John O'Donoghue, for JAPAN Forward

Where are you from?

This is a question often asked of foreign residents in Japan. While it can get repetitive, it arises from natural curiosity.

But, paradoxically, what if the same question is directed at you in your own country, your place of origin, where you were born?

For Misty Fujii, 36, a DJ living in Osaka, it’s a question she’s encountered on both sides of the Pacific: “In Toronto I would still get asked at least once a day where I’m from. I mean, I’m fifth-generation Canadian, I was born in Canada, my parents were born in Canada, my grandparents and so on, so that was really frustrating.”

“Really, what people wanted to ask is ‘What are you?’ Fuiji added, “But you can’t really, and so they’d say, ‘Where are you from?’”

Which leads to Misty’s obvious answer: “I’m from Canada,” which she says typically leaves her interlocutors “not very satisfied”.

Misty was a regular visitor to Japan before moving to Osaka in 2019. She has a black father and a white mother. And while she encounters that question — Where are you from? — often in Japan, she doesn’t feel the same frustration. “I don’t feel people are asking me because of my skin color per se.”

Home and Away

Music plays a central part in Misty and her Japanese husband’s life. She DJs in Osaka and beyond, and also pitches in at Night Beat Records in Amemura, a record store run by her husband which specializes in American music genres, such as jazz and blues.

“I moved to Japan because of my husband, and because I love the music scene in Japan. I also wanted an opportunity to live abroad and immerse myself in a new country and culture,” she said.

While Toronto and Osaka have roughly the same population size, one of the things Misty noticed right off the plane was that the black population was far smaller in Osaka.

Prior to moving to Japan, Misty did her homework — on Facebook — in order to find friends and a network.

“I’m still looking for Canadians,” Misty said, jokingly, “but as far as black people, I basically just searched “Black Japan” in the Facebook bar, and from that I found two really amazing groups that I am very active in, both online and in real life.”

Those two groups, Black Creatives Japan and Black Women in Japan, both of which have chapters throughout Japan, have played an outsize role in helping Misty connect with others and share experiences.


By - Ben K.