Columns | Mistranslate

大事 (Daiji): On Living Between Two Cultures and Learning What Is Most Important

To me, ‘daiji’ embodies the struggle to prioritize two languages, homes, and selves.

This is a new column by Nina Li Coomes about language, self-expression, and what it means to exist between cultures. 


It is easy for me to say to my dear ones who speak English just how precious they are to me. It is difficult to relay how much I treasure someone over a transpacific phone call.

I especially feel this inability to express priority and dearness in the days before a flight from Japan to the US: How can one find the words to say goodbye to one home in order to fly back to another? What words possess the power to last a whole year until you see someone again? How do you say “You are dear to me, but so are those in the place I go to now”?

I care about you, so please take care of you.

in my heart, you take up space.