Posted by: balladofyoko | November 28, 2007

Being JA

The other day, I was helping a student do research on Japanese-Americans who fought in WWII. While I was looking for resources, I had casually remarked that this topic was something that I was interested in. She looked at me and asked, “Are you JA?”

I’ve never heard the term before, but I quickly surmised that JA stood for “Japanese-American,” and without a beat, I answered yes. She then said, “There are so few of us here.”

And then I got chills up my spine.

As long-time readers of this blog know, identifying as Japanese-American was something that took me some difficulty to discover. But hearing this woman give this identity a name that sounded so assertive, and then in one sentence to include me in that identity– it felt like I’ve come home. I belong to a community I didn’t fully realize existed.

I had felt some of that kinship when I was practicing taiko– several of the members of my group are second- and third-generation Japanese-American. But I didn’t stay long with this group, alas, so I had lost this community.

I’ve only just discovered Gil Asakawa’s book, Being Japanese American. He also has a blog. I’m thinking about joining the JACL, and seeing what comes of that.



  1. Exploring your ethnicity can be a rich and fascinating journey. My schoolmates and I have done some exploration in that area in a couple of our classes this semester, and it’s been surprisingly deep, intense, and revealing. I look forward to reading about wherever this avenue of exploration takes you.

  2. This kind of reconnection may be just what you need. I wish you well as you explore and shape this aspect of your identity.


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