My very first memories take place in Japan, but not all are specifically Japanese.
The tart salty taste of something pickled in the middle of my favorite sushi roll. Neither knowing what it was nor when I would have it again. Rubbing our hands hard and quickly over our parents’ nubby bedspread and feeling the soft 3D warmth that it generated when you put your hands together. The old man calling out what sounded like, “Yakimo,” selling roasted yams outside our window during a forced Sunday nap. Being lost in a crowd while my blond-haired sister aroused interest.
That feeling I had when translating from Japanese to English and back, that even the simplest phrases like, “I have a sister” did not carry the same meaning in either language.
I knew Japanese because our parents sent my sister and me to yochien–Japanese pre-school. When we got to school, we bowed to our principal sensei, a granny. An honor that I have yet to feel generated in the same way by a teacher in America. If we ever dared to cry at yochien, our tears were collected in a giant vase. On field day we ate shrimp puffs like American kids eat Doritos.
Pocky sticks. Strawberry milk. Tofu. The savory glazed sinbei. Sheets of crinkly seaweed. The salty breakfast seaweed, my favorite.
I loved Hello Kitty, Kerokerokeroppi, and Monchichi before they were popular anywhere else.
When it was time to go to kindergarten, my dad and I went to school together on his motorcycle. He taught at the American School in Japan and I was headed to Mr. Kaufman’s kindergarten. This is where we took field trips every Friday. As an elementary teacher now, I am amazed by how he never left one of us behind. We negotiated our way around the Tokyo subway system to see sumo wrestlers. Really when you’ve set the bar that high, adventures seem ordinary–in the best possible way.
That summer following kindergarten we left for Virginia. But not without trekking across Russia by boat, trans-Siberian railroad and a plane that made a layover in Helsinki.
But as a Korean adopted child whose first memories are of her Caucasian parents being foreigners in a land full of Asians, I did not know then and only intellectually understand now the enmity between the Koreans and Japanese. My first memories of being a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan were as a bi-lingual, third culture kid. I lived in Japan longer than I had in Korea.
I returned to Japan as an English teacher for a summer hoping that my Japanese would be restored from its lock box. Sadly, the best the kind people could offer was that I didn’t seem to have an accent. Shadows of my past return when I take trains into New York City or Chicago. Or when I cover my mouth as I laugh. I might still bow in respect if it were socially acceptable.
I want to thank Lindsay for her post: Blog 4 Japan Memories from my childhood in Japan
Todd’s Wanderings originated Blog 4 Japan and posted some ways you can help. Read the original here:
This page is dedicated to helping the survivors of the Friday 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan by channeling international donations to local efforts.
The earthquake and tsunami have caused extensive and severe damage in Northeastern Japan, over 9,500 people have been confirmed dead and another 16,000 are missing, and millions more affected by lack of electricity, water and transportation.
The images of the destruction and suffering have shocked the world. However, with the World Bank reporting over 300 billion USD in damages and families torn apart there is a need for everyone to help both financially and emotionally.
A few weeks ago I posted about my Experience During the Japan Earthquake and made a plea to my readers to spread the word about helping Japan recover. My wife is from Tokyo and we are both professional aid and recovery workers with the United Nations. We have seen the recovery phase of the 2004 Tsunami up close and we know there is a tremendous need to not only raise donations but to make sure those funds are used responsibly and are in the hands of organizations with not only technical expertise but also local knowledge.
How You Can Help
A lot of people around the world want to help and have been donating to various international organizations (mainly the American Red Cross). I think this is great and with the money being transferred to the Japanese Red Cross this money will be used well. However, we also believe there is a need to donate funds directly to local Japanese organizations and NGOs that don’t have access to this type of fund raising. There are also many scams out there trying to benefit from this horrible disaster. We know that language barriers and lack of knowledge can also prevent people from donating to the right place. As such we have put together a list of Japanese Organizations that we know, trust and recommend to channel your donations to.
If you are unable to donate we ask that you Share this Page with your friends, family and coworkers through e-mail, facebook, twitter or any other outlet you can think of. The more people who see this page the greater the donations will be.
If you are blogger, or have your own website. Please see the Blog4Japan page to learn how you can utilize this appeal on your own site and help us reach even more people.
Japanese Organizations We Trust
Please consider donating to one or more of these organizations. All are local Japanese organizations and we have found the English Pages for you. Even a small amount like $10 is useful, but we hope you donate more!
Peace Winds Japan is one of the largest Japanese organizations providing humanitarian relief such as food, clothing, fuel and medical supplies to the affected areas. You canDonate Here.
JEN is a well known NGO dedicated to restoring a self-supporting livelihood both economically and mentally to those who have been stricken with hardship due to conflicts and disasters. They are currently supporting emergency relief items such as food, woman’s hygienic items, clothes and other essentials to the survivors of the Japan Tsunami. You canDonate Here.
Save the Children has been working in Japan for over 25 years. Their American partner is now collecting donations for them in English (which eliminates any credit card exchange charges. They have set up multiple child-friendly spaces in evacuation centers in Sendai City where displaced families are staying. They are also starting their long-term recovery plans to restore education and child care in communities ravaged by the disasters. You can get information on activities and Donate Here.
Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is donating food and essential items to the survivors of the tsunami. They also keep a well maintained English blog of their activities in Japan for the tsunami which you can Follow Here. You can Donate Here.
The Japan Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning is taking donations for their response to the tsunami that will focus on the reproductive health needs of women and mothers in affected areas. You can Donate Here.
The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA Japan) team is delivering essential medical services through mobile clinics and delivering relief goods to the nursing homes and schools (evacuation shelters) in Aoba and Miyagino Wards. You can Donate Here.
OXFAM Japan is working with two partners in Japan on providing support to those on the margins of society who might otherwise have difficulty accessing emergency relief. One group is assisting mothers and babies and the other is providing information to non-Japanese speakers living in Japan. You can Donate Here.
Habitat For Humanity Japan is still assessing the situation but will be involved in the reconstruction of housing once the emergency period ends. This is one of the most vital aspects of recovery and the homeless will need a lot of help to put their lives back together. You can Donate Here.
The Institute for Cultural Affairs Japan (ICA) is still assessing the situation but is accepting donations. You can Donate Here.
All of these are worthy organizations to support and you can match your own personal interests to the organization that you think will work the best on what you want to support. Even if you are unable to donate please pass this on through social media, word of mouth or even in print. I have waived all rights to this post so please feel free to copy and reproduce any part of it for the good of the Japanese people.
If you do want to reproduce this please see the Blog4Japan page where you can find out more details.