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Throwing Lifelines across Borderlines:

a Community Symposium on Critical Nikkei Studies

March 3-4, 2022, San Francisco State University 

In this talk I share my experience working in high end Japanese and non-Japanese restaurants. My argument is that Japanese restaurants in the US are constructed through racial capitalism because the industry participates in stereotypes of Asians as racial-economic tropes while exploiting Asian labor. The orientalized performance and homogenized racialization of Asians in Japanese restaurants in the US are a pattern that comes from a system of knowledge that justifies racial and gendered exploitation.


I make a case that the systemic issue at hand is centered around the US-Japan power relations and cultural productions engineered to show Japan as the feminine and dependent damsel of a nation that needs guidance and support. I reflect on my years in restaurant service work that took me from hot spots as seen on Sex And The City to some of the most exclusive dining destinations in the world where I gained a sense of ethno-national identity, earned capital, and experienced racism and misogyny.


While orientalized performance negatively affects service workers, I also believe that the act of performance itself offers ways to intervene in the system of oppression and possibilities for liberating service work.

Association for Asian American Studies

2022 Conference: Ruin and Renewal

April 14-16, 2022, Denver, Colorado 

Rethinking Harmony: Decolonization of Musical Composition















Can creative endeavors pave paths for decolonization and liberation? I have been exploring this question through methods of musical composition. As a lifelong pianist, my beloved repertoire consists of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms - the “giants” of classical music. That the classical music world is blindingly white is recognized among the music community and also something to reckon with on a personal level. So I decided to compose as a way to decolonize and liberate myself and the piano. 

While tinkering on the piano, I came up with a simple method of composition. 1) Pick a “fragmented sound memory” for the framework, 2) put chords that defy the power relationship of dominant/tonic, and 3) make it “pianistic.” The use of “fragmented sound memory” is to recognize I only know sounds as they exist in this world. This brings up the question of what liberation looks like. Since our imagination is limited to our minds, is it even possible to envision true liberation? My method deconstructs the power structure of the dominant/tonic cadence, the fundamental cornerstone of all Western harmony. In deconstruction, there is not a void but a creation of new relationships between notes. Can this imply that the ruin itself can also be seen as a renewal? This roundtable will ponder such larger questions posed by the creative process of musical composition. 

Using the above compositional method, I wrote a piece based on "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys. 

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