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Why “Are you Korean or Japanese?” Is Not a Good Pickup Line

(What kind of Asian are you?)

Strangers make racial remarks to me frequently, almost as frequently as they acknowledge me for being an ovulating homo-sapien as I take the bus or the subway in New York City. But if you are just trying to start a friendly conversation, “Are you Korean?” may not be your best choice. It doesn’t translate very well with me because this is what I think it means.
  “Even though I didn’t grow up with many Asian people around, I still know that there are different cultures within the Asian culture. So I better let her know that I know that.”
Or
“My last girlfriend was from Korea. And you look like you could be her sister."
    Whichever the case, there is nothing wrong with asking this question. I just don't feel like talking to you. No one thinks it's an offensive question, right? Well, you might be surprised. I have to say it's one of the most delicate topics among Asians. Despite the fact that DNA studies show our close ties, the Asian people…

Why Do Japanese People Suck at English?

Problems With the Japanese Phonetic Writing System

When Japanese tourists visit Korea, their nearest neighboring country, they like to order kimchi, spicy and sour pickled vegetables served as a side dish. Kimchi is Korea's national dish and Japanese people have been enjoying this dish since the mid 1970's. But something went wrong when my father and a group of Japanese people tried to order kimchi at a restaurant in Seoul last year. Despite their collective effort, they were not able to pronounce this word correctly. Their Japanese accent was just too strong to be understood by the Korean wait staff. 


So what exactly is a Japanese accent? Well, there are a few different ones, but the one I would like to talk about today is the lack of what I call "independent consonants". In the Japanese language, all but one consonant is followed by a vowel. So in the case of the word kimchi, it is the "m" sound in the middle that Japanese people have trouble pronouncing. T…

My Conversion Speech on January 17 @ Temple Israel

Until recently, I was a very unlikely candidate for conversion. Even though I am Japanese, I was raised in a believing Protestant household, and subsequently became a Born-Again Christian at the age of ten at a Christian camp in Japan. At 18, I moved to the U.S. to attend The Juilliard School. I used to be a Christian violinist, giving church concerts, appearing at evangelical events and on Christian TV programs. And I led prayer groups at a church in New York City. Yes, I was that crazy Shiksa.
It was about ten years ago, that I started touring with “Pharaoh’s Daughter”, a Jewish Middle-Eastern band consisting of mostly Israelis and few Gentiles. It’s headed by an American Jew, Basya Schechter, an ex-ultra-Orthodox woman from Borough Park. We have performed at many Jewish festivals and all imaginable venues; Carnegie Hall, JCC’s, synagogues, colleges and even prisons. We traveled, ate, laughed, and occasionally, we cried together. For the past ten years, I got to participate in many J…