My mother, Ayumi Hirano is now 45 years old and was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1971. At age 19 she traveled to the US to study English at a language school in Seattle, Washington. There, she studied English at least six hours a day. The first few weeks in Seattle were very difficult. She was nervous, depressed, and homesick. Although she had a tough time in college the first time she lived in the U.S, she always wanted to come back and live here again. I chose my mother as my interviewee because she always tells me the challenges she went through when she moved to the U.S.
Ayumi moved to the U.S. permanently from Tokyo, Japan, at age 40, after the huge earthquake in 2011. She moved to San Francisco with her 3 daughters, Teisha, Claire, and Aaliyah (me). She was always planning to move to the U.S. before since she wanted her daughters to learn English and wanted them to learn another culture besides their Japanese culture. The plane ride to San Francisco was about nine hours and the whole plane ride was full of nervousness and excitement. She was nervous for her three daughters because they barely spoke English and all of them seemed to not want to move and were not wanting to make this huge transition in their lives. The challenges that she faced through this time was definitely leaving her parents, quitting the job she had for about 13 years, and getting rid of many of her belongings since she could not send most of them to the new house in San Francisco.
The biggest differences she saw between Japan and the U.S. and the reason why she wanted to move back to the U.S with her three daughters was because of the diversity of California and the individuality in each person in San Francisco. In Japan, she saw that everyone wanted to be like the next person and nobody was different and nobody liked to stand out. Ayumi thought it was the complete opposite in the U.S. She believed that most people wanted to be different and be original and that’s what she likes most about the U.S. Her first job in the U.S was at a Japanese store named Daiso. She soon left Daiso and got the job as a customer service agent at Delta Airlines. She got a job at Delta, so she could always go visit her parents in Japan.
Today, Ayumi is very content with her life and the decision she made to move to the United States. She has adjusted to the new residence pretty well except she is still learning the language – often from her daughters correcting her. She does not want to move back to Tokyo because she loves how there are so many opportunities here, but she does visit many times throughout the year to see her family. She believes that if she had not moved to the United States, she would’ve still been closed minded like how she used to be, she would have still stereotyped others like how many Japanese people did, and she would have not been challenging herself like she does now.
This story is based on an interview conducted by Ayumi’s daughter, Aaliyah Haynes, a student at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, CA.