My dad is American, and my mother is Japanese. In college, my dad studied abroad in Japan, so people always assume they met there.
Well, no. My mom also wanted to study abroad, and she went to France. My dad was working by then and went to Paris just for fun, and that’s where they met.
My brother Stefan and I were both born in Tokyo, and my sister Zoe was born in Connecticut. We moved to the U.S. from Japan when I was 4 years old.
My life at home was still very much influenced by my mother’s culture. Because my dad had studied Japanese, he’s so much more enthusiastic about Japanese culture than my mom. She was like, “Oh, whatever.” My dad really wanted to share his love of Japanese culture with his children.
I consider myself better at art than I am at writing. I think that when I draw, I express myself in a way that I can’t in writing. I can use a lot more creativity, whether it’s just facial expressions or abstract images or comics.
MY TOKYO TRIP
I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the summer. My mother was pushing me to get a job, and my father was pushing me to do “something worthwhile that wasn’t a job.” I was like, “I don’t know what that means.”
I had told them I wanted to go back to Japan sometime, and my dad said maybe I could do that. “But there’s a catch,” he said, “If you go, you have to go by yourself.”
I was very taken aback. I didn’t think that they’d suggest anything like a trip like this.
At first, I was scared. I see myself as an independent person, but it’s kind of an adult thing to travel to a country by yourself. It’s not something people in high school usually do. The idea was just scary to me.
I think that when I draw, I express myself in a way that I can't in writing.
My dad then said, “You should keep a journal of what you do while you’re there. I know you like to draw.”
At the time I was reading a lot of travelogues, which are books with art and observations about travel. My favorite one was French Milk by Lucy Knisley about a trip to Paris. My dad said, “Maybe your journal can be even more when you’re done with it. It could be a book, like French Milk.”
I thought he was crazy, but I started to like the idea.
I self-published it and was satisfied with that, but my dad said, “This is great, but it deserves more.” He sent it to Tuttle Publishing, but he told me only when he got a letter back from them.
It didn’t feel real to me during the entire process of redrawing things and rewriting. I needed the finished book in front of me for it to feel real.
I’ll be going back to Japan next year to study abroad. I think that my time there will determine whether I want to stay in Japan for a while.
Even if it’s not my main career, I want to keep writing and want to keep drawing.