As a 4th generation Japanese American, I often felt lost with my culture. I looked Japanese but in all other aspects I felt American. I would rarely even hear Japanese spoken at home. My Grandmother is 100 years old and speaks perfect English and never really gave this any thought while growing up. As I got older and looked deeper into my life, I realized there was a big piece of my identity that was missing.
After Pearl Harbor theJapanese were placed into internment camps for the "safety" of America. My Grandpa would tell me that being Japanese during WWII was the absolute worst thing you could be because there was so much racism and hatred towards them at the time. His generation and others before him made this country his home and then had it all taken away. Everything. They say a total of nearly 130,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated into Internment Camps. Included in that number was my family on my father's side who were relocated to the Poston, AZ camp. This is where my family history would change forever.
I think as a result of the internment many Japanese Americans were raised to downplay their heritage. This was definitely apparent in the way that I grew up as I wasn't even taught to speak Japanese. Many of my Japanese American friends also didn't speak Japanese because we were raised to be as American as possible. I have always been proud of my Japanese culture, but I have always felt like an outsider.
While reflecting, I started to realize all of the sacrifices that my ancestors made in order for me to live the way I do today. So why the samurai? The samurai is my nod to these sacrifices and what other generations before me had to go through. The samurai is a symbol of Japanese culture and more importantly to me, a warrior. The Japanese Americans had a warrior spirit even when they were beat down and stripped of everything. However, through it all they managed to pick themselves back up.
I have so much respect for my family and how much they have sacrificed. Many of them have passed away now, but I will never forget what they have done. I use the skull as a representation of their lives.
The Samurai Logo (SAM) that we use has roots in my culture but it really is a representation of the sacrifices that were made by those before all of us. America is a beautiful country built by people of all colors and shapes. As a country, we sometimes forget that and make tragic decisions. We use the SAM logo not only as a reminder of where we came from but also as a reminder to rise back up no matter how far you are knocked down. The warrior spirit will always prevail.
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** Never make the same mistakes twice.