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[YRP Students' Essays] Looking for Myself, Sho

The essay is written based on the novel, "Looking for Alibrandi" written by an Australian woman Melina Marchetta, about a girl in her last year of high school who is trying to find her identity.
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I left Japan and went to the U.S. when I was two years old. My first memories are about America. I actually thought that I was an American until I was about four years old. That was when I found out that I was Japanese. It sort of surprised me since I couldn't speak Japanese and knew nothing about Japan. Finding out that I was Japanese didn't really matter to me. It wasn't as if I had transformed into something else. It was just a new fact about my own self. Ironically, it was AFTER I came back to Japan that I started to care about my nationality. It was when I was nine years old.

I came back to Japan and was tossed into an International School. It would have been impossible for me to go to a normal public school since I couldn't speak an ounce of Japanese. But after a while (during my time at the international school, I improved my Japanese), my parents felt that I should try to go to a normal public school. This was the greatest mistake of my life, but also one of my most valuable experiences.

I had already been to the public school near my neighborhood. I had gone there for a few weeks during summer break. Now I was going to go there for as long as I could. The first day was OK. I said "Hi" to some of the people that I knew, and said "Hi" to some new people too. Then, I realized that some people started to call me "gaikokujin". I was thinking "What the heck is that supposed to mean?" since I didn't know what the word meant. I went home and looked it up in the dictionary. It meant "foreigner". I was sort of shocked. Why were Japanese people calling me, a fellow Japanese citizen, a foreigner? It was because I lacked the ability to speak "normal" Japanese, and spoke English much better. But the truth was, I always thought of Japanese as my second language, so I couldn't deny that my Japanese was a bit strange. But because I was not able to speak very good Japanese, it lead me to being picked on at school. Eventually, my front teeth were broken by a fellow classmate, who kicked a chair at me while I was crouching down. I left the school, and I left it with the image that Japanese were dirty, filthy, and untrustworthy (except for a few).

I got tossed into another international school. This was (and still is) the best school I had ever been to. Here I met a lot of people just like me, people who were Japanese but didn't fit into the Japanese society. I improved my Japanese during my stay at the international school. I also improved my English and made sure that my English ability didn't fall. But I still hated being Japanese. Honestly, I really REALLY felt ashamed of being one and I always tried to convince myself that I wasn't Japanese. But I started to feel that maybe it wasn't Japanese people that I hated, but just most of the people that went to the public school near my house. I started to study Japanese culture and history. I tried to find out more about my home country. I still don't know whether I like being Japanese, but I don't feel ashamed of being one. Since discovering a lot about Japanese people (through experiences I've had), I've felt better about Japan and have started to feel proud of being a Japanese citizen. I'm not sure whether or not I'll ever get over my experience at the public school, but I won't ever feel ashamed of myself just because I'm Japanese.

Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Sho Sasaki, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.
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