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Celebrating our Asian diversity…

Yaoki Sato, Japan

Tell us about yourself

I am from Japan and have been living in Whistler since 1997. One day, I saw a ski magazine which introduced backcountry skiing in Whistler Blackcomb. I want to learn and study more about backcountry skiing, so I moved to Whistler.

In Japan, I was a realtor.  After moving to Canada, I’ve been working different jobs, a tour guide for a Japanese travel agent, working in a Japanese restaurant, shuttle driver and ski rental associate.

How is Canadian culture/life different from your home country?

Living in Japan; In my opinion, most people are working hard for LIFE. In Canada, most of the people are working hard for pleasure and leisure. You will get a good work-life balance.

Japanese food is different between Canada and Japan. In Canada, we name Japanese food “Nihon shoku” (日本食). In Japan, we call Japanese food, Washoku (和食).  Nihon shoku is arranged in North America with Japanese cooking methods. We did not have inside out rolls like a California roll in Japan, but now we have. Some of Japanese food tastes light on purpose, but many North Americans like richer tastes, in that case Nihon shoku is made with a richer taste. Anyway, both of them taste good for me!

Relationships between friends, employee and employer, senior and young are pretty different. In Japan, the idea of respecting your elders has been clear since we were little, a firm hierarchical relationship is maintained in the workplace and in the team towards older employees and superiors. However, in Canada, regardless of age or position, everyone is more approachable with each other in the workplace or team. A characteristic feature is that they call each other by first name, even to seniors and bosses.

Which parts of your home culture do you try to keep (in Canada), and why?

I remember the first Hinamatsuri (雛祭り) after my daughter’s birth.  My mother-in-law sent us some Hina dolls (雛人形) to celebrate “girl’s day”.  Hinamatsuri means doll festival and for this reason it’s also known as Dolls’ Day. On 3rd of March, parents wish and pray for the healthy growth and happiness of their daughters.

We don’t usually wear shoes in the house. Traditionally, the Japanese eat meals sitting on tatami mats instead of chairs, and they roll out the futon to sleep on tatami floors. As we are very close to the floor, we usually take off our shoes for cleanliness.

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There has been a significant increase of hate crimes against Asian in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has that affected you personally?

I have watched some anti-Asian news happening in Vancouver (city). Luckily nothing affected me and my family. Our family has tried to stay in Whistler after the pandemic started. Maybe it just does not happen to us because we do not see many people. However, last year, I was reading an article from Pique magazine and a hate crime happened to a local Japanese family in Whistler. This is very sad.

I understand in our culture, being Japanese, we tend to not speak out. But if it’s happened to my family, I don’t want to just walk away, I will try to talk to them (but not fight!) and understand why they said it.

I am also thinking when COVID just happened, social medias said the pandemic is happened in Wuhan, and most people also saw from the news saying Chinese government was hiding the pandemic information, so people (who are outside of Asia area) start thinking China government is not good, become Chinese people is not good, and then become Asian is not good. But this is not the right direction.

Why is it important to recognize/celebrate Asian Heritage Month? This year?

I am not too sure if this is the right way to do it. If we can share our food, culture with other people, they will probably like it or not like it. 

However, if we don’t do anything, I believe nothing will change or go slowly. I think it’s better we start doing something instead of doing nothing and waiting for other people to change their mind (Asian hate). Change is not just saying it, we need to actually do something. Otherwise, nothing will change.

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