My short bio:

Both my parents were Presbyterian missionaries who lived in Japan for most of the 1960s. I was one of the first western missionary children to attend Japanese public school. I am in the middle of writing my memoirs on my experiences and would love to answer any questions the internet might have.

My Proof:,mwisgyw,hqR2yyE#0

Comments: 89 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

PlasticGirl9 karma

Growing up there, were you fond of any Japanese bands or musical artists? Did you go to any concerts?

mechan615 karma

Yes. My favorite singer was Asaoka Megumi, and I did get to see her in concert one time. I collected all her records and had her pictures all over my room.

black_knight009 karma

How receptive were the Japanese people at the time to the ideal of a Western religion and how did they reconcile the differences in their cultural/spiritual beliefs with Christianity? Did attitudes evolve in the time that you were there etc?

Is there a large Christian movement in Japan in the present day and how much of it would you say is influenced by missions work from the 1960s?

mechan6115 karma

We weren't there to aggressively convert people. We attended a Japanese church with a Japanese pastor and were a part of that congregation. So perhaps it was more about their willingness to listen to our interpretation of the Christian Faith. When we were there, about 1% of the population was Christian, and I don't believe that has changed much at all.

I think we made a profound difference in the lives of a handful of people who came to know God because of our presence. But, we were much more touched by the things we learned from Japanese people both Christian and Non-Christian.

TheAwkwardest1 karma

Came to know God because of your presence? Were they Atheist?

mechan612 karma

Maybe I didn't phrase that well. I think our presence may have made some atheists or those who believed in different religions consider exploring the Christian faith a bit more. I'd like to think we fostered some discussions or questions that might not have happened if we hadn't been there.

Clauswitzian8 karma

My mother had a somewhat similar experience. She was born to Methodist missionaries in Korea, but they returned to the states when she was very young.

It's a fun story to tell, but the only difference it's made in my life that I can point to is in the food I ate growing up. I can't imagine too many other kids at my high school were familiar with japchae and bulgogi. To this day, whenever I have leftovers, I make a stir-fry rather than a casserole.

Funnily enough, I got to talk with the daughter of a Korean couple who lived in my grandparent's home while they were there. She said that other children loved to come over to her house because her mother knew how to make pies and American breakfasts.

Did you have a similar experience with culinary cross-cultural exchange?

mechan614 karma

As a matter of fact, Mom used to make waffles for the neighborhood children when we first moved to Japan. They loved to watch her sift the flour and use the egg beater (the sifter and egg beater were not common in Japanese kitchens, or waffle irons for that matter). Mom was generous with American food stuffs mailed to us from our family back in the states, like maple syrup that we poured on the waffles. I made a lot of friends this way.

WedgeHead7 karma

Do you consider yourself a Third Culture Kid?

Do you feel yourself more culturally aligned with one culture or another? Has this affected your ability to feel close to people?

(I have lived and studied abroad throughout my life, but I was nearly an adult by the time I started, so I am very interested to hear what happens when the process begins earlier.)

Thanks for doing an AMA.

mechan615 karma

Through the writing of my memoir I am just coming to an understanding of how this affected me. I think I am lucky in that I am able to embrace the best of my American heritage and my Japanese experiences. It has been almost 40 years since we returned to the United States. When I first came back I had real issues of identity and knowing where I belonged. But now, as a 52 year old I can look back on my experience and know that I got the best of both worlds.

I think there are definitely challenges and privileges to creating my own third culture.

HealthLoveHope7 karma

Is it true that in Japan they have four seasons?

mechan613 karma

Where I lived they did.

ThatSandersKid7 karma

What about Frankie Valli?

mechan612 karma


asura_wahrheit7 karma

How was your experience at a Japanese school like? What are the differences and similarities between Japanese schools and western ones? Which of the two in your opinion are better?

mechan6114 karma

There are so many differences it would be difficult to include them all in this response. In many ways though I think the Japanese education system is better than the American one. They do a better job of teaching responsibility, respect and discipline. For example, we cleaned our own classrooms, and those of the younger grades when we were in the 5th and 6th grade. Nobody ever threw trash on the floor. It was strict, and hard but it made me a better person.

As far as my experience goes, the first years were very difficult, as I was ostracized. But in later years, I was welcome and included so I enjoyed it very much.

asura_wahrheit4 karma

Wow it seems like it would be pretty nice to go to school in a place like that :D Do you currently live in japan? If so, I heard that there are services that make it more convenient to live there (paying bills at the convenience store, easy public transportation as well as nice and clean streets. Is this true?

mechan618 karma

No, I don't live there anymore. The last time I was there in May of 2012 for a class reunion, I found Japan to still be a very clean and safe place. I'm not sure about paying bills but public transportation in Japan is amazing.

kakashi18145 karma

Do you have any funny stories to share?

What are three things everyone should try while visiting Japan?

Whats the single most important thing you learned while in Japan?

mechan617 karma

They say that everyone should climb Mt. Fuji one time (which I did) but you are a fool if you climb it twice. Go to a Sumo tournament. See an Undookai (a Japanese Elementary School Field day). I know you said three but a fourth thing I would recommend is going to a Bon festival.

The most important thing I learned while there is that although it was hard for me to make friends at first. The friends I made were loyal and became lifelong friends. Sometimes, Japanese people seem hard to get to know, but once you get to know them, and they accept you; their friendship is loyal and everlasting.

One funny story is when our neighbor who was in middle school at the time, came to our house with a ruler to measure my dads size 12 shoe. My dad was so much bigger than any of the other men in the neighborhood that he was a fascination.

escapeartist023 karma

I have a friend (parents were American) who grew up in Japan during the 60's. She is always joking that she doesn't have the same cultural references as Americans who grew up in the US, and sometimes just doesn't understand a joke, or a reference. Do you have the same experience and how do you deal with it?

mechan613 karma

Yes. There are a lot of TV shows and characters that people talk about that I do not know. I just accept that I didn't have those American experiences, but I know that I know things about Japan that they don't know.

evagination2 karma

I saw that you said you haven't been back very much, but do you have an impression of how Japan in the 1960s was different from the way it is today? What's the biggest difference to you?

mechan616 karma

That's a really good question! I suppose one of the things I noticed is that the Japanese people know more about America now than they used to. They have embraced a lot of things from many other cultures, not just America, and blended them to their Japanese way of doing things. But I think many things have remained the same. Manners, stoicism, and generosity are some of the things that have stayed the same.

Vilokthoria3 karma

How did you feel about going black to America? Was it difficult for you to leave Japan behind (the cultural difference must have been huge)?

mechan615 karma

It was harder to come back than I thought it would be. I thought I would now belong because now I looked like everyone else, but I didn't know how Americans acted. I didn't know customs, words, and how to fit in. So I was very confused as to whether I would ever belong anywhere.

Vilokthoria3 karma

Thank you for your answer. From your statement that you now looked like everybody else: Did you experience a form of racism in Japan for looking different than the others or did you get along well with them?

And another question I thought of: When your parents announced that you where going back, how did you feel? Did you want to go to America or did Japan feel like home to you?

mechan613 karma

I suppose I did experience a form of racism. I was treated differently by my classmates and by some neighbors because of my race. But to answer the second part of your question, I (and they) learned to get along.

I think I was excited about moving back to America, even though Japan felt like home. We had lots of family in America, and I looked forward to being closer to them. The thing about growing up in another culture is that there's some confusion about what "home" is. You don't really know where you're from.

LuvList3 karma

how hard was learning process as far as cultural and language barrier living in foreign country?

mechan615 karma

Because I was immersed in school and didn't speak English during the school day, I had no choice. Immersion is the best way to learn a language. Sink or Swim.

LuvList2 karma

do you have many japanese friends throughout your time there? any ill feeling towards you as a white kid?

mechan613 karma

There was a lot of that when I was first a part of communities. I was strange to them, and I suppose that there may have been some left over World War II feelings about Americans. But most of my eventual memories with people there are very positive. I feel that I was lucky in that later I had a lot of friends, many of whom I stay in touch with.

FlyingChange2 karma

After leaving the Japan, did you ever feel out of place in Western culture?

mechan611 karma

I just realized I had not answered this question. Sorry! Yes, I did feel very much out of place in Western culture. As a 13 year old, you feel out of place no matter what your situation, but I was definitely out of place in America. I had never (really) heard a cuss word, and I did not know the pledge of allegiance, for example.

meatybacon2 karma

Cool story! I'm LDS and I wanted to go to japan but I went to Chile. Couple questions... 1. What was your favorite part of japan?
2. How old were you when you went there/when you got back? 3. Have you been back since then. Have you been able to use social media to reconnect with some people from back in the day?
4. Did you have friends your age who weren't Christian?
5. Were you upset about your parents making you go? Or did you want to go? 6. How was the language barrier in your experience in public school?

mechan618 karma

Okay wow! Lots of questions.

1) My favorite place in Japan is Lake Nojiri. We visited there in the summer and spent time with other missionaries. It is near the sea of Japan on the west coast of Honshu.

2) I was almost 4 when we arrived and I was almost 13 when we returned.

3) I have been back three times. Once for Seijin No Hi which is a coming of age day, when you celebrate being 20 and getting the right to vote. I also went back in 1986 and last year in 2012. I have several friends on facebook who were my classmates in elementary school. Social media has been a great way to get back in touch.

4) Almost all of my friends weren't Christian. Though many were willing to hear about my faith especially at Christmas time.

5) I was too young to really be upset about going to Japan.

6) By the time I went to 1st grade I was fluent in Japanese so there was not much of a language barrier in school. It didn't take me long to learn the language in preschool. Notes that came home from school were another thing, since I couldn't read all the characters and my parents often had to ask for help to translate school documents and other paperwork.

Bobbias3 karma

As a followup, how much of the language do you still understand?

mechan616 karma

I can speak almost fluently at a 6th grade level. I haven't kept up with the writing as well but can still read and write 200-300 characters (you need over 1,000 to read a newspaper fluently).

Bobbias1 karma

After all that time, that's impressive.

I was curious because I've studied a bit on my own, but right now I can definitely say I can't even write all the hiragana characters on paper, let alone many kanji. I can recognize a few kanji (愛,良,無,大,日,本,語 and a few others), and know the common readings for a few, but nowhere near enough to make sense of anything without resorting to digital dictionaries of some sort.

mechan611 karma

I also had the benefit of being a Japanese teacher for a few years which reinforced my knowledge. Also when I was in middle and high school back in the US, my mom arranged for me to go talk to a Japanese woman to keep my language fresh.

Samidare2 karma

Japanese American here. Reading your posts reminded me of the difficulties/confusions I dealt with growing up with two cultures.

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience to reddit.

quick edit: 今でも日本語で話せたり、書くことはできますか? or has that deteriorated over time.

mechan611 karma

It has definitely deteriorated over time, but I can write and speak Japanese. I can only write about 300-400 characters, though, so I'm very limited. Would you be willing to share what some of your "confusions" were? Are you nisei?

Samidare1 karma

Yes I am a nisei, born in USA but lived in Japan when I was a small child.

Some of the confusions were my identity. Growing up I was always confused if I was "Japanese" or "American"

I was 7 when I moved back to USA so by the time I was in middle school, I was pretty well off with speaking english/having friends etc (except maybe grammar/vocabulary which was always short compared to others till college).

Growing up I was never a victim of any sort but I was always reminded that I was "asian". It mostly attributes to where I lived (a conservative somewhat redneck town with majority white people with little asian population). So growing up all I wanted to do was be “American” and be treated like everyone else rather than “an asian”. I suppose I wanted that because I was tired of all the attention I got of being asian. Anytime anything related with Asia came up, whether it be Korean, Chinese, chopstick, samurais or anime people would instantly look at me and ask questions or ask for my opinion. These questions were not meant to make fun of me however, the people were just genuinely curious and wanted to ask me (since they had none else to ask). With the combination of my low self esteem (was a shy/sheltered kid growing up due to being a single child and having to move a lot) and this unwanted attention I kept getting for being “Asian”. I always felt I was American inside but felt people never accepted me as “American” because of my looks.

What confused me further was when I would go to Japan (to visit family/travel) I was told by Japanese people that I am American! I would talk to taxi drivers/restaurant owners/ train managers) and they would all look at me funny because my Japanese would be a bit off or just say things differently a “normal” Japanese person would not say or do. When I get that look, I tell them that I am from America and their reaction INSTANTLY changes and they would treat me like they would to a white American tourist. I hated this very much growing up and further confused me of my identity.

It wasn’t until college when I learned of Nisei and Japanese American history that changed my views completely. In college I learned that I am a Japanese American that I am someone who knows both about American and Japanese culture but I am neither just like how 1+2 = 3 and not 1+2= 1and 2. That Japanese American means somewhat of a new culture based on the two culture. Knowing this really helped my self esteem and found the answer to my identity.

TLDR: My confusions were my identity. Growing up I was always confused if I was "Japanese" or "American". I learned about Japanese Americans and learned that I am neither Japanese nor American but simply Japanese American, something not the same from the two cultures but has many similarities.

(this has gone very very long I apologize)

Now to put the spotlight back on you. I am just curious why is your Japanese deteriorating over time? I assume it’s because you’re not speaking and writing as much but why is that?

mechan611 karma

I had not checked by for a while - so sorry about the delay in answer. You do a great job describing not belonging either place - especially how the Japanese people who thing you were peculiar, and then treat you like a 100% American tourist when you told them you were from America. I can also relate to the people always asking your opinion about things asian (like there's no difference between Japan, China, Korea, etc...)

To your last question - I'm just not using it. With some of my friends connected on Facebook now, I get to read Japanese on an almost daily basis, so I think my reading has actually improved over the past year. I just wish I had more opportunity to use it. Southeastern North Carolina, however, is not known for its Japanese influence. haha

f91wcas2 karma

Do you regret not visiting more often? If had lived in a country for so long, I would want to visit at least every couple of years. I would also be scared of losing friends and relationships.

mechan611 karma

One of my dreams is to take my family to Japan because I think it is so important for them. Unfortunately it is very expensive, and I can't afford to go as often as I'd like. In the last year social media has been great for enabling me to stay in touch with some of my friends and rediscovering some I hadn't known since my childhood.

railzen2 karma

First off, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, and also the kind, sacrificial hearts of your parents. Some of my closest friends are MKs and I know that isn't an easy calling.

  1. What's your favorite Japanese dish?

  2. Did your family rely on a sento to bathe or did have personal baths? Has living in Japan given you a much more relaxed view on nudity or did your family already come from a culture where nudity wasn't an issue?

  3. What's one tangible thing about Japan that you miss the most? A food item, an event, the architecture, etc.

  4. If you can popularize one aspect of Japanese life or culture into your current country, what would it be?

  5. What's one thing that the world can learn from the Japanese? What one thing that the Japanese can learn from another culture?

Thank you and God bless!

mechan616 karma

1) Sukiyaki or Okonomiyaki are my favorites.

2) Gracious! We had our own ofuro, but I did go to sento upon occasion. I remember feeling a little self conscious being naked around other people.

3) Probably the food. I can never get enough of that.

4) More respect for other people and better manners.

5) Sort of like the previous question, Americans can learn a lot from the Japanese about being civil and living with other people, and appreciating the simple things. The Japanese could learn some things about individuality and not needing to conform so much.

Stan242 karma

Have you ever considered moving back to Japan?

Do you keep up with recent Japanese TV, movies, music?

What are your favorite Japanese dishes that you remember eating?

mechan613 karma

I have never really seriously considered moving back to Japan. I was 13 when we moved back, and by the time I would have had the ability to make that sort of decision for myself, we had been in America for about 10 years, and I was fully acculturated back. Also, I am not a big fan of large crowds and think it would be difficult for me to live in a big city.

I don't keep up with current Japanese TV, movies or music. There was one game show I heard of that seemed hilarious that was like a human tetris game where a shape moved toward a group of people or an individual, and they had to figure out how to contort their body into that shape to keep from being pushing into the water.

Some of my favorite Japanese foods were street foods - like takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakitori. I also loved sukiyaki. We rarely ate beef because it was so expensive.

MMX22 karma

Did you watch any anime shows back in the 60's?

mechan614 karma

The first Anime show I remember was a show called "Mahotsukai Sarī" about a girl who can use magic. My brother watched "Tiger Mask," and I also liked one about a volleyball player called "Attack #1." We used to go to movies where series of shows were shown all afternoon. I can still sing some of the songs. "Attaku! Attaku! Nambaa wan!"

ginoblix2 karma


mechan612 karma

One that comes to mind right away is a woodblock print artist named Sadao Watanabe. He does amazing art of scenes from the Bible. There's also one other man who I've heard about who I'd like to know more about. His last name is Kagawa.

cattaur1 karma

Did you absorb any Japanese (Shinto/Buddhist) beliefs?

(I won't go into my feelings of Christian Missionaries in general…)

mechan615 karma

There are some beautiful things about both the Shinto and Buddhist religions. I visited temples and shrines with my Japanese friends, and they taught me about their rituals. I think what I learned from my friends of different faiths enhanced my own, and made my faith richer. Our family feels like we learned more from the Japanese people than we taught, even though at first that was more of our intention.

There have certainly been some Christian missionaries who have done atrocious things in the history of the world but they have also done some wonderful things that brought healthcare, education, and justice to people who didn't have that.

shorty88940 karma

Hey, I'm a soon to be missionary, although of a different faith, and to a different country as well (France). Were you involved in any of the missionary work that your parents did? If so, what were some of the struggles you or your parents came across while trying to introduce your religion to the Japanese people?

mechan612 karma

Because I was a child, my participation was limited. One of the things that I did, was to invite my classmates from school to my house for Christmas parties, where we told the Christmas story. I attended every church event at our Japanese church in Japan, so I guess I helped with numbers.

fairGoMatie-5 karma


mechan613 karma

Doo shite?

fairGoMatie-5 karma


mechan613 karma

what???? I wanted to know why (doo shite is the Japanese word for why) you wanted to know. Since you had it written in Japanese characters I thought you would understand the word for "why."

nashvortex-5 karma

Presumably having learnt that the Japanese have a sophisticated and ancient culture, far more insightful and humanist that any Christian doctrine could ever suppose to be, do you think/find that the missionary endeavor is a condescending and pretentious practice?

(I know this may offend you, but I've wondered if the missionaries themselves realise this. Please know that no offence is intended)

mechan6115 karma

I think that is a very good question, and one that came to be deeply considered by our family during our 9 years there. Although some missionaries' intentions are to convert people to Christianity, others (and I would like to think our family was in this category) learn alongside people of similar and different religious backgrounds how to live together in one community.

EDIT: I do however disagree with the statement that Christian doctrine can not suppose to be as humanist or insightful as you say in comparison to Japanese culture. I appreciate the beauty and insightfullness of Japanese Culture, but believe the Christian faith when not abused has just as much to share.