How I Identify

Growing up in an almost all-white neighbourhood, in my mind I viewed myself as being white since we spoke only English, ate western food, and my closest friends were white. When I started at UBC, I was taken aback at the sheer number of Asian-looking students! There was even a UBC-Japan Exchange Club which allowed me to meet a few other JCs and to experience a six-week-long summer exchange trip to Japan. Visiting Japan for the first time was an epiphany that changed my self-perception. Up until that trip, I had regarded myself as a quintessential banana – yellow skin but white on the inside. With that first trip, the seed was planted! I wanted to study Japanese and learn more about the people and culture that my grandparents had left behind so many years ago. After two separate stints totalling three years living in the Kansai area, I felt just a little less “white” in my perspective. While living there, I often looked around and thought to myself, “This is what my life might be like if my grandparents hadn’t had the courage to leave Japan.” When I was teaching high school English in Japan, I found that some of my students would ask me which of my parents was Caucasian because they equated Canadians with Caucasians. I suspected that some of them may have felt that my English might not be quite as good as that which was spoken by Caucasian teachers. Having a B.Ed. with a concentration in Teaching English as a Second Language under my belt was secondary to my Asian appearance and Japanese surname in their estimation of my English language teaching ability. When asked about my ethnicity, I say that I’m third generation Japanese Canadian. Most people mistake me for being Chinese.


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