A friend recently asked me:
What was the best advice you ever heard, but didn’t take?
It was to never forget who you are.
A few weeks ago, my Japanese granddad died.
It affected me worse than I thought it would.
But not just because I’d lost my granddad.
It was something else.
Let me ask you something:
Where is your Home?
Is it where your family and friends are?
Is it a country, a city, a culture, a people, a history?
Is it in your blood?
Or are you naturally nomadic, with the road as your home?
It is the feeling of Home. It calls to you when you aren’t there. It’s the place you dream of when you aren’t there. It’s the place that brings you a deep sense of inner peace, balance and joy.
Your Home can, and probably will, change as you grow and as you discover the things that matter the most to you.
You see, the thing about my granddad’s death that upset me the most was that
I had almost forgotten that I am also Japanese.
My mum is Japanese, my dad is English. I grew up in England with infrequent but long trips to Japan growing up.
I have a confession to make:
England is not my Home.
England is the place where I live, because it’s convenient, since I know the language and grew up with this culture, but I never truly belonged here either. I was mostly skirting around the fringes and being the outsider looking in. I don’t feel any particular attachment to England, except that it’s “that place I have to go back to when any holiday ends”.
But surprisingly, Japan isn’t my Home either.
It rarely calls to me, the traditions, culture and thinking.
Yet I’m still a little bit Japanese too, and when it calls for me, I miss the food, the smells, and the music the most.
Nothing particularly fancy, I mean, sushi has kinda lost its special-ness since there are so-called sushi bars and takeaway places on practically every corner of London. I’m talking about the stuff I grew up with – packets of cheap but tasty ramen, which mum would boil up with some choice vegetables and slices of ham; sticky white rice; proper miso soup mum used to make, not the disgusting crap that’s peddled to Westerners in pretentious and precocious cafes run by non-Japanese, neither of whom know any better; various vegetable dishes; maybe some kind of fish; and delicately sweet mochi when they were available.
And the smell of old, precious, woollen and silken garments, and burnt lavender incense that permeates my grandparents’ house; and the stifling summer and humidity that smashes into you like you walked into a wall of wet fire when you step off the plane at Narita airport.
And the sounds of those incessant bugs and insects that drone through it all.
I even occasionally miss the way that about 2/3 Japanese pop songs have almost the same chord progressions in them, and how a lot of them are in a lot of daytime dramas and science shows, both of which are incredibly popular over there.
And until I heard about granddad’s death, I had neglected and misplaced these things in me.
I misplaced it all because Japan isn’t Home any more than England isn’t Home. I don’t truly belong in either country.
I’m pretty sure that if I left England to live in another country, I would miss things, like good English tea, English butter muffins, and Heinz Baked Beans, and the lovely little country gardens that just don’t seem to be replicated anywhere else…not to mention the big things I take for granted when I really shouldn’t, like the NHS, the relative freedom, tolerant liberalism and the moderate freedom of debate.
In some ways though, not belonging in either of my blood countries makes me feel a little homeless – that I don’t feel a particular calling to be in England or Japan. I haven’t quite found where my Home is.
I do feel closer to Home in continental Europe and Austria than anywhere else. It’s still something I’m searching for. I know that, one day, I will find my Home.
One song that identifies this dilemma perfectly is by the lovely Angela Aki called, “Home”.
She’s also half Japanese and struggled to find her Home, not really belonging in America, struggling to fit into Japan when she was younger. Eventually, as she grew older, she realised that she was more Japanese, and so she moved back to Japan, became a famous singer-songwriter, married a Japanese man and now has a little boy.
Knowing that there are others who have found their Homes gives me hope.
But I also know that, even if I did find my Home, if I don’t make sure to honour who I am regularly, it is equally bad too. I must make sure once a month to spend one day reacquainting myself with my Japanese self too. This tends to involve eating the kinds of Japanese foods I grew up with, reading my olds favourites in my manga collection, and listening to some of my favourite Japanese artists once in a while.
So I’ll ask you once more:
Where is your Home? Where calls out your name?
And when was the last time you honoured yourself?
Is there any way that you can spend a little time this week to do that? And what will you do for yourself or your family to honour that?
I hope that you will find the time to think and do these things for yourself, because the advice is right:
Never forget who you are – you’ll find peace with yourself when you can acknowledge and honour who you are at your own intervals.