As many of you know, I was raised in a city with a very large Japanese-American community. When I was 5 years old, during the middle of the school year, my family moved and I was forced to start at a new school. If I remember correctly, on the very first day my class had to go another class to watch a movie. Being very frightened and alone, I didn't know where to sit. Most people were paired up with friends. Even to this day, I have this clear image in my head of walking in, desperately looking for an open seat away from everyone, but there was this Japanese boy, in the front row, starring at me with this big smile on his face. I remember in that moment, my fears just disappeared, and I knew that was where I should sit. The boy's name was Mark Sakai and to this day, he is my closest and dearest friend.
As fate would have it, both my parents were forced to work in order to raise a large family. Much of my time both in and out of school was spent with Mark and his Family. Over time I was even jokingly called #4 son (and may other things mind you...Baka comes to mind most often). Even now, out of love and respect, I call Mrs. Sakai, Mom. It was this family that taught me about rice, kimchee, Buddhism, and allowed me to learn a little of what it meant to be Japanese.
Not surprisingly, I grew up with a total identity crisis. Half the time I was being raised in an English-American home. The other half being raised in an Japanese-American home. What was surprising was that I found many of the ideals and principals were mirrored in both cultures. As a boy, I dreamed of being a Knight and a Samurai, all rolled into one. Don't laugh, think about it: chivalry, honor, loyalty, strength, righteousness, focus, balance, calmness, and even peace. Not a bad set of set of standards to try to achieve. Unrealistic, I know, but remember I was an innocent, foolish young boy at the time.
Anyways, at about the age of 15, I got this idea in my head to come up with a list of things I would like to happen to me by the age of 40. One of which was to actually visit Japan. Guess what! I'm now 40 and as luck would have it, everything fell into place for me to finally make a wish come true.
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