Life in Japan: Raising a Kid

It’s Monday again, and I’m in the middle of Golden Week, a major week-long holiday in Japan.  However, I have work only today, and a couple four day holidays. But Monday also means it’s time for another question about Japan.  It’s S. R.  Carrillo’s question again.

What’s it like to have raised a family there, as a foreigner?

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As you can see from the picture, it’s weird.  Or maybe that’s just my daughter.  There are certainly some challenges raising a kid in Japan while I’m a foreigner.  I can’t speak for families whose parents are both foreigners, though.  They’d have a totally different experience.  However, since my wife is Japanese, I get to experience the Japanese side of life, as well.

Basically, I get to spend some time with my wife’s family and see what it’s like in a Japanese family. We mostly go during the New Year period, so I get to see the traditions associated with that holiday, which is the biggest holiday of the year.  They welcome me into the family, which I’m very happy about.  There are some language barriers, but I do my best to speak with them in Japanese. But I feel my Japanese skills are too inadequate for decent conversation.

Aside from that, there are some interesting things to experience. Since my daughter is haafu (half Japanese), she gets a lot of attention. She’s always called cute, like a doll, and beautiful. You see, people in Japan often say that kids who are half Japanese and half something else (usually white) are beautiful. She gets that a lot! It seems that whenever an old lady comes up to us, they always have to mention it.

I haven’t noticed any negativity or any racism. Where we live, foreigners are quite common, and mixed kids are often seen. But one thing I notice is that there are some people who try to speak to my daughter in English, despite the fact that her first language is Japanese.  She can understand English, but she speaks mostly Japanese.  Which leads to a problem for me. Sometimes I don’t understand her, especially when her Japanese isn’t pronounced correctly.

I’d say things have been good. My daughter’s experience has been wonderful. No problems other than having to stay in the hospital two years ago for pneumonia. That wasn’t fun. But that’s another story.

Thanks for the question, Sierra! If you have any questions about living in Japan, please go to this post and add your question to the comments.

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15 thoughts on “Life in Japan: Raising a Kid”

  1. Reblogged this on Jay Dee in Japan and commented:

    Here’s my weekly Life in Japan question. This time, what’s like raising a family in Japan as a foreigner? Especially with the fact that my daughter is mixed race (or haafu).

  2. That’s awesome! So it’s basically the same here in America – lately, Americans have become obsessed with mixed kids. When I was younger, it was only my black family that would make those kids of comments. Now that I’m older and married, all my friends say my husband and I are gonna have “beautiful mixed babies.” I see a world trend heading in that direction, anyway – even wrote a book loosely based on that. ;]

    Glad your family’s had a good experience of it. I read an article recently that postulated bilingual people, even if the second language was learned much later in life, have better overall brain health and stave off dementia and the like. So here’s to good health.

    1. I’ve heard about the bilingualism thing, too.

      There is a problem in Japan, though. Mixed kids tend to be discriminated against quite a bit. Even if they’re born in Japan, fluent in Japanese, and raised in a totally Japanese way, they will never be accepted as Japanese. They’re also likely to be bullied in school.

        1. I guess it depends on where you are. Probably not so much of a problem in Tokyo, as mixed kids are far more common. But in the countryside or smaller cities, it probably happens far more often.

          1. In rural areas, and even in urban, young kids will point out differences.
            But that’s not bullying.
            I really don’t think mixed-race kids get actually bullied very much in Japan.

  3. My brother and SIL moved to S. Korea with their two little ones? I couldn’t imagine that big of a change. Here in Canada, there isn’t too much different from States. No language barries, no culture shock, I’m racially the same. I have high esteem for those who have made such an endeavor you and my brother have!

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