Hello! My name is Erika Clark and I am half Japanese, half American (Caucasian). I was born and raised in Japan until I was 15.
Growing up, I hated being Hapa. Living in the suburbs of a seemingly homogeneous society, I struggled with not being accepted in school and constantly standing out.
I am one of five siblings (all boys save for me) and it’s safe to say that I did not have the most pleasant childhood. I barely attended school for fear of being teased/bullied and I was extremely self-conscious to the point of feeling unworthy of talking to anyone.
But over the years, I’ve found comfort in sharing my thoughts with other Hapas and have often joked about creating a country of Hapas where we are free of rude judgements. When I was 15, I decided to “escape” Japan and attend high school in California. I thought that people in the US would be more accepting of me, but I was surprised to discover that just as I was “the American” in Japan, here I’m “the Japanese girl.”
Growing up with two cultures gives you easy access to both communities, but it also seems to leave gaps. I am now entering my seventh year in California, but I’m still trying to get used to the “American ways” and deal with people who ask, “What ARE you?”
I am currently attending college in Southern California. I’m a lot more confident and extremely social now. Growing up Hapa, there were some dark times, but I’ve been able to connect with so many great people because of my language abilities, and there’s nothing in this world I would trade for that.
I love both Japanese and American culture: green tea and hamburgers, tight hugs and silent waves, J-pop and US jams. My struggle to fit in, to feel fully confident, and to find where I belong still continues, but I’m definitely glad that I was raised in two cultures. I hope all Hapas are able to feel the same.