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  • Writer's pictureShou Yuan

Just enough but not enough

“These are the wrong apples.”

I remember watching my grandma add slices of apples to the curry she would always make when we visited her. In the years since, I’ve tried to replicate the recipe on my own based on online research, hazy childhood memories, and improvisation. But something isn’t right, and I’m not sure if it’s a missing ingredient, a flaw in my methods, or just not being a kid anymore that keeps it from being as tasty as when she would make it.

It’s been three years since I moved to Japan to work as an assistant language teacher in the JET program. The more time I am here, the more I feel like my reasoning for doing this is different than the norm. Many people come here through JET because they like Japan, want to study the language through immersion, enjoy teaching English, get out of their home country, or travel throughout Japan or Asia. It has been great to develop my vocabulary, and I have had ample opportunities for daily conversation practice. But those aren’t the reasons why I’m here. I am here because I am trying to understand where I came from and view the culture and history of half of my family from within its place of origin.

Here in Japan, I’m Japanese enough in my behavior and language with local people to avoid causing discomfort, but not enough to avoid being treated like an outsider. I have reached my goal of understanding my origins. But I have also confirmed that there is no going back. I am not Japanese and will never be.

Unless you fit the image of being Japanese and are born in Japan, you will always be treated here with hesitation. My future will be something new and different. I am grateful that I was able to come here and understand this for myself.

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