Posted by: balladofyoko | January 10, 2018


Out of the blue, I got this tweet from Maki, of Just Hungry:

I’ve been a big fan of Maki’s blogs, way way back when we were both on Typepad. We’ve both been away from our respective blogs for a while, and I haven’t been on Twitter very regularly, so this message surprised me. I asked her which blog post she was referring to, and she replied that it was my page, On Being Japanese-American, which was originally posted on this site back in 2004 (yikes– such a long time ago!).

She added:

I’ll be honest: I have long ago soured on all forms of social media, for various reasons. I quit my Facebook page, and was recently contemplating dropping Twitter, until I received Maki’s post. Not only did she take the time to ping me, but she broadcasted my writing out to the world. That really touched me quite deeply. Moreover, I continue to get responses to that post that assure me that it resonates with others as well.

To Maki, and to those of you who happened to find this blog: thank you. At a time when things seem polarized and partisan, it gives me hope to know that there are still channels where we can find friendship and unity, and I am very grateful that I can be a part of that world.

Posted by: balladofyoko | July 19, 2014

Owning the JA Identity

It’s been a while, but I have something to say.

I occasionally play in an orchestra that has a conductor and several of its members from Latin American countries. A friend of mine also plays in this orchestra- she is from Japan. After one concert, my friend and I were going to go out for a drink to celebrate. In the parking lot near the concert hall, we met up with the conductor and one of the orchestra members, who were speaking Spanish to each other. When they saw us, the conductor asked, so, is this like a bonding thing where the Japanese meet up and talk to each other, like what we Latin Americans do? My friend replied, “Oh, she’s not a real Japanese– she’s a fake Japanese.”

I felt like my friend slapped me in the face. My immediate reaction (which I didn’t say aloud) was, I’m not a fake anything! I’m not pretending to be Japanese. Although she may have not intended to say it as harshly as that, it made me wonder what she must think of me.

I’ve also begun to play in a taiko group, which I am so happy to return to. I had a wonderful conversation with the teacher and his wife, both Japanese Americans, about their experiences growing up.

If you had read my blog when I was posting more often (who is still reading this?), you’ll know that I spent a lot of time thinking about my cultural identity, and thought I had come to terms with it in my essay, “On Being Japanese-American.” But even now, ten years(!) after I wrote that essay, I am still amazed by people’s perceptions of me not fitting into either culture. But I am also still surprised by the kinship I feel with Japanese Americans of my generation, and the shared experience. It’s a good reminder to own my heritage, for whatever it’s worth.

Posted by: balladofyoko | May 7, 2009


You gotta let it lie until you have something to say.

~Ace, in a recent Skype chat

I changed the focus of this blog to concentrate more on things related to Japanese and Japanese-American culture, thinking that I had something to say about those. I probably still do, but I haven’t been moved to write about them.

I’m sure I will again, at some point, because my culture is a part of my life, after all. For now, though, I’m gonna let it lie. Maybe I’ll come back, maybe I’ll move to another site, maybe I won’t– I haven’t decided yet.

In the meantime, I seem to be updating elsewhere. See The Yoko Fix if you want to check those out.

Posted by: balladofyoko | May 3, 2009

Endings Part 2

I’m retiring from aikido.

This has been a very difficult decision to make, and even now, it pains me to write it.

It’s been over a year since I wrote this post, and over two years since I had first felt dissatisfaction with my practice. With the exception of last December, when I took a month off, I’ve been practicing regularly.

Going to practice 2-3 times a week has been my routine for so long. There were days I had to force myself to go, but I had always found it to be worthwhile in the end. There were days when aikido got me through some really difficult times off the mat. It has been a very important part of my life.

The community means so much to me, and if I weren’t moving, I would muddle through at least one more test to stay with them. But I would have left after that, anyway. And now, since I’m moving, it gives me a clean break to just leave.

This is not to say, of course, that I couldn’t have established a bond with another dojo. And it’s not to say that I couldn’t continue to have ties to my community through the seasonal camps that are offered for my style of aikido, for the dojos throughout the world. But it just wouldn’t be the same.
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Posted by: balladofyoko | April 29, 2009

Endings Part 1

Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it– every, every minute?
Stage Manager: (quietly) No– Saints and poets, maybe– they do some.

~Thornton Wilder, Our Town

I had my last aikido class at my dojo. Afterwards, Sensei had a party for me. I hugged a lot of people, promised I would keep in touch and visit– and I will.

It was in July of 2001 when I called Sensei and asked if I could observe a class. It was on Pepe’s insistence that I try aikido, after passing by the dojo one evening and remarking that he had a friend who studied that particular style.
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