I never thought I would say this, but in less than two weeks
my family is leaving Seattle to begin a new life in Tokyo.
Growing Up Japanese American
Even though I am 100% Japanese, I never wanted to live in Japan. I never even considered the idea. My father’s family left Japan over 100 years ago, so I always thought of America as my country.
My mother, however, left Japan in 1977, and all of her family still lives there. Sadly, I never knew them. One time I tried to save up money and bring my grandma to America for a visit, but it failed, and my desire to connect with Japan probably died along with it.
I had a perfect life in Los Angeles and didn’t really think about Japan until my dad died two weeks before graduating from high school.
Finding Myself In Seattle
I cried for three months and then left Los Angeles for my new life in Seattle. College was amazing. Amid the grief of losing my dad I discovered the greatest city in the world, found friends for life, and learned the truth about who I really was.
As a freshman in college I started to wonder about the other side of my identity, the part not connected to my dad. Somehow his death led me to explore my mother’s history. It was a mystery to me but everything led back to Japan, a place I had never been.
When I was nineteen years old, I learned that less than 1% of Japanese people had a relationship with Jesus Christ. It crushed me and prompted me to take my first trip to Japan. In a way, my life became like Moses, and I began to both call the Japanese “my people” and feel the weight of their burdens.
I once heard a half-Japanese girl from Australia say that after visiting Japan, she realized that Japan would always be in her heart but that she would never be accepted into Japan’s heart. A part of me feels this way, but my family and friends have actually given me the peace that I am, at the least, in their hearts as much as they are in mine.
Japanese exchange students, ryugakusei, are the reason that I found a home in Japan.
They showed me the beauty and excitement of Tokyo and, more importantly, helped me reconnect with my family and develop relationships I thought were lost forever. If they hadn’t sacrificed their comfort to learn English and experience America, I would be saying the same thing that the girl from Australia said.
Instead, I found the other half of who I am, Hiroshi Sakanashi, in Japan.
The Most Beautiful Country
After traveling, I still think that America is the greatest country in the world.
Japan, however, is something altogether different to me. I love Japan in a way that only blood can explain, and in my eyes, it is the most beautiful country in the world. Beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder.
My wife grew up in Japan, left when she was eighteen, and told me when we first met that she never wanted to live in Japan again. God worked in our hearts together and gave us both a growing love for Japan and our people. As much as we love Seattle and everything/everyone it represents to us, we love Japan more.
Japan is a beautiful country full of beautiful people, but like any country, it has its challenges and its faults. We want to share in the joys, pains, past, and future of Japan and contribute whatever we can to the next generation. As I spend most of my time helping to develop entrepreneurial leaders, my deepest hope is for Japanese people to find the same rest, hope, and peace that my family has found in Jesus Christ.
Goodbye Seattle, And Thank You For Everything
Well, we’re getting close to the end. We cannot thank everyone enough for all that has been given to us here. I don’t miss a lot of things in life, but I am going to miss Seattle a lot.
Have you always wanted to visit the Land of the Rising Sun?
Make the dream a reality and come visit us in Tokyo. If we’re not able to host you personally, we will do whatever we can to help you plan your trip so that you can understand what it is we love so much about this people and place called Japan.
On behalf of Joy and Isamu Mark, thank you, and see you in Japan.
P.S. If you want to know a little more about what we’re doing, check out the Megumi Initiative website here.