But so is being Christian, for the families who are!) isolate us from our cultural identities, and often we are also left out of our adopted Western culture for not being white. Some of us don’t see a place for ourselves, and end up choosing the way out.

There is a side of me that I usually keep under wraps because it’s not all of me. But I find it necessary to show it every once in a while as a reminder that this part of me cannot be ignored, and must be loved as well. I fear that people, especially family, will only love who they want to see, rather than love who is actually there.


New Year in review

2016 monthly highlights, and goals for 2017!

I’m happy to say that I learned to fall in love again, and that love was reciprocated, but it’s been difficult to maintain, as so many things go. The best part of this is that it gave me hope because now I know what good love really means to me and what I need in order to feel loved. I’m ready to go through the good and bad with someone while also knowing what’s best for me.

Finding an apartment in Japan

Having found apartments in America, I wasn’t too worried about it in Japan. Except for the fact that I barely know anyone in Osaka, and that it’s known to have lots of yakuza. Also, having this Asian face meant that they could either take advantage of me, or not trust me to pay the bills.

I started looking with some help of my neighbors who had an uncle who’s a landlord and lives out in the suburbs. He gave some advice on good neighborhoods and stations, namely Tsukaguchi , which is on the Hankyu Kobe line where the office is also closely located, so I started looking out there. Because I’m looking for a pet-friendly place that was big and was within my price range, my options shriveled. I decided on 5 rooms: 2 were investment properties in Daikokucho, a gentrifying neighborhood, 1 was a renovated room in an older building in a neighborhood I was told was popular, 1 was a warehouse-like open space that could also be used as an office near Shin-Osaka station, and the last was a really nice big space that’s near my office, the most expensive, and my last resort. I started contacting the real estate agents who were in charge of the places I wanted and settled with Osaka Fudosan, which is the most generic name ever, and hard to find on Google. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but the agent I spoke with was really good at dealing with me as a foreigner by asking a lot of questions, as well as informing me of a lure tactic that real estate agents use to get people to go to their offices and sell rooms to them that they didn’t care for in the first place, so I decided to designate him as my agent.

Knowing that, almost every real estate agent I reached out to welcomed listings I was interested in, even if they weren’t in charge of the units, so this made me even more wary to accept their offer to come into their office. I stuck with Osaka Fudosan because I felt they knew what they were doing, and he had a number 2 on his agent’s license, which according to trusted sources, is an experienced real estate agent (for better or worse).

I went to Osaka with the intention to apply for a place, and was quickly told that I have access to only two places after I said I didn’t have a guarantor, a Japanese person in Japan, because I believed that I could get one through a service. So seeing how I only had two options to choose from that weren’t my top, I frantically contacted some friends and later in the day was able to get one of them to agree to be my guarantor.

My real estate took me to my top place, the one-room in Shin-Osaka that I imagined I could decorate and divide to my liking, but it was right next to a highway, and had a lot of noise. It was also very minimally furnished, so while it was a nice neighborhood and close to Shin-Osaka station where visitors could easily get to my place once they step off the bullet train, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live there after all with air and noise pollution.

My agent took me to the room in Daikokucho, which was a room I had originally really wanted to get, but was still being cleaned. He took me to another unit that was 2 flights up, 1000 yen more in rent, had a nice balcony view, and a TV on top of the bathtub, but the floor plan wasn’t ideal, and it had a nook that felt claustrophobic.

The agent didn’t bother to take me to the second Daikokucho room, saying that the owner was really strict, so it’s not worth trying. At this point I was really tired, so I didn’t have the energy to push it too much.

At the office, I filled out applications for 3 rooms, got a run-down of terms and conditions and payments I was required to make for the Daikokucho room that my agent was in charge of, and paid a months rent for the broker fee, which is supposed to come back to me when I sign, but is kept if I decide to back out.

What doesn’t make much sense to me, is that the amount goes to the background check company if I am approved, and that amount is based on the first months rent of the Daikokucho place. It’s only in hindsight now for me to think about asking whether I have to pay for the background check for the other two sites as well.

So at the moment I’m waiting for the contract to come through the mail so I can sign this quickly and start throwing around my new address to places and get re-situated.


Farewell speeches

Thanks to Oku-sensei, a Japanese literature teacher, who proofread and corrected my speeches to students and teachers.

To the students:

Thank you for these past 3 years.

I was able to make so many memories. I came out for the ball sports festival, suffered with you through Gakuho Walk, dressed up with teachers during the culture festival as Detective Conan, played games and had chats with you during English Cafe, and even took a test together with the kyudo club. I came here from America to be an assistant language teacher, but my most enjoyable thing was seeing your individual personalities. Of course, life in another country has been tough, but seeing your smiles and greetings every day took all my cares away.

People are onions. Onions with many layers. Every layer is a hidden part of you. For example, a baseball player who’s really good at cooking. Or someone who enjoys flower arranging could also be very good at playing the guitar. As for foreign languages, you might hate English, but be very good at Korean. Discover your many hidden layers, embrace and cultivate them.

Onions make people cry when they are cut, and whether or not you like them, onions are often used in delicious dishes. As onions, let’s make amazing lives with the people around us.

Lastly, be safe, and enjoy many new experiences.


本当にいっぱい思い出が出来ました。球技大会に出たり、学鳳ウォークで一緒に苦しんだり、文化祭で先生達と「めいたんていコナン」の仮装で参加したり、English Café で会話やゲームをしたり、弓道部と一緒に審査を受けられて良かったです。英語指導助手としてアメリカから来ましたが、皆の個性を見るのが一番楽しめました。もちろん別な国で生活に苦労はありましたが、毎日生徒の笑顔、挨拶からすっきり吹き飛びました。




To the teachers:

Thank you for these past 3 years.

I think I was very lucky to be sent to Gakuho as an ALT. Diversity is an important issue to me, so I am so glad to be at a school where teachers do their best to accommodate the varied situations in the student body.

I will now be returning to the video game industry. Actually, before I came to Japan, I was very depressed to think that video games is the only job I could do. However, thanks to this experience, I’d like to support international students from overseas, including Japan, in America. I hope to cultivate this calling that I discovered from this experience in Japan.














Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With

The students were asked to draw the faces of the four officers escorting Ruby Bridges to school, and why they drew such faces.

In this time when Black Lives Matter so much, I don’t know what to think or who to talk to when I read something like this:

“The four policemen feel sad. they might be thinking ‘Why [do] we need to escort for [this] black girl. We blame her to [for the] shouts and smashed tomatoes.'”

I don’t know how serious the students are in regards to issues of racism, since the subject is largely thought to be an “American” issue. But if this exercise is to empathize with the police officers when really it’s a reflection of how one would act if they were the cop, this idea is really saddening.

To think that you are to blame for the violence around you when you’ve done nothing but exist. Why can’t some people understand that.