By Isabella Ainsworth,
Marisa Yamaki’s mother didn’t want to give birth in a foreign country, where she didn’t know the hospital system. So she came back from Japan in time for Yamaki to be born in Montana, where Yamaki’s grandmother lived.
Yamaki, now a senior at Davis High, has an American mother and a Japanese father. Her mother originally traveled to Japan to visit a friend in the military who was stationed there, but ended up liking it and stayed in the country for another 14 or so years.
After her birth in Montana , Yamaki spent most of the first 12 years of her life in Japan. In the beginning she lived in Yokohama, and then, when her parents divorced, she moved to Fujisawa.
When Yamaki was 12 years old, she moved back to the United States with her mother and her younger sister, Reina. The first American school she enrolled was Patwin Elementary, which is where she went for sixth grade.
At first, it was hard for Yamaki to make friends. Although she had taken English classes in Japan, her English still wasn’t that great. She also didn’t completely understand the cultural differences.
“I was just really quiet–well, I still am,” Yamaki said. “I expected people to become friends with me.”
Eventually, Yamaki learned to be the one to initiate friendships. She remembers in seventh grade when she asked a girl from Taiwan who was in her English Language Development class at Emerson Junior High whether she wanted to get lunch sometime. The girl, who was the friend of a friend, said yes.
Friends of Yamaki agree that she is kind.
“Marisa is a very nice, sweet, shy girl,” senior Shahad Husein said.
Husein said that Yamaki was one of her first friends when she moved to Davis from Sudan in ninth grade. She likes how Yamaki always tries to help people.
“If you ask her something, she won’t say ‘I don’t know,’ she’ll look it up,” Husein said.
Senior Christine Lin met Yamaki last year when they had Advanced Treble Choir (ATC) and English together, and described her as “one of the most reliable, understanding and unpretentious friends of mine.”
ATC has been a part of Yamaki’s schedule for all three years of high school. She sings soprano, and this year is a student director.
“It’s kind of scary, being in front of people,” said Yamaki, who hopes to get better at leading the group by the end of the year. She also wants to improve her piano skills.
Last summer, when one of the girls who planned to go to South Korea with the Cultural Exchange Club couldn’t make it, Yamaki got a chance to go on the trip.
Yamaki, who is an enthusiastic fan of K-Pop, or Korean pop music, had been trying to teach herself Korean for about a month online when one of her friends also going on the trip suggested she come along.
Yamaki jumped at the opportunity, and liked the trip so much that she wants to go back to South Korea soon, possibly as an English teacher.
Korean is not Yamaki’s first attempt at learning a third language. Yamaki has tried to learn Spanish before, but she said that it was too hard.
“It’s partially my fault for trying to take Spanish while I was still learning English,” Yamaki said.
Yamaki doesn’t know exactly what she would like to do as a career, but likes the idea of working around airports and planes.
“I really like how they’re clean and organized,” Yamaki said.
According to Yamaki’s friends, she herself is clean and organized.
“Just look at her planner and you’ll understand,” Lin said.
Husein also mentioned Yamaki’s room, neat handwriting, sticky notes and binders as proof of Yamaki’s exemplary organization skills.
Yamaki’s favorite airport is the Narita International Airport, in Japan. Yamaki misses Japan; her father, grandparents and friends still live there.
Because her father works so much, Yamaki can’t always talk to him. But she does text him once in a while, and she follows him on Facebook. She likes being able to see his posts of the Japanese food he is eating.
“I’ll look at it and say, ‘oh, I want to eat that,’” Yamaki said.
Yamaki’s father and grandparents live in the same two-family building in Yokohama, so when Yamaki visits her father in Japan, she also gets to see her grandparents.
Most of Yamaki’s friends in Japan seem stressed out, she said. They had to take an important exam to get into high school and will have to take another exam to get into college.
Like her friends, Yamaki plans on going to college in Japan. She is eyeing two universities, International Christian University and Sophia University, both of which are associated with international relations, a subject she is very interested in.
Coming up soon for Yamaki is a difficult decision. Although Yamaki currently holds dual citizenship from both Japan and the United States, when she turns 22 she will have to decide what citizenship she wants to keep. Japan will not allow dual citizenship past that age.
Yamaki still isn’t sure which one she will choose.