After dinner at a great sushi restaurant, my family walked to a nearby electrical-appliance store to buy some printer ink and look at some stuff. Mom, sister and I happened to be looking at a certain item when another lady was nearby. As I walked away, the lady asked my mother if we were really Japanese. Mom explained to her how my sister and I`ve been living in the US for a while, though we are Japanese natives.
It`s a funny thing to be asked whether you are really Japanese while you`re in Japan. According to my mother, she gets similar questions from other people. Apparently, we don`t seem like we`re really from Japan, that something about us is just different.
What is it about me that seems, well, foreign? Is it the way I walk or talk, or the way I dress? Could it be the way I look in general? It really makes me wonder just what part of me has really changed for someone to think that I can`t really be a full Japanese person. After having lived in the United States for almost twenty years, I do feel some distance from the Japanese culture, but I don`t think I quite realized that other people think I can`t be a `real` Japanese person.
This reminds me of something that happened to me this year. During my initial course of ECT, I lost my ability to speak Japanese (though I could still comprehend the language). `Isn`t that your first language?,` people would ask me, and it also puzzled my ECT psychiatrist at the time. What does it mean when the language you lose is your mother-tongue? Does it mean that I am now more acculturated to the United States than Japan, that I`m literally losing my `Japanese-ness?` (By the way, my Japanese-speaking ability did come back later, thank goodness.)
This is a bit of a paradox that I`m in. I will always be a foreigner in America though I may come to be accepted in some way. But now, my homeland does not quite accept me as one of their own. This makes me question where I should call my `home.` Do I even have one?