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[YRP Students' Essays] Set Japan Free

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 am Japanese-Canadian. My dad is Canadian and my mom is Japanese. I am a so-called 'mixed race' person. When I moved to Canada I was eight years old. I still didn't know a lot of things. My Dad had to work in Canada for a while, so my sister and I went to Canada. To be honest, Canada was a very open, friendly country. Maybe I was too young to know, but there was no violence in school or gangs on the street. The school that I was in was so culturally diverse that we had no problems with our cultural differences whatsoever.

I had a friend named Casey. He was cool. He had perfect, natural blond hair and clear blue eyes, which I had never seen in person, for real, in my life. The one thing that made us friends was video-games. I brought the latest games from Japan and everyone around me would get so excited. Any time I couldn't win in a game, Casey would help me out.

One day Casey came to my apartment to help me out in a game. Casey spotted the N64 in front of the TV and set it up in a split second.
     "So...where are you now?" he said as he quickly started the game.
     "Right at the first part, after the first forest," I said, going to the kitchen.
     "Wow! It's all in Japanese!" Casey exclaimed, but that didn't change a thing. He knew exactly what to do. He controlled the character in the game and started talking to another character.
     "This guy's gonna be talking for a while," he murmured to me as I came back with a bag of chips.
     The Japanese words were scrolling on the screen, but Casey just ignored them as he pressed 'confirm' on the controller. I figured that there was not going to be any action for a while, so I decided to go get more junk food.
     "Gee, this guy talks a lot," Casey muttered as I was looking in the fridge. The character had been talking for more than three minutes. I got some coke and went back to see some of the things the character was talking about.
     "It didn't take this long in the English version," Casey said.
     He was right. After the speech had finished, there was a sentence asking if the player wanted to listen to it again. Casey had been pressing 'yes' the whole time!
     "You've been listening to the same speech again and again!" I shouted.

Why do I remember this incident? Probably because it was the only kind of 'problem' I had in Canada. That's how peaceful it was. I could really feel that the world is a huge place. There were Russian kids teaching French to Chinese kids, a Malaysian girl talking with a Mexican boy, and there I was playing video games with a Canadian boy. I couldn't imagine why adults couldn't get along with each other. I had many friends with different cultural backgrounds. To me this was ultimate peace. No borders or races, everyone was nice to everybody. Canada was a place where you could do good things honestly from your heart.

Japan is my home country. The kids sometimes look stupid. They memorize the text book and go to cram school just to get into a better school than others. If you want to have friends, all you do is talk about a TV program and that's it. You do something that's a little different from the others and they pick on you. Luckily my parents tried really hard to get me into a school called 'Notre Dame'. Since the name of the school was foreign it was hard for other kids to make fun of my foreign name. I made a friend whose name was Fuchi. We made a 'weird-name union', with only two members. His name was just one big difficult kanji . He was just a 'normal' Japanese kid with a weird name, but that meant a lot to me. He was good at doing funny things and all that, so he was never picked on. He introduced me to his friends, and I soon became the 'funny guy who knows all kinds of cool stuff'. If I hadn't met Fuchi I would have been picked on and had a terrible time in Japan. I would like to thank my parents and Fuchi for giving me such a nice opportunity in Japan.

I once had a part-time job at a post office. One day I put a letter in the letter box just like any other day. Usually I would just go on to the next house, but that day was different. The second I put the mail in the box, an outraged man came out. He looked really angry and he took the letter from the box.
     "... Again! You did it again!!" he shouted out loud. "This mail is for that guy across the street you ... wimpy looking foreign kid!!" I was shocked.
     "I'm sorry, sir."
     That was all I could say. The somewhat overweighed man threw the mail to me saying, "The moment I saw your face, I knew you did it."
     He staggered back to his house and just before closing the door he shouted, "I feel sorry for you! You're not a real Japanese!!"

The furry inside me went out of control. Anyways, I promised myself not to be like him. I decided to forgive him because he didn't have a whole set of fingers; he was missing a few and some were only up to the knuckles. He himself was probably hated and discriminated against, so he decided to pick on me.

I sometimes wonder whether I'm Japanese or Canadian. To be honest, I want to be both. Now I think that it's my responsibility as a Japanese to change this country. Canada is free of racism, but Japan still struggles with many problems about this issue. I don't plan on being a politician or anything, but I want to set this country free from racism. Japan still has the mind-set of looking down on foreign people, like the man that I wrote about. I want to become an adult who can say 'no' to racism and set Japan free.

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

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