British | Japanese
I identify as British/Japanese, living in New York. My mum is from Japan, and my dad is English. My mother this year became a US Citizen. My parents met in Sheffield, my dad was learning Japanese; my mum was a student-teacher there. I’ve lived in London, Seoul, Tokyo, but grew up mostly in New York until I came to the UK for university.
I have known I was of mixed ethnicity from a fairly early age. As a child I didn’t look very Japanese, so a lot of people thought my mother was my nanny. It was pretty challenging in England. But when I moved to New York at the age of nine it became easier, especially because I went to an international school.
A lot of my friends are really international, a mixture of people who have lived different places. Race/sexual orientation/religion don’t really play a part. When looking for a partner I want someone who makes me laugh. I’ve never felt the pressure to date a particular race/culture, and it wouldn’t play a role in my decision, but the sense of humour thing is non-negotiable.
I do think there are still bias attitudes towards mixed-race people, especially in a digital age where people are perfectly happy to say things to you online that they never would to your face. The thing about being mixed-race, but not necessarily looking like it means that I've had the rather unpleasant experience of hearing the problematic and ignorant opinions of people who feel emboldened enough to air these in an environment where they feel like ‘no one is listening’.
Recently I was two hours into a five-hour journey and I’ve had the pleasure of listening to two people who have very warped and racist opinions on Japanese people. I was upset, deeply offended, but also filled with shame, frustration, and anger. I really want to say something. But I was also outnumbered, physically overpowered, and really fucking tired. I didn’t want to be the one that has to move. I don’t think it’s right that the emotional burden should be on the person or people who are being targeted because these microaggressions are so constant and draining. But that was one tiny anecdote out of so many, and I am so, so lucky to have the experience and perspectives I’ve had, that I was able to share in my book, Japonisme.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to come back as a half-Japanese, half-British New Yorker. In the future I would want I want there to be more of us! To celebrate our similarities and our differences.