JAPAN: Double Jeopardy

JAPAN: Double Jeopardy

Ever feel like you're walking on cultural egg shells?

Ever feel like you’re walking on cultural egg shells?

Sometimes it can get confusing, trying to navigate waters made murky where cultures collide. Whatever choice you make will seem wrong to someone. Whatever you say will offend someone. No matter how lightly you step, you risk making someone feel walked over.

And that is the situation I find myself in again, as the air turns cooler (finally!) and Japanese schoolchildren begin to practice en masse for their sports festivals.

My brother is getting married, half a world away, at the exact same time my daughter is supposed to perform in her final sports festival at kindergarten.

If you are in North America, or Europe, or very likely anywhere except Japan, your response is probably, “So what?” But if you are a mother of a Japanese child, I’ll give you a moment to remove the hand you’ve placed over your mouth in horror. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let’s continue.

It doesn’t matter much which I choose for us to attend. Half of my children’s relatives will be angry about our choice. How can you miss your sibling’s wedding? How can you deny your aging in-laws their last chance to see a preschool sports festival, where the last-year students are the stars of the show?

“How could you do that to your child? She will miss out.”

Says everyone from every side.

Sometimes being part of a bi-racial, bi-cultural, bilingual family means making the hard calls. What is important in one culture is not in another. What is optional in one culture is imperative in another.

I find myself, again and again and again, struggling to find a balance between traditions and beliefs. I fall off the high-wire more than I care to admit.

But on those occasions when you can do that perfect, tip-toed, pirouette, it is beautiful. It is breathtaking. It is worth it.

This time, though?

I better bring a helmet because I’m bound to fall flat on my face, whatever I choose.

Have you faced difficult decisions because of cultural or religious differences within your family? How do you find a balance between them?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy

Photo credit to FeeBeeDee.  This photo has a creative commons attribution license. 

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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