Sponsor: Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California
Age: 26
Hometown: Palo Alto, CA
Education: B.S. Neuroscience, University of Toronto
Creative Expression: Naginata

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

Ever since I moved to the US when I was 5, I struggled to balance my heritage and culture of the new country I moved to. Unribboning my once trusty bento box bag now meant a certain embarrassing ritual for me, and I felt like an outsider. The places that I felt comfortable were those Saturday Japanese Schools or the Japanese supermarkets, and the yearly Cherry Blossom Festival, where I got to see a celebration of my roots. However, it wasn’t until years later when I joined the Northern California Naginata Federation that I truly was able to embrace and appreciate my culture. I proudly represent Northern California in the yearly US National Championships, and have connected with so many people of various backgrounds to share this martial art with them. Now, the stage that I once looked up at in the Cherry Blossom Festival when I was much younger is the same stage that I perform the martial art that I love, in commemoration of our shared culture. But what makes it even better is that our Naginata isn’t strictly like that of the Japanese. We share the same foundations, but incorporate our own unique fighting spirit into it–a uniqueness that makes us both Japanese and American. I think this is the gift that the Japanese Community here has given me, and that the Cherry Blossom Festival embodies–one that embraces the preserving of tradition while at the same time celebrating the differences that our community brings.

Professional attributions or goals in life:
I love bringing people together towards a common goal. I plan to attend graduate school to learn policy-making, particularly in the health-science field.

Community Organizations / Extra Curricular Activities:
Northern California Naginata Federation (2017-present), San Jose State University Kendo and Naginata Club (2017-present), University of Toronto Naginata Club (2014-2016), University College First Year Representative (2011-2012), Volunteer English Language Instructor for Frontier College (2011-2012)

Naginata, Rock Climbing, Singing