Growing Up Indojin

What makes you feel like you belong is profoundly personal — especially for those who grew up in the close-knit Indian diaspora of Kobe, Japan.

The author’s paternal grandfather, grandmother, father, and friends, on a weekend excursion to a temple site in the Kansai area of Japan. (Jhaveri family)

Aarti Virani


July 20, 2020


13 min

On a misty morning in May 2017, I maneuvered a stroller along the winding slopes of Kobe, Japan. Inside it, my 6-month-old son gurgled, entranced by a swirling weathervane. I snuck a glance at the anchor-shaped pines on a mountain peak in the distance. Both are iconic emblems for this charming city, one of the first Japanese ports to open its gates to international trade in the late 19th century. “Youkoso, baby-chan,” I murmured, welcoming him to the Victorian mansions of Kitano-cho, an elegant district on the foothills of Mount Rokko, once home to most of the city’s foreign merchants. 

We’d flown in only the day before from New Jersey, the jetlag hitting us like a circadian tidal wave. But that hadn’t stopped me from showing him around. I was born in Kobe, and it’s where my parents — part of a close-knit Indian diaspora community in Japan that traces its roots to the early 1950s — still reside today.

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