Who am I?
My name is Thomas Hiroki Patterson, I am half Japanese half English and I felt the need to create multippl.
Growing up I had the privilege of going to Japan almost every year in the summer. My father who is English really wanted me to immerse myself in my Japanese heritage, he felt it was very important for my personal growth to appreciate my other side. He too was very open about learning about my mother’s heritage/culture and has been to Japan over 30 times.
I went to Japan during the school summer holidays when other half Japanese friends from London would also go. When I began working part-time at the age of 15/16, I would save up money all year just to spend it in Japan. Going to Japan was undoubtedly the highlight of my year.
Since I am half Japanese, still relatively uncommon for a homogenous land such as Japan, people would look at me differently, treat me differently and my mum and I would receive compliments. As I didn’t live in Japan, hearing this whilst I was there on holiday made me feel noticed, almost like a VIP. I’m sure the experience of a mixed Japanese person growing up in Japan would be totally different. In Japan I was the British kid that could speak Japanese, whereas in London I was just another Asian kid that grew up in London.
University and my Year Abroad in Japan
I was born and raised in an area of North London with a strong Japanese community. My parents moved to the area solely for that reason back in mid 1980s. I moved out when I left to study at the University of Leeds. I studied International Business and Japanese as a joint honours degree because I was embarrassed not being able to speak fluent Japanese especially as I am half Japanese. The degree also offered a year in Japan in the second year of the course. Even though I had gone to Japan every summer, I had never lived there so being able to spend a year there was a top priority. I was selected by the head of Japanese at Leeds to go to Osaka University; and this year was when the idea of multippl began.
It was always a dream of mine to live in Japan, I really didn’t know what to expect but as I had the experience of going there every summer, I thought it wouldn’t be too much of a culture shock. What I was shocked with however was that all the international students at Osaka University were put together. I shared a floor with about 30 international students from all over the world, which was fantastic, I learnt so much about different cultures and had this mutual understanding of Japan with them. This did however mean that my interaction with Japanese students or Japanese people was limited. I therefore decided to work part-time at Ralph Lauren Osaka to immerse myself even further in the culture and customs. There I met wonderful colleagues who I still see when I go to Japan.
When I arrived at Osaka University, I was acquainted with a half English half Japanese guy who went to SOAS University in London. He had previously lived in Japan for his father’s job but hadn’t been back to Japan since he was eight years old. I instantly gravitated towards him simply because I felt that our experiences were very similar.
The year abroad was certainly a journey for me (without trying to be corny) to find myself and in reality, it confused me even more.
The dilemma I created in my head was ‘is it easier befriending people who had never been to Japan and are studying it or was it better to learn more about Japan through people who had lived their entire lives there?’
Truthfully, whenever I would meet someone who was half Japanese, I felt like we instantly had a weird telepathic understanding. I felt at ease.
My year in Japan was one of the greatest I’ve ever had so going back to Leeds was challenging, partly due to the structure of my course. My course was comparatively very different to others: we went abroad in our second year whereas everyone else at Leeds went on their year abroad or year in industry in their third year. Therefore, when I came back my international business course mates had gone abroad or were doing a year in industry. But mainly because of the mixedness I felt in my head.
ONCE I LEFT JAPAN, I WAS LEFT FEELING MORE MIXED UP AND UNSURE THAN EVER. WHO WERE MY PEOPLE? WHAT WAS MY COMMUNITY? WHERE DID I REALLY BELONG?
The need for multippl
I realised that in England the people who I connect with most are people of mixed ethnicity. Some of my best friends are half Japanese half English because we had similar experiences growing up. During my year in Japan, I gravitated towards people again, who were of mixed ethnicity, once again due to the similarities growing up.
People often feel more comfortable with others who are like them. That’s perhaps why friendship groups and communities are made the way they are. Clearly my experiences are different to, for example, an immigrant in a new country. They would however find a community or diaspora that they have commonalities with.
Growing up I often searched ‘half Japanese’, ‘half Asians’ on Google just to see if there were other people like me. When I came back from Osaka, I did that again but this time I was looking for something more. A place where I could interact with others like myself, share personal stories, and learn about others. Multippl, The Mixed Ethnicity World. I searched and searched but I couldn’t find it. There were groups here and there but there wasn’t a central platform. I completed my last two years at Leeds University with the intention of creating multippl, the Mixed Ethnicity World once I had graduated.
I have spent roughly 7 months working on multippl where people can share their stories, connect with likeminded people, and learn about the world.
A PLACE WHERE YOU’RE NOT ‘EXOTIC’ OR THE ‘TOKEN ASIAN’, A PLACE WHERE YOU REALLY BELONG WITH OTHER MULTI-PEOPLE TO CELEBRATE YOUR ETHNICITY, EXPLORE YOUR HERITAGE AND ENGAGE WITH YOUR CULTURE.
For the Mixed Ethnicity World to become a reality, I encourage those of you reading this to share your stories with multippl the Mixed Ethnicity World.