This is the fifth entry in a series where I’ll be talking about the inspiration behind some of my characters.
Miyoko Raymond is the fifth main character in the Traveling Society series. As you can probably tell from her name, she is of Japanese descent. More than that, she is biracial: half-Japanese, half-Caucasian.
Her American father, Zachary Raymond, met Miyoko’s mother, Akasuki Kisshoan, while in Japan. He was in the military, she was a girlfriend of one of his other friends. When they broke up, Miyoko’s dad and mother began dating and they eventually married. Miyoko is the oldest of three children and the only one of her siblings to be born in Japan. Before she came to the US and began attending the homeschool group, she spoke only Japanese, since she was around her mother all the time. And in fact, until she was about eight years old, she was an only child, which made it easy for her family to move around as much as they have. They’ve lived in Japan, Guam, California, and, now, in Virginia. Her younger siblings were born in the Hampton Roads area. She has a sister named Kaori, who is about eight years younger than her, and a little brother Akio, who is in kindergarten when the stories begin.
Given her heritage, I imagine that she would look something like this:
Like Lavinia and Patty, her full name in the original Travel Club stories was changed when I decided to update the stories. She used to be called Myoko Nevern. You wouldn’t know from looking at that name that she’s supposed to be of Japanese descent. In fact, I made up the name Myoko because I wanted to something Japanese (you see, these were the days before we had the Internet and I could readily look this stuff up in five seconds!). Nevern, well, that was just a random name that sounded cool with Myoko. Not an actual last name.
Fortunately, that changed when I updated these characters!
Truth be told, I wasn’t that far off when I made up the name Myoko. You see, there is an actual Japanese first name that is very similar: Miyoko. And there you go. I had an actual name for her now!
As you can imagine from looking at her name, Miyoko is of Japanese descent. In the original stories, she was full Japanese, an immigrant from Japan. I picked that for her character because I’d never been to Japan and that would give me an opportunity to “travel” to Japan, since I’ve never been there before!
When I updated the stories, I decided to still make Miyoko Japanese, because that would open up some adventures for the girls in Asia. However, I thought, why not make her instead biracial, half-Japanese, half-Caucasian? I was inspired by several biracial people I know. One girl on the fringes of our social group is half-white, half-Korean, and another girl I befriend in college is half-Korean, half African-American. And I thought it would be fun to draw on what it must be like to have a dual heritage like that and put that into Miyoko’s character.
Now, having a dual heritage might play into Miyoko’s appearance and some of her personality (note that I didn’t say all), but that’s not all there is to her. I didn’t want that to be the focus of her character arc and personality. I did however decide that just because she is Japanese, that doesn’t mean that she loves video games and green tea, etc. I didn’t want to make her a stereotype. I wanted her to be a real person.
However, with me being a foreign language nerd, I thought it would be a great idea for Miyoko to be bilingual. That would also allow them, in possible future adventures to Japan, to navigate through the country, since Miyoko would be there to help them overcome the language barrier.
In the story, Miyoko’s capacity for speaking foreign languages is a matter of pride for her. Miyoko spoke only Japanese until after her sister Kaori was born, so when she came to the homeschool group, she didn’t speak much English. Her mother Akasuki enrolled her in the enrichment center because she wanted her daughter to learn English. So it was through her friendships with Nellie, Lavinia, and the other girls that she learned English: watching TV, chatting, and just interacting with other anglophones. She speaks English well, but she does use Japanese words every now and then when speaking with her friends. And when she talks to her mother on the phone, it is a mixture of both languages. I was friends with a girl in high school who spoke Russian and English, so it was always a treat to listen to my friend chatting on the phone with her parents in half-English, half-Russian!
Outside the group, she also interacts on a regular basis with her cousin Yoshiko, whose marriage she attends in Bienvenue. Miyoko doesn’t see her Japanese side of the family often since they all live in Japan, so Yoshiko is her link to that country. Not only do the girls get on well, but Miyoko gets to practice Japanese with her via Skype. Having a close cousin like that was based on my own friendship with a cousin on my mom’s side of the family (if you’re reading this, you know who you are! 😀 ). Even the fact that Yoshiko and Miyoko are eight years apart in age was taken from real life. 😀 Yoshiko is closer to my age, a late-80s kid (hehe), while Miyoko was born in the mid-90s, like most of my students.
When she isn’t practicing Japanese with her cousin and chatting with her American friends, Miyoko loves to play guitar. Her parents encouraged her to find a musical instrument to play and she chose the guitar because she loved the sound. I decided to have her play guitar because not only do several of my past students like to play that instrument, but also, I played it for a time. I’m more of a piano/keyboard/synthesizer girl now, but I still have my guitars! We don’t get to see that side of her much in Bienvenue, but it’s going to come out in the second book, where Miyoko becomes a more central character. 😀
There are also some other traits of hers that haven’t come out yet, but I don’t want to put in any spoilers for the next book (which I’m working on right now!) 😀
And tune in next time when I’ll be switching gears and discussing another one of my series, A Wash Woods Legacy, and its central character: Mamie Marsh.