• Joe Shem

I love the Japanese character “wa (和)"

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Toshiko Hirata (平田登志子). The following is a brief summary of our conversation, translated from Japanese.

Hirata was born in Okinawa and came to the US in 1981 with her husband and 2 young daughters. She now lives in Japantown and spends most of her time at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Yu-Ai Kai (友愛会) Japanese Senior Center.

As a Japanese immigrant, she really appreciates the Yu-Ai Kai, a community of seniors who want to embrace Japanese culture. They have fundraising events and activities, all of which promote Japanese culture and fitness.

She enjoys attending exercise classes at the Yu-Ai Kai and eating nutritious Japanese food that the Yu-Ai Kai makes.

Unfortunately, the events and fundraisers have recently been postponed or canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

She wishes that the receptionists at the Yu-Ai Kai could speak Japanese so they could communicate better.

But during her time in America, she has realized that she cannot change the people around her, but she can change herself. Trying to change herself, she has been learning English, meeting up with a teacher every month.

But still, she is 100% Japanese at heart. She loves visiting Japan every now and then and she really loves the character “wa” (和), which means being round, peaceful, and amicable. A trait that she believes can be found in Japanese people. To that, her daughter often says that she is being “so Japanese”.

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