I am a Japanese/American psychologist and author. My work in transnational and multiethnic contexts uses stories to realize human connections across apparent borders. I seek understanding of and attempt to illuminate issues of diversity and identity in individuals, families, organizations, and nations.
I was born in Occupied Japan into a Japanese, Irish, American family that transcended barriers and boundaries. From an early age, I was raised in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard University before returning to Japan as a Fulbright scholar in Okinawa and becoming professor at the University of Tokyo. I teach now at Stanford University and Fielding Graduate University, though my life continues to be between Japan and the United States, using the gifts of my heritage, life experience, and education to enhance understanding of identities and human relations in the borderlands of race, sex, and nation. My own life crossing borders and balancing East and West serves as the central resource in my work of research, writing, teaching, and counseling.
My identity research began with, Voices of Amerasians: Ethnicity, Identity, and Empowerment in Interracial Japanese Americans, a study of childhood and adolescent themes of development. The first academic article I published, “Addressing Issues of Biracial/Bicultural Asian Americans” advocated for the inclusion of multiethnic persons in Asian American Studies and communities. I continued my research in Asia, writing Amerasian Children: An Unknown Minority Problem, a book in Japanese that introduced issues of human rights and cultural diversity to a wide audience, with sections reprinted in social studies texts used nationwide.
“Half” is Whole, published by Stanford University Press, tells the stories of my encounters with remarkable individuals of multiple heritages who discover that connecting to all parts of themselves also connects them to communities of others beyond themselves. My next book, Japanese Hapa Lives, provides narratives of discovery and transformation gathered over my nearly 30 years of research in Japan and the U.S.
In my search for “new” ways of knowledge presentation I began to practice the ancient tradition of oral storytelling. The Celtic Samurai: A Boy’s Transcultural Journey, is a storytelling that illuminates the family life of a boy born into a world torn by interracial and international hostilities. I present this to audiences in Japan and the U.S. as a way of honoring the lives of those who have taken similar journeys through life.
As a person who has struggled to emerge from the margins of societies in Japan and the U.S., I am concerned with issues of citizenship and ethnicity. In my work I examine how individuals, groups, and nations deal with identity and community, belonging and home. I work to expand borders and enhance inclusion through forging connections and bonds between diverse peoples. My writing on these themes includes, “Expanding the Borders of the Nation: Ethnic Diversity and Citizenship Education in Japan” and “Multiethnic Japan and the Monoethnic Myth,” as well as the co-edited books: Transcultural Japan: At the Borderlands of Race, Gender, and Identity (with David Blake Willis) and Japan’s Diversity Dilemmas: Ethnicity, Citizenship, and Education (with Soo im Lee and Harumi Befu).
In the academic world I work in an interdisciplinary manner. As consulting professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, I participate in the program in Arts, Humanities, and Medicine, using narrative, writing, performing arts, and film in medical education to enhance cross cultural sensitivity and patient-centered care. I also teach in Ethnicity and Medicine about Asian American health, health disparities, and cultural competence. Some of this work appears as articles in medical journals, many available on this website. Since 2002 I have been teaching and researching transnational and multiethnic perspectives in Asian American Studies at the Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity. I am also engaged in mentoring mid-career professionals in doctoral studies in human and organizational development emphasizing social justice and diversity at Fielding Graduate University.
My practice as a psychologist ranges from counseling individuals and families to consulting for governmental agencies. As a counselor, I assist transnational and multiethnic individuals and families dealing with challenges of migration, cultural adaptation, education, adoption, separation, divorce, dying, and death. This work is published in Multicultural Encounters: Case Narratives From a Counseling Practice. The co-authored book (with Richard Katz), Synergy, Healing, and Empowerment: Insights from Diversity shares my understandings of the power of synergy in sustainable applications to health care and education. I also provide consulting to Japanese and American governmental organizations and private institutions dealing with the challenges of diversity and globalization. This work includes cultural mediation, leadership development, and conflict resolution for Japan’s Ministry of Education, the U.S. Marines, and U.S. Navy, as well as corporations and universities.
My work on the multicultural transnational family has included directing PI, an education and health research group. We have conducted action research in Asian American communities, encouraging holistic parenting and child development by nurturing emotional and social health. Our research appears in “Asian American Students: The Other Side of Achievement” and our video production, Asian American Student Voices. We also conduct workshops with multicultural families through seminars for Stanford Continuing Studies and Alliant University Continuing Studies. Our research includes another action research project on intergenerational trauma and healing in Japanese American families.
As a writer, I disseminate my research on multicultural families in scholarly journals as well as in essays for general readers. In my blog, Multicultural Family, I write about issues multicultural,transnational families.