Discover Nikkei

My changing identity depending on circumstances (Japanese)

(Japanese) Identity, identity. In the end, I think I’m more Japanese. When I’m with other Japanese people and talking in Japanese, I feel like I’m connecting as a Japanese person. Then again, when I’m speaking in English, it seems like a switch flips inside of me, making me feel more American. Without that, I would never have made it this far in the working world. If I was always Japanese-like, being polite, always smiling, and nodding “yes, yes” to everyone around, there’s no way I could have moved forward. So that’s why I believe that, depending on the circumstances, some people switch and change their identity.

Date: March 1, 2007

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Yoko Nishimura

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Yumi Matsubara was born and grew up in Gifu prefecture in Japan. Growing up in a conservative family in Japan, she didn’t tell her parents that she was moving to Los Angeles, California, to improve her English. She first attended an English language school for a couple of months before studying fashion at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. After she graduated from FIDM in 1994, she started working in the fashion industry.

Around this time, her desire to make a permanent home in the United States was growing. Her company agreed to support her green card (permanent residency), so she started the green card process. In 1999, however, the financial situation of her company deteriorated and she left the company before she received her U.S. permanent residency. She decided to marry an American citizen in November 1999 after just two weeks of dating. She received her green card in May 2001 and her American citizenship in December 2006. Currently, she works in the fashion industry in Los Angeles where she serves as a grader* and spec writer. (March 1, 2007)

* Grader: a person who produces scaled versions of an original pattern to produce clothes across a range of sizes and fits.