Yuki Watanabe

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Yuki Watanabe, a friend of my dads who I have known for many years. I have always been curious to learn more about his life but never deeply talked to him about his life and journey until the project. He told me about his childhood, growing up in a small town in Japan and how he was raised. He had a single mom who worked very hard to give him what he had in life. They moved around often and he was left alone most days when his mom had to go to work. He talked about how with moving and being left alone often he felt very lonely, he never made real friends and was often made fun of in school. Then he talked about the process of how he came to New York City and the differences between that and Japan. He told me what New York was like when he first started coming here and in the process of moving in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a very different time in New York and to hear the differences was very interesting. He told me how it was hard since he didn’t speak English when he originally came and how he had a difficult time feeling welcomed. He couldn’t find any Japanese people and because of that he ended up feeling lonely again with no Japanese speaking friends. At this time there were very few Japanese people living in New York City and without social media and the internet it was even harder to find the little Japanese people that were living there. He also experienced racism at some points during that time, people would misinterpret him as Chinese often and call him bad names. We also talked about his family life, he told me how he met his wife and how long they have been together. They have two children together and we discussed their experiences being Japanese but growing up in New York City rather than Japan and in a completely different era. Now Yuki has an amazing social network and has been very successful in many different business ventures over the last 50 years.

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