Sponsor: Benihana
Age: 18
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Education: HS Diploma (S’19), Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory
Creative Expression: Spoken Word

What does the Japanese American Community of Northern California and the Cherry Blossom Festival mean to me?

I am first-generation Japanese-American. Both my parents are immigrants from Japan coming to the states just before I was born. I grew up with many Japanese aspects built into my life, along with attending six hours of Japanese Language and Culture School (Hoshuko) every Saturday for the past 11 years. I have faced many cultural disparities growing up alongside a different background than those around me. When I was younger, all I wanted to do was fit in and speak English to my parents like everybody else. I was embarrassed of having a Japanese name which often got pronounced wrong, speaking in my native language in front of my peers; I was embarrassed to be Japanese. What I’ve gained these past few years is the appreciation and gratitude for my Japanese culture. The Japanese-American Community of Northern California have taught me to accept my culture and my identity. Having the opportunity to see all the Japanese-Americans in this community come together to engage in our enriched culture has allowed me to feel the gratitude. The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival allows me to express my culture not only with my Japanese friends but with all of my friends. Personally, these two things are a very important part of me growing up and learning to accept and embrace my culture and myself. It has given me the meaning of what it means to be a Japanese-American, and what it looks like to be proud of the traditions within my culture.

Professional attributions or goals in life:
I naturally love children and I have always been told that I should become a teacher. However, the past few years have allowed me to realize that I am interested in pursuing a field in clinical psychology. Along with volunteering at my former pre-school, coaching young girls the sport that I love (basketball), and taking both AP Psychology and a psychology/sociology unit in high school have furthered by interest in striving towards this field. I hope to become a pediatric psychiatrist, specializing in children with disabilities. I am aware that in Japan, people with disabilities are stigmatized for their incapabilities and are separated from the “normal” people. Growing up facing the struggles of a learning disability, I hope to make this world a better place by helping the next generation live easier and in acceptance of their differences.

Community Organizations / Extra Curricular Activities:
Japanese Language and Culture School (Hoshuko)(11 years), Asian League Basketball: SF Enchantees (7 years-present), Buddhist Temple Youth Association (6 years-present), Asian League Basketball: SF Associates Assistant Coach (1 year-present), Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory Student Council Officer (4 years), Student Ambassador (3 years), Lasallian Vincentian Youth Service Club (3 years), Women’s Basketball Team (3 years)

Playing basketball, Organizing, Writing spoken word, Making music playlists