At obon, are you an eater or a dancer?
As a young Japanese American growing up in the South Bay, the majority of my interactions with the community largely involved two hoops and a round rubber ball. My JA acronyms were VFW, FOR, and GEO rather than JACCC, JANM, and LTSC; dances took place in crowded gymnasiums during tournament weekends, not during obon on summer nights; and my black championship shirts made me feel as regal the Nisei Week Queen.
My version of community was just a small slice of our larger JA story. Identities all around me were being grown in temples, churches, community centers, art studios, restaurants, and homes. My perspective on what it means to be JA has since expanded beyond the four walls of a gymnasium and this quiz is a celebration of our community’s diversity.
Are you a tea drinking Lakers fan or a odori dancing Sansei dad? Take the quiz and find out!
Beer: The “Beer” JA is a social butterfly. You are the one who hosts the family potlucks. You know exactly how much teri chicken and mac salad to order for 40 people and have probably volunteered for a booth at obon or are a team parent. You can often find the “Beer” JA lingering outside the restaurant up to an hour after the meal has ended. When you walk into a room you know at least three people from college, a handful from that fundraiser you volunteered at, two from that party at your aunty’s house, and the rest through a friend-of a friend-of a friend.
Tea: The “Tea” JA tends to enjoy more quiet, intimate settings. You can find them enjoying a stroll in the Japanese garden or cozying up with a Murakami novel. You prefer the pace of your weekly bowling league over frantically rushing to your kids Saturday morning baseball game. Your favorite part of mochitsuki is the calm before the storm at 4 AM while washing and steaming the rice, just like ojisan and obaasan used to do.
Sansei Dad: Do you know the exact amount of water you need to make the perfect instant ramen? Is your wardrobe primarily shirts bought from community events, Nike polos, and aloha shirts? Are you hilariously funny but your kids don’t think so? You just might be a Sansei Dad. The Sansei Dad knows what things need to be done and exactly how to do them. You wear your custom, team-embroidered shirt when you coach your child’s sports teams and the only thing better than a productive Sunday doing chores around the house is kicking off your running//basketball shoes (that you have never actually exercised in) to watch the Dodgers.
Gen Z: What Sansei Dads lack in pop culture awareness, Gen Zs make up ten fold. When you take a trip to Little Tokyo, you pick up your “usual” from Café Dulce, go and browse Japangeles (while wearing at least two pieces of Japanegels merch), and stop by the light tunnel in Weller Court to do a Tik Tok dance #fyp. You went to see “Crazy Rich Asians” at least twice in theaters and did not leave the house for 48 hours after “Avatar the Last Airbender” came on Netflix. You have researched and have strong opinions on the new “Mulan” movie but probably struggle making any Japanese food that requires a step beyond “add boiling water."
Dancer: You know every odori dance by heart, but you attend the dance practices just for fun. While others rush to grab a free fan in the middle of the circle, you are deciding which of your four fans you want to use and which ones you want to give to the friends you brought. You know what each of the C’s of JACCC, JCCH, JCCCW, and JCYC stand for. The question is not “can you fold an origami crane,” it’s “how many times have you folded 1,000.” You have memorized the family ozoni recipe and are the heir apparent to man the “teri chicken” booth at your temple’s obon.
Eater: Your favorite dance at obon is dancing right over to the short andagi line while everyone else is doing Tanko Bushi. You have made your own boba tier list. You have made your own ramen tier list. You have tried every beverage and sugary snack in Nijiya, twice. You have tried fruitlessly to retrieve the glass marble from the Ramune bottle more times than you will admit. You are proudly, forever and always a #foodie. At the end of the day, you dance bon odori for the sake of tradition, but mostly for the free food coupon they hand out at the end.
Lakers: You are tradition. You and your parents both went to a UC or a Cal State. USC versus UCLA isn’t a debate, it’s war. Your family has two vacation spots, Vegas and Hawaii. Your first car was definitely a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord. You have so many aunties and uncles around that you have forgotten which ones you are actually related to. You have already dreamed about which JA organizations your children will take part in. You take great pride in the work that has been done by those who came before you and hold those traditions close to your heart.
Clippers: You might be new in town. You think outside the box. You went to school out of state. Maybe you or your parents moved here from out of state or out of the country. You *gasp* play another sport besides basketball, baseball, or golf. Your favorite bar isn’t the played out ones that everyone already knows. You are the mad scientist that dares to tinker with the family recipes. Maybe cream cheese does belong on sushi? Maybe boba isn’t that good? Your great-grandparents may not have grown up down the block but you are carving your own niche in our Community. You are the new kids on the block; you are creating your own meaning of what it means to be JA.