Growing up growing up in the world’s most remote nation in a country where it’s common to see a foreigner as the only other living human in the house, Polina and her mother, Diora, never really thought about their roots.
Growing up, however, they found themselves having to make a lot of decisions that could be a bit confusing for foreigners who may be unfamiliar with the region.
The two had a lot to choose from as they entered middle school.
“It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t an adult,” Polina says.
“I didn’t know where I belonged, and I wasn-“Polina: “That’s okay.”
The two started going to different schools in high school.
They were lucky to get a good job that allowed them to attend school in Japan.
“There were no jobs in Japan, and we had to do our homework all the time,” Polinsa says.
When they finally got a job, they moved to Tokyo, where they were employed by the same company.
But, when they moved, they also had to leave their home in southern Gerudo to get there, so they could get back to Japan.
After finishing high school, Polinas parents realized that they would have to leave Gerudo.
“When you’re a child, it’s really hard to leave,” she says.
“We just kept on saying, ‘We’ll live in Tokyo for a while, and then we’ll go back to Gerudo.’
That’s when we knew we had a future.”
When they moved back to Tokyo in 2001, they made a plan to make their lives easier.
They would relocate to Gerudos city limits to work as contractors, and once they had jobs, they would get a visa so they would be able to get to Japan once again.
In 2002, Polinsas parents were living in Tokyo when they received an invitation to attend a wedding ceremony.
“My dad wanted to go too, and so I went,” she recalls.
“And it was my first wedding.”
Polinsa and Dioras wedding was a special moment in their lives.
“We were so nervous and we were so excited,” Polinas says.
But the moment Polinss parents were celebrating, it was a moment of uncertainty.
“They were having a wedding at a very special place, and they couldn’t come back home,” she remembers.
Dioras father asked Polinas to take his place.
“It was a little bit awkward because we were from the same country, and you know, we were thinking, ‘Are we going to marry a foreigner?’ and, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” she recalls of the moment.
“But I really wanted to be there for him, so I thought it would be good for us.”
It was then that Polinssa started learning about her heritage.
She and Dias father started studying Japanese at the University of Tokyo.
“He was a very hard-working guy, and he would just go over the things he needed to do,” Polisas says.
Dori: “I was so proud to be a Japanese, and for him to be so happy with me was something that I couldn’t have imagined.”
Polinas’ parents also knew they wanted to bring their daughter to Japan, so the decision was made to take her there for her Japanese citizenship exam.
“The exam was a great challenge, and it really pushed me to my limits,” she explains.
“Once I took the test, I started feeling very confident and ready to get married.”
The test was the hardest thing she had ever done.
“You have to think about what you are going to tell your kids when you come back,” she adds.
“That test was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.”
As a foreigner, Polinas says, it is not uncommon for her to feel a bit nervous about being in Japan as a foreigner.
“When you are doing something that’s not native, you are trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong,” she admits.
“A lot of the people are not familiar with Japan, or at least don’t really know how to talk about it.
She did, but the experience made her realize that it wasn’t all bad. “
For a while I was thinking, I don’t want to be in Japan anymore, and that’s when I was worried that I was going to die.”
She did, but the experience made her realize that it wasn’t all bad.
“As a young girl, I was a bit scared of the unknown, but now I’m in a much better place,” she continues.
“So, I have confidence now that I will be able get through this.”
Polinas’ story is not unique.
There are about 1.6 million foreign-born children living in Japan today.
They have a higher incidence of mental health problems than native Japanese, but are also more likely to experience financial problems.
A study conducted in