Learning to Accept and Appreciate my Culture


Moyu Yumoto

Cherry blossom with Aizuwakamatsu castle in the background. Cherry blossom is one of the most iconic nature symbol in Japan. Every year during the blooming season, people take “Hanami” (meaning flower viewing),a traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers. Blooming of cherry blossom symbolizes the aspect of human life.

Moyu Yumoto

In elementary school, I’d sometimes bring cultural food that my mom made at home. When I started eating a rice ball with seaweed, a girl told me that they looked gross. In her 4th grade brain, I’m sure she didn’t mean to offend me- but it really did hurt me inside. From that day, I begged my mom to pack me a sandwich like everyone else- and bring “Capri Sun” instead of tea. I was ashamed of my culture and I wanted to fit in.

I moved to Kingwood from Japan at the beginning of 4th grade. Even though I was only 9 or 10, it’s the time of my life where I was most insecure and self-conscious because I thought I was so different from my peers, and I felt the need to be like everyone else. I wasn’t pale, I didn’t have pretty blonde hair, nor a tall nose like other girls. I was very young, but I thought too much about the western standard beauty. Just because I didn’t have pretty colored eyes and light skin, I thought people wouldn’t accept me. On top of that, I didn’t speak English at all, which made it very difficult to try to fit in and make friends. Even when I started to speak the language, I was ashamed of my clear accent, so I never talked.  Being extremely insecure about myself, how I looked, and having a language barrier, the first 2 years of living in this new country was tough on my 10-year-old self.

I started to really appreciate my culture during middle school. Seeing the rise of Asian representation in Western film and music industry really impacted how I started to accept my culture. The big K-POP boom and the hit of Crazy Rich Asians, it meant a lot to me that people who have the same Asian physical features and heritage getting the spotlight in the western world. When I saw the rise of Anime and seeing people enjoying Japanese popular culture, I didn’t feel ashamed for talking in Japanese with my parents in public. Some people even thought it was cool because it’s the language in anime shows. As weird as that sounds, I was proud of my culture.

Now I am 15, almost 6 years since I moved from Japan. I can’t be more proud of my culture, language, and my Asian physical features. Not only Asians, but seeing the empowerment of minorities, not only racial ones but ones such as religious minorities and sexual minorities, really means a lot to me. By moving to the United States, a melting pot of diversity, from Japan, a complete opposite monoethnic country, I learned to appreciate my culture more.