Blogging about Japan, food, parenthood, music and life!
One of the things I hope to achieve by blogging is gaining some kind of clarity about my identity.
It's difficult being Japanese ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I'd like a little rest from it. Or maybe it's being too English that bothers me...
I'd hoped that I'd feel more 'at home' when I visited Japan as a teenager, but actually I just felt utterly alien - like a dodo amongst a flock of pigeons. It didn't help that I couldn't read or write fluently; that I was a corpulent UK size 12, and couldn't fit in any clothes except in the 'baa-chan' (old lady) section; and that I didn't much like green tea or Japanese food (unless it was deep-fried).
When I had children of my own, I vowed to ensure that they would never experience that desperate sense of displacement, or have to develop a bizarre split personality to cope with the nausea-inducing contrasts between East and West.
When my son was 5 I enrolled him in a Japanese school over an hour away from our home.
I'm not going to go into the experience in detail (mainly because I actually JUST DID. Yes! I wrote a lengthy, anguished essay about my torturous Year at the Japanese School of Doom... tried to change a full stop into an exclamation mark, and somehow lost the whole damn thing! Rookie mistake - writing directly onto the blog page instead of word processing first. Did I mention I hate technology? I know lots of swear words though, and now my new laptop does too) - suffice to say, the struggle to help my children without tearing myself in two was traumatic, isolating and depressing.
In 2011, we moved house. We continued going to the Japanese school even though it was now even further away - and we were both out of our depth, drowning in Japanese protocol; horrendous, fussy little forms; homework I couldn't help my son with; but mainly an unsettling lack of conviction that I was doing the right thing. I was forcing myself to face my worst fears - my helplessness when confronted by Japanese people, mainly - for the sake of my son's education, but even now, I have no idea how beneficial this was. I think we, as parents, make mistakes when we can't separate the needs of our children from our own needs and baggage. (Over the course of time, you will discover that I carry a staggering amount of baggage! Some of it's not even mine!)
To cut a long story slightly less long, we BOTH had to be interviewed to see if my son was capable of moving up to the first proper class, aaaand we failed. I can't deny I was a little relieved.
Not long afterwards, I found a Japanese club that met once a fortnight - a wonderful little group that helped the children learn about the language and culture, celebrated special events on the Japanese calendar, and gave parents the opportunity to support each other and discuss mixed-race marriages and culture shock.
From the very first day, the other mothers were welcoming and completely accepting of us and our situation. They didn't think me odd because I couldn't read or write properly. In fact, they were full of praise that I could even speak Japanese at all, given that I grew up here and have never lived in Japan. To my great surprise, these mums were hilarious, wild, warm, unfailingly accommodating, and interested in discussing EVERYTHING.
My kind of people.
We've been going every fortnight for 4 years now. We had a meeting today, in fact. It was a lovely session, comprising a Japanese class (both children are learning kanji now. If you don't know what kanji is, imagine that someone invented a language where INSTEAD OF USING LETTERS, he created a different symbol for every frickin word in his vocabulary. And he had a big vocabulary. And some of the symbols look soooo similar... and yet the meanings are tooootally different), had delicious snacks lovingly prepared by the mums (in fact, one boy had a birthday today, and his mum made an enormous Malteser cake, AND a Japanese style strawberry shortcake, covered in snow white whipped cream and decorated with kiwi slices and glossy strawberry halves. Why on earth didn't I take photos?), we played New Year games, read a story, and sang the 'goodbye' song.
Happy New Year everyone! I know we are already deep into January, but it never feels like New Year until we've been to Japanese club and played Fukuwarai. This is a pretty amusing version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey - more like 'Pin the Features on the Face'.
I'll put a link below to a YouTube video of some children playing this game so you can have a go yourselves if you so wish.