Japan Journal

A collection of Norm Ibuki's writings from 1995 to 2004 about his experiences while living in Sendai, Japan. Originally published in the Nikkei Voice (Toronto) newspaper.

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Talking With A “Returnee” - Part 2 of 2

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(Continuation of Mrs. Kamata’s story

I guess I longed for Canada…

Naturally, as I did in Canada, I wore my Japonica (rusty orange) coloured veiled hat, a fur coat, and high heels when I went outside. People would look back and stare as though I were doing something wrong! In those times the women wore hyojyun fuku as standard clothing, somewhat like the upper half of a kimono with tight sleeves and baggy pants (monpe), tight at the ankles and tied at the waist with a belt.

We didn’t go into Sendai often. We had ...

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Talking With A “Returnee” - Part 1 of 2

One of the most interesting and obscure chapters of Canadian Nikkei history is the one of the “returnees” to Japan, prior to, during and, mostly, after World War Two.

I have no idea of actual numbers of these so-called returnees. Regretfully, I haven’t had the chance to hear many of their stories. From those that I have heard, Nikkei with well-positioned families here had a much easier time of fitting in than those who had to start from scratch with no strong family connections. They weren’t always welcomed with open arms.

Having lived in Japan for a few ...

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Banana, Banana, Banana

Are you a “banana”? Do you want to be one? What is a banana, anyway?

When I read Wayson Choy’s article in the Globe & Mail (July 18, 1997), entitled, “I’m a banana and proud of it,” I was once again exasperated by what seems to be a campaign by the G&M to indoctrinate Asian Canadians into a prescribed way to be “Canadian”—accept your colour difference (you can’t do anything about that), but, at heart, be Anglo-Canadian, white, at least, as if Asian Canadian, isn’t good enough.

I grew up in predominately white communities. But ...

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Learning Japanese

Aikido, reading, and learning Japanese are the main ways I try to understand the complicated cartography of being Nikkei. I’m now enrolled in the beginner Japanese class at the Miyagi International Association here in Sendai. We all seem to be “false” beginners since most of us can read hiragana, katakana, and even kanji. As is usual in Japanese classes here, there are a lot of Russians, Koreans, Chinese, a Mongolian, and a Thai woman, most of whom are married to visiting researchers and scientists and Japanese men. There’s also a handful of us English teachers. In our class ...

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Kannagara no michi: "Musings from Mister Donut"

So far. The Mister Donut where I’m sitting has been a good metaphor for my experience in Sendai. It was the music, the Golden Oldies that were so important to me when I was growing up in the ‘70s, that lured me into here, like a siren call.

Kohi, kudasai” (coffee, please)…it has taken me a while to get used to looking at faces like my own. I like it! We are a good-looking people. I am still dealing with the ability to lose myself in a crowd. How I relate to my experience has been fundamentally unsettled ...

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