“My People”

This has been sitting on my mind for a while, and I wanted to share it with everyone without hurting people’s feelings, as I often tend to do and then find myself isolated.

Recently, I’ve been working with a team who came to visit from my ‘hood, the San Francisco Bay Area, who came on a work trip to Osaka. While they are very nice and well-traveled people, I was told that “I’m with my people”.

While Japan has helped relieve me of a lot of stresses that I had back in America, I wouldn’t say that these are my people. I have difficulties in Japan, but it’s more hidden because I can pass. I find myself being more close to “foreigners” in Japan, but even then, we break down into even smaller boxes because we are all special snowflakes. As an American foreigner, I have the privilege of speaking English with a perfect American accent.

Anyway, I felt excluded me from the team when I heard this, even though I am the only other American working in Japan.

Asian-Americans get a lot of comments thrown at us, like “Go back to your country!” Luckily, I haven’t experienced this myself, being from a place that’s used to diversity and seeing Asians in many areas of society, or maybe I had my blinders on and chose to be deaf to it. Perhaps, my body felt it all along and it brought me to Japan.

I came here out of my own agency, which is a privilege, and I will probably even go back to America, if only to make sure my parents and my sister are supported. It would be nice to be welcomed back, rather than to feel like “Don’t come back.”

Different worlds

Being raised and having worked in Silicon Valley, I should feel very at home living in Japan and working in the same industry that I used to. But after working at my current company for the past year, there’s just a lot of catching up from the rest of the world, or rather Japan, that needs to be done. And I think a lot of foreign people who work in Japan feel this way, from the social to the technical.

Before Trump became president, knowing that I could come home to a country that accepts me for who I am made me less critical of Japan than I would normally be. I didn’t come to Japan to change it, but rather to help whoever I was able grasp what the rest of the world was doing, so that Japan wouldn’t be left behind. In return, I could enjoy its amazing hospitality, hot springs, and nature.

But getting to know people here, especially the ones that have a desire to live true to themselves, has also made me realize that the excuses this country makes to keep people orderly is superficial conformist bullshit. It’s the same bullshit I saw in the Vietnamese community that I grew up and never really got along with in San Jose.

What it does though, is allow roles for people to be of service to their community.