You are a Japanese Canadian If

by Terry Watada

editor’s note: Terry Watada is on summer break and will return in October. In the interim, we thought we’d publish some “classic” columns by Terry.

More than a little while ago I received a letter from a friend who has moved to the hinterland of the suburbs. She had been checking out her e-mail when a forwarded message caught her eye. What she found was a list entitled “101 Ways to Tell if You’re Japanese American”. She sent it to me via snail-mail thinking I might get some use out of it. And indeed I have. The list is LA centred but with a little modification, I have come up with a list that defines us, the nikkei of the Great White North. I hope you get a kick out of this!

You know you’re a Japanese Canadian when:

  1. You know that Camp doesn’t mean a cabin on Vancouver Island or the cottage at Wasaga Beach (I’m sure you can think of one in your part of Canada).
  2. The men in your family were gardeners, farmers or produce workers.
  3. The women in your family were seamstresses, domestic workers or farm labourers.
  4. Your issei grandparents had an arranged marriage.
  5. One of your relatives was a “picture bride” (ask someone in your family about this).
  6. You have nisei relatives named Keiko, Aiko, Sumi or Mary.
  7. You have nisei relatives named Tak, Tad, George, Roy, Harry or Shig.
  8. You’re a sansei and your name is Gayle, Gail, Cathy, April, May, June (but not July), Rick (Richard), Glen, Brian, Bill, Alan, Allan, Gary, Garry or Kenji.
  9. You’re thinking of naming your yonsei child Brittany, Jenny, Lauren, Justin, Michael, Matthew or Brett with a Japanese middle name.
  10. All of your cousins are outmarried and are having kids.
  11. You want to visit Hawaii.
  12. You have relatives in Hawaii or you know someone who does or you know someone from Hawaii.
  13. You belong to a Japanese Credit Union.
  14. Your parents or your grandparents bought their first house through a tanomoshi.
  15. Your suburban lawns and bushes are always, always manicured. Some of the bushes may even be shaped into balls.
  16. There is a Japanese stone lantern in the front of or behind your parents’ house.
  17. You have a Japanese doll in a glass case in your living room.
  18. You have a nekko (cat) for good luck.
  19. You have large Japanese platters in your china cabinet.
  20. You have a family mon and proudly display it somewhere in the house.
  21. You think but are not quite sure you are of samurai
  22. Your grandmother used to crochet your blankets, potholders and dishtowels. If you are female, you owned a crochet dress at one time.
  23. You take off your shoes when entering a JC house.
  24. You take off your shoes when entering any house.
  25. You’ve heard Art Miki or David Suzuki speak at least once, somewhere.
  26. You’ve danced the Tanko Bushi. In Toronto, you have danced the Tanko Bushi if you’re female or when you were very young.
  27. You always think about going to the Obon festival.
  28. You know Pat Morita doesn’t speak like Mr. Miyagi.
  29. You’re angry because Kristi Yamaguchi should have more commercial endorsements.
  30. The NAJC, JCCA, JCCC, and/or Nikkei Place has asked you for a donation.
  31. You were in a sansei “youth group” at the church or community centre.
  32. You don’t subscribe to the Nikkei Voice, The New Canadian or the Geppo but you read every issue when you’re at your parents’ house.
  33. You like massage devices like the Panasonic Deluxe back vibrator.
  34. You like “meat and potatoes” but you need that Japanese food fix once in a while.
  35. After funerals, you go for Chinese food at Sea Hi’s, China House, Sai Woo, Bill Wong’s or the Ho Inn (you know in what city these restaurants are located).
  36. You keep a record of koden given to you.
  37. You give the same amount of koden recorded in your book at funerals (allowing for inflation of course).
  38. You fight over the check at dinner.
  39. You hide money in the pocket of the person who paid for dinner.
  40. You don’t need to read the instructions on the proper use of hashi (unless you’re a sansei from the prairies).
  41. You eat soba on New Year’s Eve.
  42. You start the New Year with a bowl of ozoni soup for good luck.
  43. You know not to eat the tangerine on top of the mochi at New Year’s.
  44. You have twelve mochi in a bag in the freezer which you refuse to throw away in July.
  45. You pack bento for a road trip.
  46. Your grandma made the best sushi in town.
  47. You never, but never pour shoyu on your rice. Everything else but not gohan.

As much fun as this is, my space is limited. I may continue this next month (the original does have 101 characteristics), depending on the critical issues of the day. So until then advise your hakujin friends to pour as much soy sauce on their rice as they like!

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