Nisei Passport - Borders and Belonging

Nisei Passport - Borders and Belonging

As an American-born Japanese person, I grew up having dual citizenship. Once you turn 22, Japan requires you to choose one of your two passports and give up the other. It has always been a point of pride (and huge privilege) for me to carry both my U.S. and Japanese passports - one served as “proof” that I belonged here, while the other was a way to honor and access my cultural heritage. These mixed feelings over my passports reflected how I have never quite felt like I could fully claim my birth country nor ancestral homeland as my own. As a result, I decided to reshape this point of tension and conflict into something beautiful and worth being proud of.

In this piece, Nisei Passport - Borders and Belonging, I blend my two nationalities into one and create a visual representation and celebration of my bicultural identity. This passport redesign includes elements from both cultures, and is graphically engraved at the bottom with the term 二世 (Nisei), which is a Japanese term that translates to “second-generation”. I reimagined the designs from both passport covers, including the eagle in the U.S. seal and the ornamental chrysanthemum flower found on the Japanese passport. Also included are cherry blossoms and mountains, as an ode to where I currently reside in Washington state.

My hope is that this passport not only serves as an affirmation for other second-generation or bicultural folks, but also acts as a reminder that no citizenship status, government document, or any other prescribed means to limiting our access and belonging to a community, place, or culture, should define who we are and what is meaningful to us.

Nisei Passport - Borders and Belonging, 8"x8", Digital Illustration, Graphic Design, 2023

Selected for "From The Margins" group show curated by Judy Lee (weBelong) - on display at The Fishbowl between February 2-24.

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