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Issue 13 "Belonging" Digital Edition Release: Opening Essay by MAX

(The full digital edition is linked below)

“We all change when you think about it. We’re all different all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good. You’ve got to keep moving. As long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” This is a quote from Doctor Who, in the Eleventh Doctor’s last episode. I believe that this is a brilliant quote to remind yourself why and how you are in the place that you are right now, and what brought you here. Or, you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”.

As a person who was born to live with two different nationalities, I was asked by many people: what my identity is, if I ever have an identity crisis, and how I get along with such crises if I do have to face them. To be honest, I never thought about it deeply, or at all for that matter. I was born and raised in Japan, so although I may have some Westernized tastes, I’ve always considered myself Japanese. This question about identity was mostly asked by my half-Japanese or other foreign peers, where the biggest difference lies in the fact that I’m ethnically Japanese, but existing in a similar environment. So, I took my time and saw this as a reminder to myself of how I think about my own identity, and perhaps help those who are having identity issues of their own.

I won’t get into specific personal details for this essay. Although I was born and raised in the environment of two different countries, I am not strictly half-Japanese, based on technical definitions. But, I would say I am someone living between Japanese and Western… But, ethnically or racially, I am Japanese.

When I was a kid, due to my grandfather’s health condition, I needed to get in the car for an 8 hour trip, without doing anything… which is probably how I learned the meaning of patience. While we were in the car, my parents used to play several CDs, and one of them was “The Music of Millennium”. It was an omnibus album of pop artists from the 1950s to 1990s, including Queen, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, and The Rolling Stones. That signifi cantly served as my fi rst and Edited by Suyeon Bae major musical infl uence. So, while I do listen to modern music, it’s not as often. Also, my mother was a big fan of movies and TV shows, so she used to play Back to the Future, Star Wars, and the Star Trek series. Back then, Star Wars or Star Trek wasn’t popular for kids in Japan. So whenever I said “May the Force be with you” or “Live long and prosper”, most of my classmates didn’t get it.

I did watch Doraemon, or Dragonball like the other kids did, so I would say the pop culture influences that I grew up with were mixed. I believe this kind of childhood experience contributed to the formation of a quite unique personality, I would say.

To be honest, I could feel that some people were confused and couldn’t understand my background, which I suppose was because they were trying to categorize people as being Japanese or not. The reason for the confusion could be my personality, or the fact that I was able to understand and communicate in English as a second language, thanks to the cram school I went to for over a decade.

But it didn’t bother me, because it was simply a different way of thinking from theirs. How? My core identity in terms of my nationality is Japanese, but the culture or experiences I have had are not only Japanese but also influenced by Western culture. Speaking English as a second language could be a factor, the language itself creates its persona, so mixing it while speaking Japanese probably resulted in a few reactions – both internally and externally. This whole chemical reaction contributed to my identity, something not only at the nation level, something bigger, but unique as in the saying “the one and only”.

This is probably why I never thought about my identity, or these questions as a part of having an identity crisis. I was just me. The f i rst time I was asked “What is your identity?”, I was not sure how I should answer, but now I do. Back to quoting my favorite show: “I am MAX. The definite article, you might say.


The full digital edition of Komaba Times Issue 13: "BELONGING" is now live. Please like the publication and share with your friends!


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