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It's no secret that I am Chinese, from Hong Kong. I think I made it plainly obvious with the fact that I curated an entire list of Hong Kong cafes in Tokyo and the recent post of me being East Asian in Japan.

(please check out the list, I promise I don't disappoint!)

Of course, as an Asian kid growing up in a western country, I too have gone though a phase of trying to reject my heritage and my roots. But eventually, I took interest in it again through music and films - though a bit unconventional.

I was 12 at the time. Everyone was crazy over Avril Lavigne. And rightfully so! She's extremely talented and there were some serious bops created then. But I wasn't a fan, necessarily. I accepted that she was good but I never took to any obsession with her or any of the "younger" it singers and actors at the time (High School Musical anyone?).

Instead, I fell head over heels over (at the time) 45-ish year old Andy Lau Tak Wah.

Considered one of 4 Heavenly Kings in the music industry of Hong Kong (the other 3 being Aaron Kwok, Leon Lai and Jacky Cheung), he was also acclaimed as an actor. He was most active out of the 4 Kings at the time, and have been famed the title of being an Ox not only because he was born the year of an ox, but also for being extremely hardworking - to the point where it really wasn't that uncommon to see at least 3 or 4 films out by him in one year. On top of music world tour and releases of music! His filmography in the 90s up until the late 2000s is quite uncanny for a rather lesser entertainment industry at the time.

But you get the point. I like this man. A lot.

Heck, I even did a school project on him! I think a lot of friends were rather concerned that I was into men with a age gap and it would reflect in real life (nope, thank god!).

Not only for the age gap, but I think most people associated Hong Kong film at the time with Kung Fu and Gangster films. Bruce Lee, Stephen Chow, Jordan Chan - all these names wouldn't have been unusual for someone to get into Hong Kong entertainment from. For the younger generation like us, there were even an entire sleuth of young music artists and actors I could have chosen. Joey Yung, Jay Chow, Twins.... and while I did like them, it wasn't quite the same.

Point is, my Cantonese is as good as it is now is thanks to him.

And one other player which you've all been recently introduced to internationally:

Recognize him? Yes, the acclaimed Tony Leung Chiu Wai from the Marvel films. My man. A total sweetheart and so down to earth despite his fame. I have had the chance to interact with him but that's another story for another time :)

These two single-handedly carried the Hong Kong film industry in my opinion and not made a total fool out of it after the hype over Wuxia and Kung Fu was no longer at its peak. Whether that's in the film depicted in these two photos of them, Infernal Affairs (this film is why The Departed exists, ok), or otherwise - they have both created a great number of local successes that were actually memorable and contained value messages in life of sorts.

My personal favourite from Tony are actually some of his least popular films. My Lucky Star, a romance film he did with Miriam Yeung. It was rather subjective, but there was an overwhelming consensus that Miriam was a terrible actress (her singing was also... well). The fact that he still managed to make this film watchable and pulled at heartstrings is a miracle if you ask me.

Tokyo Raider. No had nothing to do Tomb Raider. I mean, there's nothing really to write home about. It's not any artistic film that the west seems to love about Asian "exotic" films (that's also, another topic for another time), it's supposed to be a fun, action film. Hong Kong had a lot of those at the time. Fun comedies. Fun romances. Fun gangsters. But they were all extremely stupid and almost braindead. Zero substance. So to fun action film that actually had people try to act was really refreshing at the time and remains one of my Tony Leung favs. Also who doesn't like guys in long trench coats? Come on.

Now, Andy. Gameboy Kids with his fellow heavenly king, Aaron Kwok. Hands down. One of my favourite fun, geeky Hong Kong films.

Dance of a Dream which has the late Anita Mui always has a HUGE spot in my heart. There's not a lot of films in Hong Kong that try to mimic a more musical-type film, but this one tried. It wasn't great, but there's a bit cultural references that makes it really nostalgic for locals. I personally love it because it's so down to earth. The film follows Sandra Ng's character, where her character really isn't charismatic nor attractive. She goes through the events of the films, falls in love with Andy's character but realizes she wasn't the one and goes through a series of reflections, self-discovery and reliance on new friendships. It's tiring to go through the whole "ugly duckling" troupe, but its nice to see one film that doesn't completely follow through. And Andy dances in the film, so that's all I needed to say, right?

I also have so many memories of me forcing my poor poor friends to watch this film and making them dance to this terrible number:

Yeah, I am a amazing Hong Kong entertainment ambassedor ok.

I'm also a fan of anything Andy Lau does with Sammi Cheng. These two friends are the Kimura Takuya and Matsu Takako of Hong Kong golden combi, and no one can convince me otherwise.

Andy and Tony both are genuinely great, hardworking actors.

In very different ways. Despite Tony Leung having taken the award for best actor home over Andy Lau for Infernal Affairs, I don't particularly think Andy's acting is lacking - just different. As Tony put it in this interview below: it's luck that won him the award. (don't we just love a humble king?)

But essence, they are two VERY different actors. Tony Leung is more stoic, and is the art of mimic. He thinks a lot about his characters and really gets into the mind of it. Andy appears more outgoing and almost acts in a way that reacts to those around him, a more spontaneous act if you will. Both necessary components of an actor and why I think these two are such a legendary pair and why I am sooooooooooooooooooo excited to see them act together again!!!

I really didn't think I'd ever see these two act again in my lifetime, but I feel absolutely blessed. Truly. I don't have many joys in life but these two, along with my personal favourite sweetheart Charlene Choi (Twins) are all going to be in it. I am. So. Stoked.

Even Tony Leung's wife Carina Lau posted about it:

The "dream team", she write.

HELL YEAH. She is actually the reason I found out about it in October... hahaha ;;; Yeah, actually I really haven't been caught up with any Hong Kong films since forever. And I haven't been this excited over Hong Kong anything for a long time.

I don't know if it'll be good. I only hope it will be. And I trust it will.

Kind of wish I was in Hong Kong for this when it comes out in December, but hey. I've already got my two kings in one movie, I cannot complain.

And did I write all of that just to say I'm excited for one damn film??

Yes. Yes I did. :p


(this is purely my own experience)

Lots of foreign people who has lived in Japan will tell you that Japanese people are really not used to seeing "foreign people". They often "freak out" or is overly fascinate by simply the sight of them. To be honest, I'm not sure how true that is anymore, especially in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. The foreign population in Japan is only growing, and as most job opportunities (outside of teaching) are in big cities, I would have to argue that they shouldn't react twice as much as they did before.

To be fair though, it's not something I can relate to.

Yes, I'm foreign. But I don't look foreign. And while we absolutely do "blend in" (for the most part), Japanese people often get more confused by us, than those who are "visibly foreign".

That's not to say it's really a bad thing. But their lack of understanding can sometimes lead to rather interesting conversations, and perhaps borderline offensive - depending on what type of person you are.


Are you... Japanese?

I showed up at orientation at my first ALT job in 2014. This was sort of the first time you meet one of your Japanese Teachers of English (JTE) - one of your teaching partners, and you get to introduce yourself, learn a bit about your schedules and your school bit more.

My supervisor walks in with me to one of these sessions, and of course, I thought it would be more polite to start off speaking Japanese (like よろしくお願いします。) instead of English. So I bowed, spoke the Japanese and sat down. There were a lot of curious faces then. I wouldn't say it's confusion, but just more of a "but she's Asian, can she really speak the American English we want?" sort of thing. Then my supervisor does a brief introduction of their company and tells everyone in the room my name and where I was from (Canada).

I guess knowing that I was from Canada brought some relief because I definitely saw some sighs of relief that Canada = English speaking country = I can speak English.

The mental gymnastics I must have caused.

I then preceeded to do a short introduction in English and in Japanese, as advised by my supervisor as a curtesy. I told them I was Chinese-Canadian which seemed to have put the mystery of my origins to rest. It's not that I don't think they've never seen an East Asian speak English, but I simply just think that they often associate western countries like Canada to have only western looking people. So I as sort of a rarer breed at the time. And if you think about it, 2014 wasn't exactly a time when a lot of Asian people appeared in English media so there were still tons of learning moments to be had.

The same JTE later told me that she was 100% convinced I was Japanese and I take that as a compliment. :p

Speaking Preferences

If you’re the Asian friend with your foreigner expat friends, I’m 100% sure you’ve experienced this. If you are ordering something, or paying for something, the Japanese staff will always default to you as your friends’ spokesperson. Even though you aren’t Japanese.

It’s probably because they are more comfortable with the East Asian face. Which more or less looks similar to the Japanese. I think this old youtube video is still extremely relevant and summarizes the experience perfectly:

The Bar is Set Very High for You

Because I was Japanese-passing due to being of East Asian descent, Japanese people often assumed I understood things when I didn't. Or if there was a western foreigner around, they'll think you'd understood whatever the assignment was better than your counterpart (but in actuality, it's sometimes the opposite).

The Honeymoon Phase was Short, If Any

There was a time when I was on the subway with a western friend. She was visibly foreign, and we had been speaking English the entire time of course. We were just sitting on the train, minding our own business when a Japanese man comes up to us and hands my friend an origami crane.

"For you. Welcome to Japan!" he said to my friend before getting off our train and waved.

After the interaction, we laughed and joked at how random that was and how we had already been living in Japan for 3 years and people would still approach her like this.

The entire time I was also thinking, "WHERE IS MY ORIGAMI??"

Not that I actually cared for one, but it's not like I wasn't a foreigner either...... "oh wait, but was it because I looked Japanese?"

(realistically it could be that I just wasn't hot enough lol)

As a visibly foreign person in Japan, I think this kind of interaction and hospitality often lasts the entire time you are here and never quite goes away. Whereas many people wouldn't immediately think I was a tourist or a guest to the country, and the interaction is null. Certainly, there are pros and cons. If you just started living here as a visibly foreign person, it can be a nice and sweet gesture. Been in Japan for 10 years and people still treat you like a guest, I ought to think that can be a bit defeating. Definitely a win for being East Asian there! ;)

I don't think there is much of a point I want to ring home tonight. But I just think that it's always been interesting to me how being "foreign" can differ in experience in Japan just by looks. And that often times the "problems" other English speaking foreigners run into don't really apply to me.

I don't know. If you're East Asian, what are your experiences on being foreign in Japan? Is it different? Share your experiences with us in the comments or on twitter with us!


There are days when I feel freedom, but there are just days where I just feel lost and confused about where to go in my life. With this blog even. Now that I'm out of Japan, I don't really quite know how to proceed. I don't have live updates. And the social media platforms I relied on to get the word out on my writing no longer is helping me get views.

I do think I should write more, but at the same time, there's also a part of me that thinks the writing market is now so saturated.

Right now, I think I will try to write more mini-blogs. I think it will help me feel a bit more restless and at least allow me to do something I enjoy doing without too much pressure to conform to anything. :)

On a lighter note though, I am thoroughly enjoying roll sushi back in Canada.

I truly missed having a good dragon roll!

Hope you're all doing well!

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