My confusing identity in two different countries

childI wrote about my childhood and what it was like growing up Hafu. I am not your typical Eurasian Hafu but my mother is from Bangkok, Thailand. Since she is a Chinese descendant, her skin tone is lighter than local people who live in the countryside of Thailand. This explains why none of us (children) really has darker skin tone which is seen in half South East Asian and half Japanese children.

I don’t know how to say this correctly without hurting anybody’s feelings but I am glad that I was born that way. I feel like my childhood could have been worse if my skin was darker on top of having a Thai mother.

Japanese society values light skin complexion which is pretty stupid but I think almost all Asian countries value light skin tone. After living in California for over a decade, the first thing my hometown neighbors and old friends usually say to me is…

“You’ve gained weight” (well, I drive everywhere)

“You used to have a really white skin when you were a child.” (well, I live in Southern California!)

I used to apply UV protection cream religiously in Japan because I wanted to maintain the only good essence of me-the light skin tone..sadly that’s I felt people in Japan were viewing me.

..And it was not only in Japan because I attracted even more attention whenever I visited my relatives in Bangkok, Thailand. I was treated very differently there in a good way.

In Japan, I was viewed as an inferior byproduct but it was completely different in Thailand. I very much enjoyed the attention that I received from local people. They thought I was really cute. People often complimented my skin..some people even asked me to take pictures with now I am a celebrity?, I asked myself.

I stayed with my grandparents and relatives for a couple of months so it was very difficult for me to return to Japan. Facing the real reality was very difficult. It was extremely difficult especially in junior high. I attended the worst public junior high in Prefecture and we were kind of well known in that little town school. We were the only mixed kids in school.

So I definitely wanted to move somewhere completely different. All I could think about was to move to America. I didn’t know where in America but I chose Los Angeles to start because I wanted to go to a particular University. And I again faced a different brand new reality here in California so this time, I really had to know who I was, re-established my skewed identity.

I was one thing in Japan and was someone else in Thailand. At least, that’s how people in both countries treated me. I was this poor girl in Japan..and I was very cool in Thailand. Also, men treated me very differently in Thailand..I remember servers worked in a restaurant were following me, whispering “pretty” in Thai. Well, Japanese guys would never do that..but I had two very different identities in two countries..

In America, I am just me. Again, I blend in really well in Southern California..there are too many Asians here. I don’t really say much about myself..just say I am Japanese to make things simple. (unless people want to know more) But when I went to the East Coast, people were treating me like a foreigner. They do have Asian population there but I didn’t blend in quite well. Then again I realized that people are going to assume and think whatever they want about me no matter where I go. The most important thing is for me to know who I embrace my two beautiful cultures and heritage. I am not inferior, nor color doesn’t matter..what matters most is how I see myself and I now know that I can only be myself.

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