On shame

I had a really rough week. I don’t want to get into details, but one of those weeks you are so stressed out you can’t sleep, and you have hard time breathing. It was tough. The good news is, this wasn’t the first time I felt like I hit the rock bottom. I’ve done this before, and in my mind, I knew I’d survive. But that’s not the hard part. Hard part is going through the hard part.

Famous saying goes “When you are going through hell, keep going”, but that’s not easy. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, hard part is not believing there is a light at the end of the tunnel, hard part is actually going through the tunnel.

But I had a small epiphany during this time.

Harder still is admitting that you are going through the hard time. Because shame.

It is so hard to ask for help. Because shame.

She is in trouble again” “When is she going to learn?

I’m not actually afraid of asking for help. I was afraid of shame.

I don’t have mental illness or depression…but I suffer from shame.

I’m sure you do too.

I had to go re-watch Brené Brown’s TED talk on shame.

She says shame is like a gremlin, it’s an auto-repeat tape inside your head that keeps saying “You’re not good enough” and laugh “Who do you think you are?

My gremlin says “Why do you keep making the same mistake?“When are you going to learn?” “Isn’t it time you grow up?”

Brené says if you want to grow shame, just add Secrecy, Silence and Judgement in the petri dish and you will have a shame storm.

Then how can we stop it?

Antidote to shame is empathy. 

Shame HATES being talked about. If you add empathy to the petri dish of shame, it cannot survive.

That’s why I’m sharing my story. Yes, I have shame. I think I keep making the same mistake and getting in trouble all the time. I don’t think I’m smart enough. I think I should grow up like everybody else and I should have a bigger house or two. These are all my gremlins talking.

This past week, guess what happened when I shared my struggle with some of my close friends? Nobody said “Why are you keep making the same mistakes?” Nobody made fun of me.

Some of them even shared their struggles with me. That’s like an ultimate empathy. “Me too”s. One of my friends was having a hard time with something that happened to her 15 years ago. Her gremlin says “Why can’t you let it go?” Other friend told me her business is failing. We can only imagine what her gremlin is saying to her.

I know there are so many people suffering in silence. Because their shame gremlin says they’re not good enough. But – you cannot be silent.

Gremlins are wrong. Let’s talk about them, as they HATE to be talked about.

You are enough. You matter. When you share what you are going through, I will never judge you. I think you are courageous. And courage is contagious.

Antidote to shame is empathy. “Me too” is empathy.

Hi, my name is Yukari and I suffer from shame. But I am going to talk about it. Because I’m just like you.

2016 Year in Review and My 3 Words for 2017

We didn't get Christmas tree this year. This is what I ended up doing.
We didn’t get Christmas tree this year. This is what I ended up doing.

Wow, 2016, what a year. I bet many people just cannot wait for this year to be over. This being the last week of 2016, I thought it’s time I wrote my annual year in review.

Just like for many people, my 2016 was a challenging year. I don’t mean this to be complaining. There were plenty of great things that happened this year as well, but this year was definitely the “work” part of Hero’s Journey. I know there is a reward at the end of these challenges, and I am willing to work for it, but man, it sucks to go through the actual “work” part. That’s ok. I am old enough and know better to quit.


Professionally, I did a lot of interesting work again this year. I spent a lot of time at the courthouse and with lawyers and I learned A LOT. I would love to continue helping clients who need help with legal system.

I didn’t write much here on my English blog, but I did quite a bit of writing assignments in Japanese this year. Up until the summer I visited various tourists attractions in Victoria and created contents for a travel site in Japan. This was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I appreciate the generosity of people in the industry who welcomed me. Interesting thing is, other content creators who also worked on Victoria didn’t put enough effort in their contents. They just went to the place (hotel, restaurant, shops etc) and took photos and wrote about it. I made appointments with each hotel/attraction/store and talked to them and took photos inside. I don’t think I was fool to put that much time and effort in the project.

I also did some borderline black hat writing projects and I learned never to do that again. (Those things are always great reminders, hey?)


My son and I did this together

In personal development, I joined Brené Brown’s Living Brave Semester in January(There is new one starting in spring 2017!), and it was quite life changing. It was a self-paced online course with some live Q&A sessions, and I really felt I was “living” the wholehearted life. (Well, at least practicing to live it) The biggest lesson and something I still need to remind myself often is that everyone is doing the best they can. Also not to run away from discomfort. (Read Rising Strong if you want to know more about it or talk to me anytime) I love how everything is a practice, and we need to keep reminding ourselves to be kind and brave.

That time my question to Brené got picked
That time my question to Brené got picked

I also took few other courses with Brené, including The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting- which was fantastic as I got to talk to my 8 year-old about being brave. We also did a lot of art for this project, and I remembered how much I love painting!

I also got to ask couple questions to Brené on the Q&A, so that was great. I hope to continue writing about this in Japanese and spread her teachings in Japan, where there are still a lot of “Worrying about what others might think” and “Living the life to please others”..this is going to be my life work, I know it.

Part of the exercise

Later part of the year was extra challenging, as we had to move out of the lovely home we were in for the last 6 years. In case you are not in Victoria, BC, the rental market here is extremely challenging. We couldn’t find any place to live before the time we had to move out, and currently we are in a temporary apartment. This place is subject to development soon, and we are still looking for a place to call home. We wanted to buy a home, but that is also tough right now. It is hard not to be discouraged, but I have hope.

With Fringe team Japan

In Arts, I continued serving at the boards at Intrepid Theatre as well as Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society. Both are pretty active boards and sometimes I get overwhelmed with amount of work they require, but they are both very rewarding. We had 30 year anniversary of Fringe festival, and again I saw many amazing shows.

Best show of 2016

Speaking of shows, we went to Vancouver to see Tetsuo Shigematsu’s Empire of the Son for the second time, and I bawled my eyes out again. When you see something you know you’d be moved, you have this strange anxiety whether you can be moved again. Does this make sense? Like, “Am I able to cry again with this?” It was a silly worry, and I was just as moved the second time. I honestly don’t know what it is, but this show touches my heartstrings in such a tender way, I can’t help but all well up every time I think about it. What is going on with me? Is it because I never got to say goodbye to my own father? (Empire is a story of Tetsuro and his father. ) I dunno. And I think this is why I love arts so much. It’s inexplicable. It just touches you, and you have no idea why. And if you are lucky enough to be touched by arts – be it music, theatre, painting, etc. – just let the awe run through you. This happened one other time when I listened to Quinn Bates sing Hallelujah. I just could NOT stop my tears. I feel extremely lucky to have been touched by these great artists.

Another favourite moment of 2016. Goldstream Trestle

My 3 Words for 2017

Every year, I pick three words to focus on. 2016 was Curiosity, Courage and Believe. I think I did pretty well with these this year. Especially on Courage, I was always conscious when I felt scared or had the urge to duck away, I made sure to extend my hand with courage.

And here are my 3 words for 2017:

Faith  – I almost wanted to go with “Hope”, but Faith is stronger than Hope. Believe in people and yourself. Have a faith.

Create – This is a repeat word from 2015, but I cannot stress enough that we are all here to create our own unique things.

Connect – 2016 has taught us all life is too short. You never know when your last day is. Connect with people who are meaningful to you. Connect with arts. Don’t just think about connecting, just do it.

Here are some of my favourite moments from 2016 in no particular order:

And with this, I bid farewell to the year 2016. Do you have 3 words? Share in the comment.

5 Must-Do Things to do in Japan with kids

This is an updated version of a post I originally contributed for YummyMummyClub.

I grew up in a small town in Japan. It’s been almost 20 years since we moved to Canada, so my children were pretty much raised as Canadians. We try to go back to Japan as often as possible, and it’s great to see my kids get so fascinated with my home country. Here are 5 Must-Do Things in Japan with your children.

1. Visit a Family Restaurant

Photo credit: Osamu Iwasaki
Photo credit: Osamu Iwasaki

Family restaurants(FAMIRESU for short) are everywhere in Japan. They are reasonably priced and kid friendly. For some reason, Kids Meals are called “OKOSAMA(Child) LUNCH” And yes, they are served all day, not just at lunch time. It usually consists of little bit of everything (spaghetti, meatballs, etc.) and a little mountain of rice with a flag on top. When my son first saw it, he thought that was the greatest thing! Make sure you take a photo.

2. Visit a Shrine or Temple

Zojo-ji temple in the rain
Zojo-ji temple in the rain

3. Check Out a Festival or Two


Some festivals are huge and happen annually, so be sure to check the local event schedule of where you are headed. But if you are lucky, you might just come across a small fair near the shrine. Unlike North American fairs, there won’t be any rides, but usually a strip is lined with all kinds of different vendors selling snacks (candy apple, cotton candy, OKONOMIYAKI savory pancakes, etc.), toys and masks, or have a game booth. My favourite is KINGYO SUKUI -“scoop the goldfish” game!

4. Character Goods Store


If you have a daughter, (no, scratch that, boys will love it too) you must go to “Character Goods Store”—such as Sanrio and Kiddy Land. You’ll be overwhelmed by the number of character goods (most famous of all is Hello Kitty). From underwear, handkerchief, hair clips, note books, bento boxes,stationery,stuffed animals to chopsticks, you can find all kinds of wacky fun things with your favourite character on it. There are plenty of fun things for boys as well (my son loved Cup Noodle shaped erasers), and these tiny things make great souvenirs for friends back home.

My favourite, Rilakkuma

5. Ride on a Bullet Train


A New Moon Over Tohoku


Yesterday, I attended a screening of a documentary film, A New Moon Over Tohoku by Japanese Canadian Filmmaker, Linda Ohama. Linda is a third generation (Sansei) Japanese Canadian known for her film, Obachan’s Garden.

A New Moon Over Tohoku is about the people who suffered from the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, in the Tohoku area of Japan.

Linda said it all started because of her granddaughter. When they first found out about the earthquake and tsunami, the granddaughter, then 7 years-old, asked her what they could do for them. Eventually, Linda flew to Japan to volunteer in Tohoku area.

As she got to know the people in Tohoku, they asked her to create a film to tell their stories. Initially, she turned it down. This changed when she first visited the “No-Go” zone near Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Seeing the traffic lights still working and changing the lights in a ghost town, she cried. Linda then decided to interview the people in Tohoku, specifically, in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. Two and half years later, the film is being presented here in Canada. A New Moon Over Tohoku premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival late last month (September 2016).

Linda has brought guests from Japan for the Canadian tour. Inlcluding, Mrs. Kanako Sasaki, an acupuncturist who appears in the film and tells us her survival story. She was treating a patient when the earthquake hit. The film tells the story of how she got her patient out and then tried to locate her own family. Then the Tsunami hit her town of Otsuchi.

Kanako described the scene after she got scooped up in Tsunami “Hell”, as people, houses, and vehicles swam by her. She tells of how the tanks on boats exploded, floating by, and setting fires to homes with people still trapped inside. Kanako herself was swept up and carried by the rising waters flowing through the streets of her village. Finally, she was rescued by friends and neighbours. Once rescued, and despite being injured herself and still soaked in cold, wet clothes, she continued on through the night helping others. Her story is so powerful, it made my cry.

Soma Nomaoi Samurais
Soma Nomaoi Samurais

The film introduces the stories of many other people and places, such as the people who have homes and businesses in the “No-Go” zone. Included is a Samurai family who are determined to continue their tradition of Soma Nomaoi (Samurai festival with horses). Other powerful and movies stories include those of mothers concerned with radiation and how they feel guilty about letting their children be exposed to radiation, and how they feel oppressed for not being able to speak their mind honestly about their fear of radiation and at the same time not wanting to isolate themselves for speaking out… All the complexities, fears, and concerns of the people affected in the “No-Go” zone are expressed and examined.

I personally visited the Tohoku area back in 2013. All the places I went to were hard to visit, but Okawa Elementary School that had lost 70% of their children, was particularly heartbreaking. Yesterday at lunch before the screening, Linda told me about a father from Okawa area. This father had lost his only child, a 12 year old girl who was at Okawa Elementary School. Linda said, “He said he was so lucky.”

“I thought I misunderstood at first. He lost his only child. How can he be lucky? But he said he was so lucky he got to be a father.”

I couldn’t hold back my tears.

Linda says many people in Tohoku turned negatives into positives like this. I think they have no choice, in order to continue forward.

But it’s not all sad. The film also features brave, happy, and optimistic people.

The screening in Victoria was a success. It is an emotional film. There were not many dry eyes in the theatre, but I was particularly grateful for Kanako (with her daughter, Sera, who is also in the film) for coming all the way to Canada to share her story. Her wish was for this film to be seen by as many people as possible, not just in Canada and overseas, but also in Japan. She also asked us to remember to be grateful for what we have, as you never know when it might be gone.

As I said my goodbye to Kanako, I offered my help in any way I can. She said, “We have just only begun.” I am grateful for this new friendship.

There will be more screenings in Japan starting in December. If you want to book a screening for your community or organization, please check out the film website.