As with the stories of others, my relationship with race has brought confusion, frustration and pride.
My white father married my now-deceased, full-Japanese mother (she died of lung cancer when I was six years old), and later remarried to my Japanese step-mom. She has little attachment to community or culture.
Growing up in the suburban Chicagoland area brought enough exposure to Asian-Americans, but my high school had mostly white students where race had yet to be discussed seriously.
I went to a great college in Iowa where, alas, I was one of two or three Japanese students. I withstood constant stares from the Asian international students who were perhaps trying to figure out my ethnic background or just what in the world I was! Moreover, there was generally innocent ignorance among many of my fellow students. I have hesitantly stomached comments like “You Asianed your hair up today!”
When I meet new people, I always forget they perceive me as looking different even though I regularly forget that myself. They usually think I’m Asian, mixed or something like that…
I’m limited in understanding my culture. I took a class on Japanese philosophy last year. I watch a few anime shows here and there (the inspiration for my hairstyle). I’ve been a somewhat serious Zen practitioner since the beginning of this calendar year.
For the coming time I take my Hapa status with amusement. I always stick out a little, and that brings both unwanted attention and funny stories. My conversation threads about being Japanese hardly go deeper or more serious than “We are an innovative people!” It’s just my way of constantly reminding me of this odd journey reclaiming cultural understanding. My near future will likely lead to exclusively white social groups and destinations, but my hope is to travel to the West coast in the next five years and meet many more people who share my puzzlement!