Happy Fathers Day!
p.s. I have no idea where this was taken..
My parents broke every Asian parent stereotype. Told me not to study too hard, that there were more important things in life. Instead of Disneyland, they’d take me to hang out at a leprosy sanatorium they volunteered at as students, or a care center for folks w/ disabilities.
They took me to protests demanding that Japan drop a discriminatory fingerprinting requirement for Korean-Japanese (this was in the 80s), talks with former “comfort women” etc. If I grew up w/ an awareness of disenfranchised groups in Japan/Asia, it’s thanks to my parents.
Also, some good news from my grandma. She felt well enough to go to church today. I guess there are still Covid concerns, but I think she might be better off getting out than being trapped at home. No hymns, only prayers and sermon, and of course everyone wears masks.
My dad, now retired, was an academic, a historian who taught ancient Middle Eastern history. He held a firm belief that events could not even start to be understood until historians had taken a look. So he still sort of scoffs at journalism.. puts me in my place!
His expertise was Jewish history and I still remember having discussions w/ him as a kid abt how the Old Testament depicts Jewish kings as flawed as a commentary against authoritarian rule, bc human kings cannot be absolute leaders. He read ancient Hebrew which I thought was cool
He taught a lot of undergrad history courses tho and wd come home w/ stacks of papers to grade — and he’d openly fantasize about drawing a line across the living room, tossing the papers thru the air, and the papers that made it across the line pass. (He never actually did this.)
So I always find it hard to answer whether I came from a “typical” Japanese family. Probably not...? Otoh there is no such thing as a typical Japanese family.
Btw my dad was the more conventional parent. My mom was also an academic, and taught feminist theory. She fought for the right of married couples to have separate family names. (Not yet a reality in Japan!) She never got tenure like my dad. But that’s a story for another day.
But, I think my parents see me as kinda tame. They were at protests all their lives, on everything from foreign worker rights to Ainu representation.. they were abolitionists, as in do away w/ Japan’s imperial family. So radical!

I feel a bit restricted on this as a journalist.
And when they got me Hina dolls for Girls’ Day — which usually look like this — they put all the dolls in a circle, on equal footing, and called them “democratic Hina dolls”

I wish I had a picture! Btw, this emoji = Hina dolls 🎎
But rather than specific ways of thinking, I think what I learned most from my parents is a belief in the value of dissent, esp in a “conformist” society in Japan. I’ve been called anti-Japanese in the past, but I don’t believe I am. I just believe in the value of dissent.
An addendum the reason I speak English is, at the age of 5, my family moved to UK bc my dad did a 2-yr sabbatical (right word?) at King’s College London. We lived in a crowded dorm in Woolwich, which was stil really rough. Our unit was tiny and my parents bed came out of the wall
But partly bc we were nowhere near London’s expat Japanese schools (and we weren’t really expats), I ended up going to the local primary school. And the dorm, for foreign students w/ families, was like the UN. I had friends from El Salvador, Malaysia, Korea, Iran.. pretty special
So full circle, the photo I posted of my dad and me is from somewhere in England. Tho that is a pretty wild background.. maybe inside a castle that we visited? My dad, the historian, loved visiting castles and especially ruins.
One thing I’ll say abt my mom. When you grow up in Japan w/ a mom versed in feminist theory, you watch Doraemon w/ feminist commentary... she was esp appalled by how Shizuka-chan was portrayed, and the casual sexual harassment, incl boys peeping into her bath — seriously what!?
We were in Wales! 😮 https://twitter.com/NedCramer/status/1274838483845160961?s=20
You can follow @HirokoTabuchi.
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