Mar 23, 2015

Where am I from? Tokyo? Toronto?

I was born in Ontario
I lived in Toronto for 5 years.
I live in Tokyo for almost 4 years now.

So where am I from? When people ask me where I am from I used to proudly say Toronto, but recently I have started to question the way I answer to these types of questions.

I am an immigrant from Canada, holding Canadian citizenship but I am planing on becoming Japanese and living here till the day my heart stops beating. This is where I plan to buy a home, start a family, retire. I pay taxes, insurance and into the Japanese public pension system. This is my new home. I always say I am from Toronto because thats where I am from. I was not born there, (where you are from and where you are born are two different things)

I also was not born in Japan but it doesn't mean that I am not from here. Its completely normal for me to say I am from Tokyo..but.

For some reason it feels like you are pressured by some people to say where you used to live, no matter how many years you been here. This kinda bothers me and I don't wish to participate in this anymore. I feel like I am proudly ready to say.

I am from Tokyo.

I am no longer a resident of Canada, legally recognized as such according to the Canadian government. (a resident is a person who lives in a country, regardless of their citizenship or not, if you live somewhere that is your residence).

EDIT: *stretches arms and inserts clarification for those who don't know and therefor assume this information is incorrect*

When I visit Canada and arrive into the customs clearance at the airport, I have to enter in the "visitors to Canada" line, because I am not a resident of Canada.  This is where I have to tell them how long I plan on staying in the country and where I will be visiting. Even though I hold Canadian citizenship I still have to give the airport this information.

EDIT: I though this was common sense... I mean If I am not a resident and I am just visiting that seems normal and straight forward to me. Yet a certain someone had a little hissy fit on twitter getting all enraged and implying this information is wrong and a bunch of bs. I had to dig up this picture of what I see every time I entered the country. I am sorry but I know my legal language an I know very well what the word "resident" means.  I am not a resident of Canada. I don't live here, no address is registered there. I live in Japan. I even got so annoyed that I called Pearson airport just to confirm. Yup. I am not a resident unless I live in Canada. The correct line is visitor line.

Now back to my original post *EDIT OUT.

I also am not eligible to renew my Canadian VISA card. The reason being is for my bank, you need to be a resident of Canada. Their rules state a resident is someone who has been in the country within the last 2 years. If I leave the country for more than 2 years I am not able to renew it.

I am also not eligible and no longer have Canadian health insurance. Ontario health insurance requires you to live in Ontario for 3 convective months before being eligible. I don't live there, my card expired and I wont be able to renew it unless I moved back to Ontario, lived there for 3 months.

When I come back home in Japan, it is a little bit different because in Japan they divide the customers lines into "foreign passport" and "Japanese passports". I am not yet a Japanese citizen so I go through the foreign passports section of course, which is then 再入国 and perm residence. Which are people who are returning. It is in general, for people who are residents of Japan. Non residents don't have visas so they get asked many questions at the gates. I just slip right past and the process is simple. 

All my family has accepted that I live in Japan, this is my home. Some people ask me how my family takes it knowing their daughter moved to a far away country. They have accepted it and fully support me. Often they refer to me as their Japanese daughter, or daughter from Japan.  They can't wait to come visit me, and sometimes my mom even makes jokes about moving here so I can take care of her when she gets old. lol

When I visited Toronto, I couldn't say "I am from Toronto" so instead I said I am from Tokyo. It would have been silly to say I am from Toronto, I mean I don't live there and where I came from was Tokyo. This is no problem to me at all.

So when I am abroad I can refer to myself as a Tokyoite.

but when I am in Tokyo....what do I say? This is what I have started to wonder about.

I am not going to lie, there has been some times where people have asked where I am from and I had said Tokyo. It depends on the case what I say.  

In the beginning I said Canada always because I wasn't used to Tokyo, I wasn't from here. I got used to saying it and as the years went on of me living here the reactions of people were different.
When I said I am from Canada, when they found out I live here, they were a little surprised like "OH !! You live here?! I thought you were a tourist".

I mean, Where I am from and where I am born are two different things. Where you are from is the place you are currently connected to. A person from somewhere knows the area, they are a local, they know the food, culture and where to go and how to get there.

Someone not from somewhere is someone just visiting, passing through, tourism or a new comer who doesn't know the area and thus needs to ask "hey can you tell me ~~~ I am not from here".

Saying I am from Toronto is like a lie to myself now, I realize that when I went to Toronto for more than 10 mins (like last summers Canada trip).   Everything is different. Stores are gone, stores appeared. Buildings changed. Transportation names have changed. I had to ask for directions and people gave me "common" landmarks I have no idea what they are.

You never really expect things to change when you are gone. Many people say reverse culture shock is stronger than culture shock. When you move to a new country you expect to see new things. But when you go back to a country you used to live in, you don't expect people or things to change and when they do you often get into a shock.

I kept raising my hand up in a restaurant trying to say "sumimasen!!" when ordering food. Everything felt out of place and like I totally didn't belong there.  And yes, I even found myself taking pictures of stuff I never even though I would take pictures of.  I had lots of fun, I got to shop for stuff I wanted and I ate every food I missed on my list of food to eat. But I didn't feel like I have the right to say "I am from Toronto" anymore.

I wasn't actually born in Toronto btw. I have lived in multiple cities in my life, all across Ontario. Even though I wasn't born in Toronto, I used to say I was from Toronto. Its fairly normal to do. Some people act like the word "where are you from" is supposed to mean, where are you born. But I never heard anyone use it in such way.

I think that for some reason people who move to Japan, immigrants get a sort of fear to start being proud that they are now from here. I think it comes with the fear that ppl put into peoples minds that Japan is so racist and doesn't accept people (btw this is utter bs). Even my Japanese friends know the difference between born and from. I have friends who I know are born in another city but they never say "I am from XXXX". I even have friends who were born abroad but never say it. So why would it be any different for me?  I realized the other day it seems so silly to stop my chain of "froms". I mean, in my whole life I have been "from" over  8 different cities. After I move and live there for a few years, I become from that place. Why would I stop and not say I am from Tokyo??


  1. Your home is where your heart is. If you feel like you're from Tokyo then you ARE from Tokyo. Once you are Japanese(after migrating) then there's definitely no reason not to be from Tokyo, right?

    We live in the present, not in the past, Mira. Good blog post btw. ^-^

  2. I think we are all from the place we were born and were raised. I'm from California no matter if I end up staying here in Japan until I keel over. You didn't mention where you were before the four years of you living in Toronto. If that is in Canada, then you are from Canada but you are a Japanese resident. That's what I would say after being here for so long. I'm from California but I am a Japanese resident. Good luck in your new life and don't let these things bother you. I lot of things bother me here but we get used to them.

    1. Well that is usally what "from" means where I am from, But when the time spent in the city they live in becomes longer they start to say "I am from here". I have many friends who were born in other cities but they never say "I am from XXX". They always say they are from the city they came from.

      I was born in a different area in Northern Ontario, near Wawa. But I have never said I am from Wawa. When you hear someone say "I am from wawa" you expect them to know about wawa and know their way around. The city I lived in the longest was Toronto, so automatically I say I am from Toronto, even when visiting my parents. My parents moved away from a city they lived in for a long time, then moved back, and they said they were from the city they just moved from. Nobody at all thinks it is weird or confusing. Usually people who wanna confirm say something like "were you born here too?" or "you lived here all your life?"

      If you went to me at a party and said you are from California, I would assume you didn't live in Japan or were planning on returning to California, or had just got to Japan. It is interesting how different people use the term "from" though.

  3. even if you get citizenship, you're still a white girl living in japan. This is just embarrassing now.

    1. Yes. Yes I would be a white girl living in Japan. I have no idea why you think that my skin colour has anything to do with anything. :/

  4. I agree with Ume Fox. Home is where ever you wanna call home :) Just because you're born in one particular place doesn't mean you automatically will feel belong. This earth is vast and huge and everyone deserves to find happiness from wherever they want!

  5. Im from Nova Scotia and have lived in Japan sinc 1999. Home for me is still Nova Scotia. But a large part of my life has been here.

  6. Living in the same country for my entire life, this obviously isn't an issue for me. But, having moved around to different provinces in Canada, whenever someone asks 'where I'm from'. I always say, "I am from XXX, but I was born in XXX." just to make sure it is clear. Maybe doing something like that might help.

    After all, where you're from is up to you. But where you were born is kind of determined for you ;-P.

  7. I think the issue of where you're from is... where will you end up when you're old? Will the Japanese government allow you to live here till death? Do you qualify for Japanese benefits and will you be able to collect a Japanese pension? Would you need to relocate to Canada for medical care? Can you stay in the country permanently as a full member of society?