I Speak In Perfect Japanese

I’ve been excited to share this tribute from Bella and Emma as I love hearing about kids who are inspired by musicians. Thank you for a little insight into your culture, Bella... and to Kryz for helping spark that interest in one darling, spunky young fan. -  Foreword by Janelle Morrow

If you showed pictures of me and Kryz to a hundred random people and asked them, “Which person speaks Japanese?”, everyone would point to me. Why? Because I’m Japanese. Those hundred people would all be wrong, though, because I speak very little Japanese - I can count, order food and know a few random words and phrases.

Courtesy: Bella Wolf

Someone posted an article about Kryz saying he spoke fluent Japanese. My daughter asked me, “Why don’t you speak it?” I had a hard time answering her because the answer is, well, “It’s complicated.” Part of the answer is bound up in the immigrant experience, especially from the standpoint of P.O.C. where, because we’re never going to blend in, past generations have felt the need to be masters of assimilation in all other ways possible. Some of it is the specific to the history of Japanese people- WWII, Japanese internment, etc. And some of it is personal- our family immigrated at least a generation before the first big wave of Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. Finally, my grandmother and I were the last people who spoke it fluently and once she passed away, Japanese was something that gradually slipped away.

By the time my daughter was born, the exposure she got to Japanese culture is largely through food - when I make tonkatsu or oyako donburi, for example. Or through the holidays we celebrate like Boys’ Day, which, I found out are meaningless to my kids. In my defense, the kids have been largely indifferent to that part of their identity and think of themselves more as displaced Hawaiians. So, beyond manga and Hello Kitty, Japanese culture is not anything they’ve ever asked about. (The only thing they’ve asked me recently was to please, please stop making konbu maki at New Year’s. If you haven’t had it, it’s pork and gobo- burdock- wrapped in seaweed. You roll it up and tie it together with kanpyo, which is an edible strip of gourd, and then cook it in a soy-based sauce.)

Courtesy: Kryz Twitter

And then, about a year ago, Emma became a fan of Third Eye Blind. One of the things we did was follow the band and all its members on social media. Kryz quickly became one of her favorites in the band. (She loves them all, but for those of you that know Emma, you know why she loves Kryz so much, right? He has great hair, what Emma calls, “Rock star hair”.) Through Kryz’s Twitter and IG, Emma learned that Kryz loves Japan and its culture, and so she started asking me questions.

Courtesy of Kryz Twitter

“What is J-Pop? Who is Scandal? Where’s Tokyo? Are we from there? No, where are we from?” (My family is Hiroshima ken and Kumamoto ken.) And that led to looking stuff up about those places and learning a little about Japanese history and culture.

Courtesy: Emma Wolff

So, arigato gozaimasu, Kryz, for motivating my little, Japanese girl to learn about her culture. (And P.S. Do you eat natto?)