大事 (Daiji): On Living Between Two Cultures and Learning What Is Most Important
To me, ‘daiji’ embodies the struggle to prioritize two languages, homes, and selves.
This is a new column by Nina Li Coomes about language, self-expression, and what it means to exist between cultures.
It is easy for me to say to my dear ones who speak English just how precious they are to me. It is difficult to relay how much I treasure someone over a transpacific phone call.
I especially feel this inability to express priority and dearness in the days before a flight from Japan to the US: How can one find the words to say goodbye to one home in order to fly back to another? What words possess the power to last a whole year until you see someone again? How do you say “You are dear to me, but so are those in the place I go to now”?
I care about you, so please take care of you.
in my heart, you take up space.
More by this author
Hafu carries insinuations of otherness; of not belonging, but being fetishized. How do I carry this name and this history at once?
Nukumori can refer to a kind of existence not dependent on physical proximity, allowing a person’s presence to linger with you even if they cannot.
More in this series
‘Setsunai’ implies something once bright, now faded. It is the painful twinge at the edge of a memory, the joy in the knowledge that everything is temporary.
How many days had we spent asking the same questions of God or doctors? How long had we wrestled with conditions that didn’t yet exist?
When he asked me how to say “I love you” in Japanese, I translated linguistically, but mistranslated culturally.