Day 96 - Hikaru

96 Hikaru.jpeg

Day 96 - Hikaru (1st person I approached)
April 06, 2014. Hikaru was sitting alone eating when I approached her. She was happy to talk with me, and opened with

“This is a very good time for you to be interviewing me. My life is at a transition point right now,” she said. Gold, I thought!


Hikaru was born in Yokohama, Japan. She is the third generation in her family to be born there. Hikaru has one sister who is two years older. She went to a private school, and Hikaru continued to attend school in Yokohama, travelling to and from there daily, even when the family moved. She was in her early teens when the family moved to the historic town of Kamakura, renowned for its ancient temples and the 13 metre tall Daibutsu (Great Buddha) statue which was sculpted some 762 years ago. (*Fact Check - see link below.)

“I did fairly well at school,” Hikaru told me.

”I always had an interest in sciences, but in middle school, I was taught by a teacher that I liked very much. He seemed to really care about our learning and he taught math, and through him, I became very interested in math, and my grades improved because of him. I learned diligence from him, and I have always remembered that.” 


Hikaru took part in an exchange program in high school when she was 16 years old, which brought her to Vancouver. She lived with a Canadian Japanese family in Burnaby.

“Their son went to stay with my family in my home in Kamakura, and I stayed with his family here. For one year, I went to Burnaby South High School,” she said.

While here in Vancouver, Hikaru also took an English as a Second Language (ESL) course, to improve her language skills.

“The teachers there impressed me so much, I wanted to become an ESL teacher. They were so patient and worked with students from all different backgrounds. Some people took lessons just to improve their skills, but some had to learn, for income, or to be able to survive. The teachers made a big difference in peoples lives,” said Hikaru.

She also shared with me,

“I have reflected on this time that I left home because ‘I wanted to see the world’ and I think it was silly of me to think that I knew so much back then. I was only 16, and thought I knew more than I actually did. But it is only when I look back that I could realize that. I didn’t know this at the time.”  

It was during her exchange program that Hikaru decided she wanted to come back to Vancouver and go to the University of British Columbia (UBC).


When she returned to Yokohama to finish her schooling, Hikaru took a different approach to after school activities.

”Most of my friends and people my age would join after school clubs, like sports, or games. I decided to work. My sister had gotten a job as a waitress, and I wanted to make some extra money to be able to return to Canada to study, so I went to school and I worked as well. I got a job as a waitress and I also worked as a cashier at 7-11,” she told me, with pride in her voice.

After finishing high school, she continued working until she was able to return to Vancouver.

“I went to Langara College and took some university prep courses. I studied English, French and Psychology. And I worked as well. I didn’t stay with the family that I had during my exchange. I didn’t want to be a burden to them, so I stayed with a friends Aunt in North Vancouver. That didn’t work out though, because it was tough to get from North Vancouver to Langara College, so I moved closer to school, and got roommates. That didn’t always work out either,” she said.


Hikaru did get to UBC and studied English Language. It was a three year program, but with working and planning to give herself enough time to work and make it through school successfully, Hikaru took four years to get her Bachelor of Arts in English degree.

“While I was in university, I also had a number of jobs. I got a job working as a line cook at the Irish pub on Granville Street, and then a friend knew someone who worked at a backpacking hostel in the same area, and I got a job there working as a housekeeper. I worked there for five years,” she says matter-of-factly.

When I commented that it must have been a challenge to attend university full time and work rather demanding jobs, Hikaru asks if I want to hear the other jobs she had as well.

“I sold frozen yoghurt for one summer in Yaletown. When they later closed that business, they recommended me to a nail bar owner, and I became a receptionist there. I also tutored as an ESL teacher, and was a nanny. I looked after an 11 year old girl. I would pick her up after school and go to her home and make her dinner and take care of her, then go home,” Hikaru said.

I sensed she might have had more jobs, but we left it at that. Hikaru graduated from University late last year, and is not sure where or what her future will lead to.

“I leave Vancouver on Thursday to return to Kamakura in Japan. My older sister is getting married and I want to be there to help her with the preparations and to spend time with my family. I also hope to make some decisions about my future as well,” she told me.  


I asked Hikaru what she remembers the most about her time as an exchange student in Vancouver when she was 16. She smiled and said,

“I am most grateful for my host mother. She is very different than my own mother. My mother is a very traditional Japanese woman, who doesn’t show much emotion toward her children. It is from a belief that you don’t spoil your child and they will learn to work hard. My exchange mother was very different, She is a western mother and told me so often that I can do anything I want to and was always telling me how good I was. It was very comforting and gave me much confidence.”

I then asked how her mother felt about having a boy living in her home as part of the exchange program. Without missing a beat, Hikaru laughed. covering her mouth and said,  

”I think my mother really liked that. To have a boy in the house and not just two daughters. He could fix bikes! My mother used to ride her bike everywhere and Taka (the exchange son) could fix her bike for her. She loved that. The working life in Japan is very hard and the days are long. One time my mother had to stay late at work and when she got home at midnight, Taka was waiting for her. He told her ‘I was very worried about you, where have you been?!’ and when my mother told him she had to stay late at work, he got angry with her employer for keeping her so late. My mother doesn’t think her daughters would care in that same way. She liked that he cared about her so much. He’s coming to Japan with me for my sister's wedding.” #notastranger

*Fact Check -