Japanese Festival Essays

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Two days of food, games, music, and Japanese cultural activities and bon odori dancing.

Start Date Long Beach Annual Japanese Festival arrives at the Japanese Cultural Center.

(For boys, it's celebrated at ages three and five.) It was the first time I can remember getting my makeup done, wearing beautiful in my hair, and enduring the hours-long process of having someone dress me in an ornate kimono.

(That's me, in the orange, and my twin sister in red.) I didn't appreciate the experience then — we spent hours taking photos at a local temple, and all I can remember is feeling hot and constricted in my tight sandals that were impossible to walk in — and how it felt to celebrate a holiday that I literally hadn't known about until earlier on that trip.

While my friends back home were rimming their eyes with too much eyeliner and coating lashes in black mascara, Japanese girls my age were all about bright, frosty eye shadow and a soft, "juicy" lip color (think sheer washes of coral and rosy pink).

It was a beauty-culture shock in the best way imaginable. was somewhere in the middle; heavy makeup was definitely not my style, but neither were frosty shades of pink.I watched with interest as an older Japanese woman layered me in sheer cotton robes, followed by my bespoke peach silk creation and green — what I was told was an emerging trend among young Japanese women — and wispy, face-framing pieces that didn't fight my natural texture.What I've learned not only as I've gotten older is that just because I'm half-Asian doesn't mean I half-belong to my culture, or can't feel as "Japanese" as anyone else from there.She lives in a quiet suburban town just outside of Tokyo, one with plenty of boutiques and department stores.It was in these stores — many of them located inside expansive train stations — that I discovered Japanese beauty firsthand, and how it differed from the products I'd grown used to shopping for in American drugstores.But it's still a surprise to people nearly every time I tell them my ethnicity.Growing up, I struggled with feeling "pretty" compared to my white friends.A large shrine gate, said to be the largest in Japan, towers over the main road to Izumo Taisha and welcomes visitors to the area.Izumo Taisha is easily accessible by car, bus, or train, and the area around the shrine bustles with tourists and visitors to the shrine, especially on the weekends.I've discovered that cultural identity is so much more than what you look like — it's the food you eat, the language you speak, and the family members that make a house on the opposite side of the globe feel just like home.Even for all the teasing and self-doubt, I'm proud of my biracial heritage, and can say with confidence that I'm happy to have inherited my bold Japanese brows and my mom's olive complexion.

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