The Land of the Free

Ted Nagai, 47

Immigrated from Tokyo, Japan

“I wanted to flee back home every day for the first 4 years I was stranded here for.”

Mia N.

Ted Nagai

December 16, 2019

October 10, 1987, marked the beginning of this story. The scrawny, 14-year-old boy painfully standing outside the LAX airport is my father, his fear and anxiety hidden under a seemingly nonchalant expression. Born in Tokyo, Japan, he eventually immigrated to the United States for reasons related to his father’s occupation. Essentially, he was forced into coming to America, moving to a foreign country against his will.


When asked about his emotions when he had found out that he was moving, he states that “There was a whirlwind of emotions, but I remember being pretty excited.” This struck me, for I did not understand how he could be so nonchalant when realizing that he was moving to an entirely new country, leaving your entire life behind.


Just like any other immigrant, my father had to endure several obstacles to get where he is today. “Having to assimilate to new customs was difficult since they were so different from Japanese culture,” he explained. “I really missed the shows I couldn’t watch anymore. I wanted to flee back home every day for the first 4 years I was stranded here for.”


Despite having several hardships to face, there were several qualities of the U.S. that he had favored over Japan. “The Japanese don’t express their opinions very often,” he stated. “There aren’t many minorities in Japan, so even if you had different opinions or different cultural backgrounds you would conceal it and make yourself be like everyone else.” He explains how after coming to the United States, he had met many people with whom he could share his opinions with and found many other Japanese immigrants who could relate to his struggles and difficulties. “I found my true self after coming to the US. It was freeing.”