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!
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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.
In first grade my mother wrote on my school books my name as: Jane Shinobu Surname. 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.
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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.
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After I had finished the mission 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 love Australia. I love Japan. In Japan, I'm Shinobu. In Australia I'm Jane.
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(...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?