“I’m Japanese but my mom got remarried to an Australian, so my last name changed to Smith. I also have a younger brother who’s half Japanese, half Australian. We all moved to Australia, where I spent the next 4-5 years. That was an important part of my life. It shaped me to who I am today. Living abroad, I met a lot of people from different backgrounds. Everyone learns how to get along with each other and build a community, which really stuck with me. I never thought that I was that different in Australia because everyone’s different. But when I moved back to Japan, people were much more aware of the fact that I look Japanese but my name is Smith, and that I didn’t speak Japanese. Suddenly, I was being asked who I am and why I am the way I am. Since I didn’t have answers in the beginning (and I didn’t want people to question whether or not I was Australian because of my blood), I started telling everyone I was half Japanese half Aussie, which I wasn’t. It was hurting me because I knew it wasn’t true. And I wanted to be me but I also felt like if I had admitted it then people would see me differently. So I kept that up for a long time until university.
“Then I went to Toronto to study for a year and I was back in an environment where people were from everywhere and everyone’s interested where you’re from or your views on things but didn’t necessarily define who you were. I felt free to be whoever I wanted to be. So when I came back to Japan I kept that mentality and started telling everyone the truth—that I wasn’t born a Smith, but I’ve grown into one. Now if someone doesn’t understand then that’s fine. Not everyone goes through the same thing. Now I’m very comfortable with my background. And I’m really thankful that my parents met (actually they met through me because my dad was also my English teacher when I was a kid) and moved me to Australia then moved me back to Japan because I feel like I got exposed to different cultures.”