To achieve our goals of community building and outreach, Cross-Cultural Kansai will use the Meetup.com platform to promote events. If you would like to be updated on these events, please visit www.meetup.com/CROSS-CULTURAL-KANSAI/ and complete a profile to join the group!
This weekend, as I flew to America to begin the next chapter, CCK had a wonderful event at Kyoto Studio Park. I’ve always wanted to go there, so I’m happy to experience it vicariously through the photo and stories of CCK members. Here are some great pictures from the event!
As CCK transitions under new leadership, I thought this would be the perfect time to asked CCKs to write in about their favorite CCK events and memories. Here are some of the responses I received from members:
I like all CCK events but my favorite will be the Mt. Rokko Hike because although it was tough for me I realized that I was with the right group of people who genuinely care for others. During the hike my blood sugar dropped and suddenly I couldn’t see anything, I could hardly breathe but the people took time to ask how I was feeling and even waited for me until I recovered. Some even gave me sweets to replenish my blood sugar and our event host (hike leader) Jayme did an awesome job of checking on me and Sir Joey (another friend who joined the event). Jayme even came back for us and waited patiently despite feeling cold on the mountains. I love CCK and I love the passion the leaders have. I know it’s only been a short time but I really feel a strong bond of community despite different cultural backgrounds of CCK members. Jayme and Alexis, this isn’t goodbye it’s see you again guys! All of us are going to miss you. See you again soon. Thank you for everything.
CCK Loving Day Potluck Celebration (June 14th, 2014) was the first CCK event that I joined and looking back it had all the ingredients to create a positive impression of CCK group in my mind. There were delicacies from different cultures, an interesting game introduced by a member from Philippines and stimulating discussions about each-other`s culture. What stood out was that, due to their own cross-cultural backgrounds, people were willing to listen to and understand the differences that the other culture(s) had and that created a very friendly and lighthearted environment. My sincere thanks to the group organizers and the members who joined the event. I did have a good time.
P.S. : Thanks to Jayme and Alexis for their part in bringing all of us together on the same platform and I wish both of you a successful future back in your other home. Hope to stay in touch and looking forward to being a part of (hopefully be of some help) the future CCK group events proposed by Remy and Hiroshi.
I haven’t been to too many events, but the one that I remember most is the Kyoto biking tour back in November. Since Kyoto is a city I visit relatively often, I’ve always wanted to learn the layout and geography of the city so that I could say I “know” Kyoto, and traveling the city by bike definitely was a step towards knowing Kyoto in that sense. Plus, I discovered that I actually like biking a lot, especially when it’s not on a mama chari! I particularly remember that half an hour biking down Kamogawa, it was one of the most calming and relaxing things I had done in a while. I still have yet to undergo the hardcore multi-day biking trips I plan to, but when I do, I’ll remember that my biking career got its start with CCK in Kyoto.
Every event was awesome! Meeting and talking with not only members but also new people were always stimulation as well as inspiration. No matter which country we are from. The crucial point is that we could enjoy meeting and talking with people through cross cultural and feel universe.
I was born in Hawaiʻi to a yonsei Japanese-American father and an Irish-American mother who gave me the name Jayme Tsutsuse. Even though Japanese names are common in Hawaiʻi, the name Tsutsuse is rare, and not just in Hawaiʻi or America, but also in Japan. In fact, through all my research, I’ve yet to find a Tsutsuse family line besides my own. I’d even venture to say that I’m the only Tsutsuse currently living in Japan.
Anyone unfamiliar with Japanese will often get tongue tied between the two t’s and three s’s of Tsutsuse. I’ve heard it all, “Tootsie,” “Tootoosee,” “Tasutasusay,” and sometimes people just give up and say “Tsunami.” When I was little, I used to break it down by syllable, “sue somebody, sue somebody, say something.” But when I said this to my third-grade teacher, instead of calling me “Jayme Sue-Sue-Say,” she called me “Jayme Sue-Somebody-Sue-Somebody-Say-Something” for the whole year.
As a kid, I thought it was funny and didn’t mind the extra attention, but in middle school, when I moved to Northern California, I began to notice a change in the expectations people project on my name. Having a Japanese name became uncommon and after constantly answering the question, “Where are you really from?,” I began to believe that, somehow, I really was Japanese.
This sense of identity shaped how I thought of myself for years, but when I moved to Japan last year, everything changed. Suddenly, instead of asking how to pronounce Tsutsuse or where it’s from, people were asking, “What’s the kanji for that?” It caught me by surprise, and when I responded that I had no idea, people were taken aback. Once someone even pointed out that I was adding a small “t” sound before the last syllable, “se.” After all those years of correcting other people, I was the one being corrected.
It was strange to lose this part of how I identified myself, to experience the discomfort that other people felt when they saw “Tsutsuse” on paper and had to turn it into a sound. I quickly learned to write Tsutsuse in kanji and practiced the pronunciation over and over, making sure that I was using the right number of t’s. But still, I was self-conscious. When I would say my name, people would repeat it with a puzzled expression, and I couldn’t tell if I said it wrong or if they were just fishing through their memory banks of kanji. I would try to draw the characters in the air, just to show that even if I couldn’t say Tsutsuse perfectly, I could at least write it.
Now, after living in Japan for a year, studying the language and growing more familiar with Japanese society, I’ve realize that it’s not my pronunciation or lack of kanji literacy that makes me feel less Japanese than my Japanese name. My life experiences are wholly different, and just because I fall into the American definition of what it means to be Japanese I don’t necessarily fit the way being Japanese is defined in Japan.
My name carries varying expectations depending on the circumstance. In America, my name is a constant assertion of my Japanese heritage, but in Japan, it reminds me that I’m foreign. Understanding this distinction has placed me between two cultures, neither of which I can fully identify with, but at the same time, neither culture can fully identify me.
No matter where I go, people will always have different ideas of who I am. But without a universal expectation, there can be no objective identity that I must conform to. I am free to create an identity of my own, based not off of other people’s ideas of me but on whom I feel I really am.
I’m still figuring this out, but I’ve stopped picking myself apart, labeling the parts that are Japanese and those that are not. I’ve learned to keep my name from getting tangled up in how I view myself, because in the end, it’s not a matter of being an expert on how to say or write Jayme Tsutsuse. It’s a matter of being comfortable with being Jayme Tsutsuse.
Recently I’ve dreaded the morning scroll through my newsfeed. It seems the world has been facing tragedy after tragedy.
In Iraq ISIS has declared itself the Islamic “caliphate,” driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, and delivered an ultimatum to the Christian population to convert, pay a tax, or die. Israel has begun a ground offensive in Palestine, running up the number of civilian casualties, 1 in 5 of which are children. Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have shot down a Malaysian Airlines commercial plane straight out of the sky, killing the 298 people on board. Meanwhile, immigrant children are suffering at American boarders,the Syrian conflict has hit a record death toll, and the group of school girls are still missing in Nigeria.
With these stories weighing heavily on my mind, I traveled to Hiroshima to visit the Peace Memorial Park and deliver the 1,000 origami cranes folded by CCK members. It’s been nearly 70 years since the U.S. dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and wounding more than 225,000 people. Today the museum and grounds memorializes these events in a resounding call for peace, a plea for us to break from this blatant disregard for life.
I sat for a while on a bench in the shade and thought about how plants weren’t expected to grow in Hiroshima city for the next 70 years after the atomic bomb. But there I was, beneath the cool cover of a tree. And plants weren’t the only things that kept on living. I watch people stroll through the park, lower their heads before the memorial in remembrance to all the lives lost, step back and take a picture, then walk on to enjoy the rest of their day.
Humanity is suffering from a resilience to tragedy. How can we view something so devastating in the past with the clarity of time, yet continue to live, unprovoked by the problems of today?
As I hung CCK’s 1,000 cranes next to the millions of other peace offerings from around the world, I remembered all the day spent together, folding crane after crane, hour after hour. We spent all that time on a string of folded paper that could only symbolize our prayers for peace. It can’t change what happened in Hiroshima, and it won’t change the situation we’re in today.
But I have to hope that there’s power in the momentum, that getting people to discuss the real possibility of peace can impact how we view ourselves as part of a whole, that there’s a way to pull ourselves out of these needless blows to human morality.
It’s true that folding 1,000 cranes was only a small action. But it was an action nonetheless. And if everyone begins to take small actions towards peace, the momentum can only gain strength. It doesn’t guarantee that the fighting will stop, that planes will never again be shot out of the sky, that innocent children won’t be stripped of a life of dignity. But at the very least, it’s a start.
At the JET Program Tokyo Orientation last summer, we were all told to get involved in our communities as much as possible. It seemed like good advice, so I jotted it down in my list of goals, expecting this promise to somehow become less vague once I settled in.
I’m not sure how I envisioned it would happen. Obviously there wouldn’t be a community, gathered with open arms, ready welcoming me in when I arrived. Fair enough. But really, what were we supposed to do?
A friend suggested that I check out Meetup.com, and I was surprised to see how popular it was in Kansai (not nearly as expansive as New York or London, but still!). Every weekend, I’d join events in Osaka or Kyoto, and I never failed to fall deep into conversations with new friends about our backgrounds, where we came from, how it affects who we are today and where we want to go in the future.
I loved listening to their stories. And the more I came across these stories, the more I thought about how great it would be to create a space for them, a community premised on sharing these parts of ourselves.
I started CCK with that vision in mind. I imagined that it could grow to be an all-inclusive place where anyone and everyone fits the mold. I hoped to plan fun events, but I wanted the focus to always be on the people who came.
It’s been incredible to see CCK grow. Today, I can happily say that it is the exact community that I longed for when I arrived. And now that it exists, I am leaving it with a heavy heart but so many beautiful memories.
Yesterday, for my last CCK event, we had a picnic at the Kamogawa river. Despite the typhoon and rain earlier in the week, the weather was absolutely beautiful. As always, the food was plentiful, and of course, all my favorite people were there.
It goes without saying that CCK was only possible because of the people who showed up to each event, helping me to welcome new members into our community, and because of the “first timers” who gave CCK a chance. Next month, I will return to America, knowing that I am leaving CCK in great hands and that there will always be a community in Japan, gathered with open arms, ready to welcome me back.
George Takei: Why I love a country that once betrayed me
In this TED Talk, George Takei, actor and activist, reminds us of the history and hardship that Japanese American faced during and after World War II. Takei was only five years old when he was sent to an internment camp in Arkansas with his family. More than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry remained in these “War Relocation Camps,” located in the most desolate parts of the nation, until the end of World War II. They lost all of their property, they were racially stigmatized, and they fought a war for a country that saw them as enemy “non-aliens.”
So on this Fourth of July weekend, while Americans around the world celebrate their freedom and independence, let’s not forget how easily our American “rights” can be striped away. When we realize that no one’s rights are impervious, we can recognize how our futures are interconnected and learn to stand up for one another.
Thank you Uncle George!
With Ramadan beginning this week, The Japan Times’ writer, Nicolas Gattig, raised an intriguing question about religious pluralism in his article, “Can Japan show the West to live peacefully with Islam?”
Due to recent changes in Japanese visa regulations, there has been an increase of visitors and expats from Muslim-majority countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. This month, Muslims from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are coming together to celebrate Ramadan at Tokyo Camii, Japan’s largest mosque in the famous Shinjuku neighborhood. Even non-Muslim Japanese people, attracted by the “social elements” of Islam, are joining in.
In a country known for lacking diversity, it’s not difficult to imagine that the group gathered at Tokyo Camii just might be “the most multiethnic crowd anywhere in Japan.” With so many people from various backgrounds, coming together for a religious purpose, Gattig wonders, could Japan be the “utopia of pluralism”?
Personally, I wouldn’t go that far (see some of my other posts to understand why). However, I do think that Gattig has a point. Religious pluralism in Japan doesn’t stir up the same resistance that it does in many other places around the world.
It’s not surprising that Japanese people are taking part in the social aspects of Ramadan just like they’ve done with Christmas, celebrating with a bucket of KFC and a strawberry christmas cake. The festive atmosphere of Ramadan is familiar to Japanese people. Gattig puts it this way: “[Japanese people] follow Ramadan more than Islam.” It’s easy for Japanese people to add Ramadan to their already multi-religious calendars of holidays and festivals.
This type of religious pluralism has been present in Asian cultures for millennia. Even after Westerners brought the concept of mutually exclusive religious identities to Asia, the idea of having one religion and sticking with it through and through never took hold. Japanese people never stopped blending religions.
So before asking if Japan could teach the West “to live peacefully with Islam,” we need to ask if Japan’s “have-it-you-way” approach to religion could really have a shot at winning over the West.
This is the question that I find most interesting. As someone with an multi-faith upbringing, I’ve always been curious about life “inside” different religious traditions. This has taken me on journey into the celebrations, rituals, practices, and teachings of people around the world. I feel that I’m partially an “insider” of many religions. It is a pluralism that’s not so different from what you find in Japan.
But my experience is not so common in the West. Instead, Studies are showing that the U.S. population is moving away from institutionalized religions all together. There is a growing preference for new categories, such as “spiritual, but not religious.” This category is still exclusive, making pluralism appear all the more elusive.
Moreover, there is the resistance to “mix-and-match spirituality” from religious institutions themselves. A recent article in The Atlantic discusses concerns toward pluralism from religious community leaders, fearing that it would cause religions to dilute, that it would strip away the “richness” of faith. This resistance is the hurdle that the West will have to continuously jump over if it is to learn from the Japanese way of religious pluralism.
In the end, I don’t want to say whether the West should adopt Japan’s religious pluralism (I’ll save the discussion of cultural relativism for another day). But to answer Gattig’s question of whether the West could learn from Japan, admittedly, I’m skeptical at best.
Thank you to all the CCK members who came out to Sarasa Pausa on Saturday for our final origami folding event! That’s right! I said, “final”!!! That means that we’ve finally folded 1,000 cranes! I’ve wanted to fold 1,000 cranes for Hiroshima since I first visited Japan, when I was 10 years old, and I’m so grateful to the CCK community for helping me achieve this goal. I couldn’t have done it alone! Or at least, it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun!
Each Melting Pot event has been a great opportunity to reunite CCK friends and meet new members. CCK is the perfect medium for discussing cross-culturalism, and these events have brought together so many diverse experiences and interesting perspectives. I always look forward to our conversations — even more than I look forward to the cake!😉
Before I leave Japan, I’ll travel to Hiroshima to visit my family and deliver the cranes to The Peace Memorial. To me, these cranes represent the growing acceptance of cross-cultural identities in Japan, the world’s potential for peace, and the connections that I’ve made with an amazing group of friends here in Kansai.
I cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday than having a picnic with CCK and We Are One to celebrate the 47th anniversary of Loving Day! We shared our American, Japanese, Canadan, Indian, Indonesian, and the Philippino cultures, and there was an abundance of delicious food and great conversation about the different social norms and laws on interracial/ cultural/ lingual/ religious/ national/ caste marriages around the world! This was a truly global celebration of Loving Day!
These events are so great because they provided us with a means to come together, from so many different backgrounds, under a mutual appreciation for our diversity and an openness to learn from each other. I always learn from everyone though our differences and feel connected with everyone though all that we have in common.
In a comment on the CCK Meetup.com page, a first-time member said, “at the end of the day, it felt like we have known each other for a long time, and I already look forward to seeing you again.” That really warmed my heart🙂
Thank you all for the wonderful time!
As most of you know, July will be my last month in Japan. It has been such a wonderful experience, and I can honestly say that meeting all of you has been a highlight. We have a couple more events coming up in the next month. Next week, we have our FINAL ORIGAMI session!!! Only 105 cranes left to fold before we reach 1000! Then on July 12th, we will have our final CCK and We Are One event (more details to come!!!). So mark your calendars and get ready for more good times!
And of course, CCK will not be ending just because I’ll no longer be here. I highly encourage you guys to keep getting together and spreading the CCK love to more people🙂 I’ll keep the Meetup.com page up and running, and you can recommend events whenever an idea pops up! Also, if anyone is interested in taking a more active role, I can add you on as an organizer, and we can work together to make sure that CCK continues to do what it does best, celebrate global identities in Kansai!
Although 梅雨 (rainy season) has come to Kansai, I was happy to see that we have some sunshine for our Loving Day celebration according to the 10-day forecast!
Hopefully it stays this way!
I just wanted to remind everyone to come and bring your friends on June 14th at Osaka Castle Park (meeting at Morinomiya Station at 12PM). It will be wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones! Remember, this is a potluck, so please bring something small to share. It would be nice if there’s a food that is convenient to bring that somehow represents your identity or culture, but if it’s not possible, just bring what you can🙂 Also, if anyone would rather share a talent (game, dance, song, art, etc.) please let me know when you RSVP.
Here’s the Meetup event link where you can RSVP and find out more information!
Can’t wait to see you there!
The shock of last week’s murders at the University of California Santa Barbara resonated around the world. With each news article, comment, Facebook post, and Tweet, people have questioned gun laws and mental health protocol and criticized the stereotypes, misogyny, and racism that has allowed society to get to a point where such atrocities could occur.
They are enraged by the thoughts revealed in Elliot Rodger’s YouTube vlogs and 137-page ‘manifesto’. His words are offensive, pitiful, and heartbreaking. They objectify women and evoke white privilege. And now that we have witnessed the resulting violence, we can clearly point to his definitions of masculinity, privilege, sex, race, identity, and success as flawed to the core.
But the truth is that these notions have been defining our society for so long. Hate has continued to fester into bloodshed, pidgin-holing us with violence and goose-stepping us into fear. We need to stop kidding ourselves when we talk about past accomplishments. Civil rights is not a duty of past generations, but everyone alive today. Whatever progress we have made so far has proven insufficient.
I can only hope that this will open our eyes and encourage us to take a good look at ourselves – to take a step back and evaluate our thoughts, words, and actions and really scrutinize any tendency to succumb to society’s prevailing definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman, to be white or black, Asian or mixed-race, to be privileged or poor, to be strong or weak. It’s too easy to fall subject to the same lines of reasoning that Elliot used to justify his actions, to treat sex as “getting some”, to throw around the word “slut”, to think race equals entitlement, to believe that we deserve another human being. These habits have become so routine. We need steadfast awareness to alter the norm, to break free.
It’s encouraging to see so many people, with a diversity of backgrounds and from all over the world, finding their voice in speaking out against Elliot Rodger’s ideas, actions, and everything that they represent. People are so sick of it, but they’re not too tired to take a stand. And, although my faith in humanity has been shaken by the vicious acts of one person, the backlash from the worldwide community has renewed my purpose in being apart of this drive for change.