Hapa revisited


I don’t usually embrace being proved wrong. But in this case, I’m encouraged by it. In a previous blog, I wrote about my Hapa experience while visiting the Japanese American National Museum. I left there feeling both seen and unseen. Since then, a colleague of mine has given me an issue of the Pacific Citizen that had an article about that exhibit. In the article was a picture of one of the participants of the project that was Hapa like me. I was thankful to see that I had been wrong and was really represented. At nearly the same time, my sister shared some information with me about a group called, Asians4BlackLives. I don’t know if this group still exists but reading what they believed and how they were intending to support the movement was hopeful.

Somehow I’m being divinely directed to have active conversations with my Asian-self to live more authentically in wholeness. I thought I had been living that way but realized that it was always just a conversation and not necessarily a true lived experience. Part of this new journey took me to a Sunday of preaching in a Japanese/Japanese-American church. It was my first experience of this kind. So it was a wonderfully anxious time. The biggest reveal for me was in the remembering my time in Japan as I wrote/prepared the sermon. Here’s an excerpt:

It was like visiting another world…Everywhere we went people stopped in their tracks to stare at my sister and me. I got it. We were different-looking. And when they realized we were American they wanted to know about Mickey Mouse and soul music (Bootsy Collins – a funk music icon - was popular then LOL).

My Japanese family never made me feel unwelcome. But there were days that I would wonder what their experience was really like especially when we were out being tourists and clearly became the subject of whispering, gawking and finger-pointing. I wondered what my family really thought of us or how it felt for them that people in their neighborhood knew we were related. …

One day after a quick trip to the store, we arrived back at Ba-chan’s house. She was in the kitchen near the back door. I almost didn’t see her because she was squatting down next to what looked like a hibachi. I asked my mom what Bachan was doing. Mom said, “She asked me yesterday what food you liked back home. I told her French fries. So she asked me how to cook them. So your Bachan is making you French fries.” …

Decades later, after having a daughter of my own, I sent her to Japan with my parents. She met my uncle Sadao who still lived in the family home and owned cherry orchards. He took her to the very orchard he took us to. (I could still remember that fun day of cherry picking.) And he told her to “come look at your mother’s tree.” I didn’t know that when I left Japan all those years ago, my uncle Sadao planted two cherry trees – one for me and one for my sister to signify our belonging to the family and to the land.

And then I cried. I cried because it never came into my consciousness that way – that my uncle had created a memorial that embedded us into the history and depth of the culture. And the journey continues.


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