“Even though I’m an American-born Japanese from Hilo, Hawaii, I don’t identify myself as Hawaiian to show respect for real natives who are indigenous to Hawaii.
“There’s a big resurgence in actual, genuine Hawaiian culture and language back home.
“And although I grew up ethnically Japanese, I discovered that fitting into Japanese culture was far more difficult than I had expected. As someone who looks like a local, expectations of how I speak and my behavior are much higher than, say, a white person. This in turn heightens my awareness of my gaikokujin-ness or foreignness.
“I decided to come to Japan after finishing university in Australia to connect and learn my roots. My great great grandparents were from Japan and I wanted to experience the customs my father told me about when I was growing up. Also to see for myself if there was a difference between what we know as Japanese culture in Hawaii versus Japanese culture in Japan.”