NHK NEWSLINE from Tokyo

Anchors and Reporters' Notebook

April 28

At Home in Two Cultures 

Catherine Kobayashi
Catherine Kobayashi
photo

Two places pull at me, two cultures, two peoples. My parents were raised in Japan. My father wanted to pursue graduate studies abroad so my parents moved to Vancouver, Canada.

They found much that was familiar: mountains covered in evergreens, waterways that reached into neighborhoods, bridges that carried people into the city… and out again. They found neighbors who welcomed them into their community. They decided to stay. Soon after, I came along.

Growing up, I never fully understood my parents’ view of the world, their mannerisms, their ways of thinking. I felt Canadian. Still, their stories about Japan aroused my curiosity. So, when I was old enough, I moved to Tokyo.

I, too, found things I recognized: peaks capped by snow, rivers that snaked through neighborhoods, a city buzzing with electricity. I found people as eager to learn about me as I was to know them. And, I found other things: a pride of culture, a reserve of politesse, a pursuit of harmony.

Day after day, I studied to improve my Japanese. I read books on customs, norms, and etiquette. I watched TV, and those around me, and started to appreciate parts of the culture I once could not understand. Certain practices started coming to me naturally. I learned not everything has to be said to be understood. As months turned into years, I grew more and more comfortable.

Now, when I look at the mirror, I see someone who is Japanese Canadian, and proud of it. I look out across the water and feel the pull of what’s on the other side. And yet, I am home.