As a half-Japanese woman, married to a Caucasian man, raising our two beautiful, mixed babies in Colorful Colorado, I’ve tried to be intentional on keeping both American and Japanese culture alive and present in our home. A healthy mix of both is what makes our family unique! While our family dynamics, values, and traditions are ebbing and flowing, one thing I want to be consistent with is honoring both of our heritages in our home.
Here are just a few ways we celebrate the Japanese culture in our day-to-day life:
1. Making Food Both Beautiful and Fun
In Japan, presentation of food is the most important! When food is beautiful, it encourages you to eat and try new things. Japanese food is full of different colors and textures! For my daughter, I love to create little Bento-style meals. I use fun cookie cutters to make shapes in her food. A plain slice of cheese is just that, but if her cheese is shaped like a flower or a bear she gets so excited! She’s tried many new, unusual foods solely based on their appearance! One of her favorite foods is currently sushi. We took her to a beautiful sushi restaurant and the colors and presentation were so inviting, she couldn’t help but try it! One of my favorite Japanese holidays is Shōgatsu (Japanese New Year) because my mom throws a huge party and all of her local Japanese friends bring beautiful dishes full of color, intricate details, and new tastes/smells.
2. Non-Disposable, Intentional Culture
My maternal great-grandmother was married in early 1930’s and as a wedding gift she received a bamboo colander. After 65 years of marriage she still had the same colander and passed it down to my grandma, and then it somehow got lost/broken and didn’t quite make it to my mom! It was “just” a colander, but it was still functional and had it’s place in the kitchen, so instead of replacing it with something newer or fancier, it was passed down through the generations. My mom also has dishes that are over 100 years old that will be passed to me and then hopefully my children, grandchildren, etc. Japanese families tend to be more minimalistic and intentional when bringing new things into their homes-a trait that I am working hard towards.
3. Group-Oriented Mindset
In Japan, children are taught to focus on the groups they are a part of instead of their individual self. This tends to lead toward more peaceful, harmonious relationships which I think is so beautiful! I think there is a great balance between teaching my children to respect their friends, family, and strangers by contributing to an orderly society and teaching them to put themselves first when necessary and look out for their own well-being! I remember watching some children in Japan playing at the playground and working together respectfully and cohesively to figure out how to build a house of sticks. It was truly a beautiful sight to see such young minds work so well together!
4. Children’s Day - Kodomo no hi
On May 5th, in honor of all the children, Koinobori (cloth carp streamers) are hung around the villages and flown on poles to bring them luck and fortune. Koinobori symbolize the strength, resilience, and health. This holiday is so wonderful to me and we celebrate it in our home because I want to show my children on this special that I respect and honor them to the fullest! I love that the Japanese really value their children and strive to lead them towards becoming their best selves.
5. Love and Respect for Nature
This one is huge for our family. Being in Colorado, we have an immense love for nature and all the gifts that is blesses us with. We spend most of our days outside, snow or shine, and have taught our children so many valuable lessons about the outdoors. In Japan, their love for nature is so harmonious and intimate! It’s rooted in their children to love nature unconditionally and to respect and take care of the world we were given. The world is seen as a gift that we borrowed from Mother Nature and that just really resonates in our family. This world is changing quickly and I want to instill in my children’s hearts and minds just how important it is that we love and take care of our world! So, all in all, while we always have room for improvement and change, these are the ways that we are trying to bring both Japanese and American culture together in our home. As we grow, I’m sure our traditions and mindset will change or be added on to. I hope you find that some of these things resonate with you and your family!
Mariel (Moe) Hansen is a mother, creator and aspiring photographer based in Colorado. When she doesn't have her hand full raising her two children, you can find her baking bread, going on hikes, or reading a good book. For more about her life and escapades, follow her on instagram @weedsintowishes