How I Struggled to Belong in Japan
My grandparents moved to Japan from South Korea before the Second World War, and both of my parents were born and raised in Japan. I was, too. However, because of my family origins in South Korea, most people in Japan did not see me as being Japanese, even though I have a Japanese name, my first language is Japanese, and I went to school in Japan. Even when I was a little girl, I realized that I was not considered as being purely Japanese. My dad said to me as I got older, “Here in Japan you cannot be a teacher, or a doctor, and you cannot work at a government job.” I wanted to be a teacher at the time, and I felt that my dad had ended that dream, but I still wanted to be Japanese!
It took about seven years to get my Japanese citizenship and when the process was complete, I was 27 years old. I felt, however, as if nothing had changed. Even with citizenship, I realized that I would never be considered fully Japanese. Also, it was too late for me to begin a career in Japan. Usually young people there graduate from high school at 18, graduate from university at 22, and then find a first job the same year. If, for whatever reason, you cannot follow this usual path, your adult life in Japan is not likely to be a happy one. My life was not following this path at all. So, I decided to leave and see other countries.
I found a work-holiday visa program, offering choices in New Zealand and Canada. Canada was a very popular choice and there was a lottery system in effect. I made my application and was a winner in the lottery for a one-year placement in Canada.