Saturday, October 29, 2011

Half Australian Shinobu, Half Japanese Jane

Recently I've been thinking it's about time I tell a little more about myself.  If you hadn't noticed, I've introduced myself here as Shinobu.  But if you're one of my Australian friends, you might know me as Jane.  
Shinobu is my Japanese name.  Jane is my English name.  I'll tell you a little story about it...and about growing up half Japanese in Australia♡ I hope you get a laugh out of it!
♡ ♡ ♡

I guess the story started many years ago when my mother was in high school.  My mother's friend sometimes told me about the old days and what my mother (nicknamed: Nonchan) was like when she was young.  Once she told me that Nonchan picked out her children's names when she was in high school, and that Shinobu was one of them.  Little did Nonchan know, that years later she'd be marrying a foreigner and living in Australia!

So my father chose an English name for me, and my mother gave me my Japanese name.  When I was small, sometimes my mother called me "Shinobu-chan", but more often she'd call me "Jane" pronounced "Je-en" (Jen with a long "e" sound, as the English sounds of "Jane" don't exist in Japanese) or "Jen-Jen".  We spoke English at home.  With a Japanese accent.  (lol.  I'm serious.)

In first grade my mother wrote on my school books my name as: Jane Shinobu Xxxxxxx(surname which I'll keep private for now).  I was so embarrassed.  Shinobu was such a strange name.  No-one could even read or pronounce it.  We lived in the country, and as far as I know, our primary school of 500-or-so had no Asian kids other than myself and my sisters.  Let alone Japanese with strange names like "Shinobu"!  The most embarrassing question was: "What's your middle name?"

The first day of Junior High came, and the teacher called the roll.  Half way through I hear the name: "Shinaboo".   The class went silent.  I shuddered in embarrassment - I knew it could only be me.  Again, "Shinaboo".  I quickly walked to her desk and tried to explain that my first name was really "Jane" and there must be a mix-up in my given names.  For weeks classmates joked that I was under cover and that "Jane" was just a pretend name.  I even got the nick-name "Secret Agent Shinaboo"!

Finally I realised I couldn't keep it secret any longer.  I might as well accept my name and be proud of it.  Luckily we lived in the city now, so there were Asians and kids of all nationalities in my school.  It was no longer a shame to be Japanese.
♡ ♡ ♡

When I was seventeen, I visited Japan with my mother, for the first time in twelve years.  I was blown away by the experience.  Stepping into a tatami-floored room, breathing in and realising that the smell was so familiar (even though I hadn't experienced the smell since I was five years old); seeing Mt Fuji appear before my eyes as the mist cleared, and feeling that my ancestors had seen that same peak; my identity as a half-Japanese suddenly meant more to me than it ever had before. I fell completely in love with Japan, and from then on somewhere in my heart I knew that my destiny was in Japan.  I felt the Yamato-Damashi.  My ancestors were calling.

But I couldn't speak Japanese.  I had taken Japanese class in Junior High, but that only gave me a handful of sentences which didn't get me very far.  When a Japanese person spoke I couldn't understand anything.

I was incredibly lucky then, when at twenty-one years of age, I applied to serve a one and a half year volunteer mission for my church.  I could have been called to serve in England, The United States or New Zealand, to name a few.  But the call letter came in the mail, I opened it, and it read "Sendai, Japan".  My mission in Japan was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  So many dear friends, so many precious memories.  It was truly living the dream.  And of course, most of my days for one-and-a-half years was spent talking to people.  
...In Japanese, of course.
♡ ♡ ♡

I couldn't stay away.  Eighteen months later I was back living in Japan, this time working as an English teacher.  While at work I was "Jane", but the rest of the time I was called "Shinobu-chan".   I was very involved with church activities, and of course all my friends there were Japanese.  

This might surprise you, but for Japanese people, "Shinobu" is easier to remember than "Jane".  Japanese names all have kanji - they are written in chinese characters which show the meaning of the name. (Shinobu is written: 忍.  The top half is the blade of a sword.  The bottom half is a heart.  Shinobu means "to endure silently".  Not that that describes me.  My mother will tell you I don't do it.  Maybe it's the attribute I need to develop!  忍者 reads "ninja".  A ninja must endure silently to remain invisible.)  
I really liked being called Shinobu, because it allowed people to see my Japanese side rather than seeing me as a foreigner with a strange name like "Jane".

I had so much fun participating in church activities and made many friends all over Japan who all know me as "Shinobu".  I came back to Australia almost five years ago.  Since then I visited Japan several more times (I've visited Japan eleven times so far), met my husband and got married.  Of course, all of my family-in-law and husband's friends also know me as "Shinobu".  In Japan, I'm Shinobu.  In Australia I'm Jane.
♡ ♡ ♡

...So, as my Japanese identity is "Shinobu", and this blog is about Japanese stuff, I thought that "Shinobu" would be the appropriate name to introduce myself as♡

What do you think?

14 comments:

  1. Shinobu is a very pretty name and i love it :-) when i first met you, you introduce yourself to me as Shinobu and i think i call you that morethan Jane :-) love your story!! x

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love it but I must admit I have a harder time thinking of you as Shinobu... but I've known you as Jane for so much longer! But I love your stuff as I miss Japan and it helps me keep in contact.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @The Hart's
    Thanks Irene♡This is my first real attempt as public writing...so thanks for loving my story! haha
    @Rochelle Catalini
    Rochelle I'm so glad you like my blog!♡ Yes, you knew my family since chapter 1 of the story! That's a long time huh. Thanks for your comment! ^_^
    I really don't mind whether people call me Jane or Shinobu, I just wrote this article to explain to Australian friends why I'm calling myself Shinobu on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Shinobu~^^ or should I say secret agent Shinaboo? I really enjoyed reading your post. Made me giggle. Our 3 children are Korean adoptees. I wanted to understand your thinking of being Australian/ Japanese to help me understand a little more for our precious children as they mature. Be proud of your beautiful Japanese name. You should become a sneaky ninja at The Pixie Pot ( http://www.facebook.com/thepixiepot?sk=wall ). Deb creates gorgeous handmade items. from Julia

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Squeeze CuddlesHahaha Secret Agent Shinaboo! That was one of the funniest nicknames ever! It was very odd to be asian when we lived in the country, but here in Brisbane there are many Asians so it becomes something to be proud of. I found myself in mostly Asian groups of friends in high school and Uni, dunno why, somehow we just seemed to have more in common. I suppose your (super cute) kids will have the experience of real Aussie parents yet they might also see themselves as Korean at the same time...interesting! But I'm sure you'll raise them to have confidence in themselves, that's the main thing. I think it's great that you celebrate their Korean-ness too!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this story! I think you should go by "Secret Agent Shinaboo" too :) I bet having served in Sendai, the March 2011 Earthquake was very difficult. That is wonderful you have been able to visit so many times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha "Secret Agent Shinaboo" seems to be a popular name for me! Thanks for your comment, hiraganamama!
      Yes, hearing about the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami was really heartbreaking. Miraculously, all the people I know personally from those areas survived (Two of the areas I served were Sendai and Hachinohe), for which I am grateful. Last October I attended the marriage of a dear friend from Sendai who's mother-in-law, along with most of her town, passed away in the tsunami. Several of my friends in Japan have gone on church volunteer trips to Touhoku, to help survivors and do volunteer work. It is so sad to hear of the suffering, but it is so heartwarming to see so many people opening their hearts to help the people who were, and are, affected.

      Delete
  7. ~.~ very interesting ~ i copied ur Yoshinoya beef bowl ~ gona try it next week, btw which city in Australia u in ?

    Just arrived Sydney since April, been looking for a job >.< hopefully better luck next week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Fumetsu, Sorry, we're living in Japan now. I guess I should update our "about" page! Good luck finding a job, and enjoy Sydney!☆

      Delete
  8. Hi Shinobu,

    Your story has made me so sad as you sound so ashamed of your Australian heritage. I hope later in life you can appreciate both cultures, as both have so many positive aspects. I have lived in both countries for many, many years love both Australian and Japan.

    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you serious? Don't worry, I totally love Australia! And "I still call Australia home", too!♡

      Delete
  9. Wow, I've been at this site for awhile, but I didn't know you were a fellow LDS Sister. Well, this is a pleasant surprise! And doesn't surprise me at all, in some aspects. Good recipes btw, will use.

    I was wondering if you know how to do bento art or have posted an article on it? I have only know how to make sausages into octopuses.

    Thanks,

    Makoto B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Zhenlong! Hi fives LDS sister! Sorry, I don't do bento art, but there are many websites which do! I just do the quick and easy everyday stuff. All the best♡

      Delete
  10. Hi Shinobu,
    Just wanted to say it was great to read this article. I'm an Aussie bloke - my Japanese fiance and I are expecting our first child and we'd decided to give him both a Japanese and an English first name just like you have! It was great to discover there are others like yourself lucky enough to get two great first names :) 'Shinobu' also happens to be one of the Japanese names on our list (we still haven't settled our choice).
    All the best!

    ReplyDelete