Explain how the Japanese American experience, or your own experience working with the community, has shaped your life.
Shaku Nesshin. That is my homyo (Buddhist name), meaning passionate heart and mind.A name chosen for me because of my devotion towards discovering new passions that develop my self-identity. As a fourth generation Japanese-American, I cling to opportunities that bring me closer to the past, while finding inspiration for the future.
When I was four years old, I begged my mother to let me take odori lessons after watching my
Sister’s weekly lessons. Not only does the grace of the art form excite me, but my sensei is a rare treasure. Sahomi Tachibana is a 92-year-old dancer who has been teaching her craft for nearly eight decades. I feel extreme gratitude to learn about Japanese folk tales and culture from such a master. Coincidentally, Tachibana sensei taught my own obaachan at the Tule Lake internment camp during World War II. Every time I take the stage in my kimono and tabi, I feel my obaachan looking down on me with a smile.
My love of the arts has expanded past the graceful movements of the body to a life of instrumental performance. As a seventh grader, I dove into the world of jazz through the Minidoka Swing Band, a group dedicated to sharing the culture of the World War II Japanese-American internment camps through music. As the youngest member of this band, I have an extraordinary opportunity to augment my understanding of my great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ internment
stories. I hope I accomplish even a fraction of what my ancestors did: making a better life for themselves and future generations. Last year, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Japan with the band as an educator of internment and an ambassador for youth. l hope l made my ancestors proud as I forged better relations between the youth of Japan and America in Tokyo and surrounding areas.
Being recognized in the Japanese-American community through dance and music has further inspired me to contribute through religion. As a part of my Japanese heritage, I am grateful to my parents and grandparents for maintaining our family’s practice of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Buddhism is a universal religion that can apply to any individual’s daily life as it explains the interdependence and impermanence of all beings. These sensible teachings of the Buddha have taught me to live each day with selfless and compassionate mindfulness. This past summer, I was able to share my understandings of Jodo Shinshu with teens just like me. It was a week-long retreat that I will never forget. We were all fully immersed into our youth minister’s assistant training and Japanese Buddhist culture workshops. At the end of the retreat, I was presented with my hornyo, initiating me as a disciple of Shakyamuni
My Japanese roots have become so much a part of me through my dancing, music, and religion that I am inspired to share my Japanese culture, and hoping to guide others towards their own life passions, developing a foundation to build their self-identity.