How I Ended Up Bicultural

Hi. I’m Miyabi, the owner and principal consultant for One TransLiteracy.


I was born in Tokyo to an American mother and Japanese father and primarily grew up in Tsukuba, Japan.


My parents are fully conversant in Japanese and American cultures. Yet, I grew up noticing that even they had their moments of cross-cultural misunderstanding.


For instance, once when we visited family friends who lived in an apartment, my dad took an unusually long time to park. My mom said, “Why not just park there for now, come in and ask our friends if that was okay, and if not, simply move the car?” She was going on the mode of “Just ask. What’s the big deal?”


My dad did not respond and seemed perplexed by the question. Logically speaking, she was right, but something prevented him from just doing that, and it wasn’t out of fear that he might get ticketed in those brief few minutes.


I knew the answer. In that moment, he was “being Japanese.” That meant he didn’t want “to trouble” (meiwaku o kakeru) our friends by parking in a place that was perhaps prohibited and making them worry even for a second that he might get ticketed. He was also reluctant to potentially cause “trouble” (meiwaku) to another person, the rightful owner of the parking spot.


My bicultural upbringing made me sensitive to moments like this, where the personal and cultural were not always easy to tell apart. Later, as I acquired advanced skills in understanding and analyzing a broad range of Japanese materials from various eras and locations, I became better at interpreting and explaining the underlying cultural differences and what to do with that knowledge.  


The topic of my next post deals with how I acquired these skills. Look out for it on May 26!

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