Melodee Morita, a bilingual television reporter and YouTuber, shared her story of being teased by her kindergarten classmates for her bento meal (packed lunch).
In a video posted to YouTube in November, Morita started out by explaining a bit about herself. She grew up in Los Angeles before moving to New York City, but she has never lived in Japan.
Morita’s parents did not force her to learn Japanese, but they were proactive when it came to sharing Japanese culture with her and her brother.
When she was younger, Morita’s mother always prepared a bento for her to take to school. However, in the U.S., the common school lunch for children at the time was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, SoraNews24 reported.
Morita’s meal was so different from her classmates, but it did not bother her one bit. But everything changed when her mother packed her norimaki — a type of rolled sushi with fillings wrapped with nori seaweed.
Morita said that she began receiving negative reactions from her peers, including comments such as “Ew, that’s so gross! You’re eating black paper?” after seeing her food.
Morita, who also happens to be a professional ballet dancer and instructor, recalled how she was hurt and embarrassed by her classmates’ comment. When she came home from school, she told her mother not to make Japanese bento anymore.
Interestingly enough, her mother did not start an argument or give in to her request. Instead, she made plenty of norimaki for all the children at Morita’s kindergarten so that they could all try the dish for themselves if they wanted. Her teacher was very supportive of this decision and encouraged other students to try other cultures, too.
Morita’s mother piqued the students’ curiosity about Japanese food, opening them up to try other dishes, and removing the “weirdness” of being exposed to new and unfamiliar things. Morita was never teased by her classmates again.