Jada Jones Lives in Japan for Two Years

Senior Jada Jones moved to Okinawa, Japan in sixth grade and lived there for three years. She moved back to the United States and ended up back in St. Charles for her senior year


Phoebe Primeau

Senior Jada Jones poses with a card that has her name spelled in Japanese. Jones encountered some difficulties in school due to the difference of language and spelling. The letter “J” in Japanese has a negative connotation, so she had to spell her name with a “G.”

By Hannah Wilson, Francis Howell North High School

Everything is the same, but everything is different. For senior Jada Jones, life in St. Charles is almost exactly how she remembers it six years ago, but everyone has changed, grown up, moved on. That’s because from 2013 to the beginning of 2016, Jada lived in Okinawa, Japan.

“It’s a lot different than I expected and what most people expect when they think of Japan,” Jada said. “They think Tokyo and lights and a big city but Okinawa is much different than mainland Tokyo. It’s a lot more humble lifestyle. I didn’t know what to expect when I moved there, but it’s really kind of quaint in its own way.”

When Jada was in sixth grade, her mom married her stepdad Antonius Jones, a Tech Sergeant for the Air Force. At that time, he was already stationed in Okinawa, and at the end of the school year, Jada and the rest of her family moved to Okinawa to join him.

“Jada was at that point where she was like ‘My friends, my friends, my friends,’” Jada’s mom, Dominique Jones, said. “I was telling her that she was going to make new friends, ‘You’re going to move on. This is going to be nothing.’ At first, she was excited, but then sometimes she would be irritated that I was trying to convince her it was going to be fine.”

As one can expect, Jada was not very ecstatic to leave her friends and drop everything she had ever known to go and live in a foreign country. She would go out of her way to “rebel” such as by wearing winter clothes in a tropical climate.

“I got there and every time [my family] wanted to go out and do stuff, I would try to get out of it or just sit in my room all day and not leave,” Jada said. “It was hot outside, and I would purposely wear hoodies and jeans, rebelling in every way I possibly could, even though it didn’t make any sense. I guess I was trying to take control of any area I could.”

Eventually, Dominique had enough. She dropped her off at the Teen Center, an entertainment getaway for kids on military bases. There, arcade games, pool tables and televisions abound to provide endless entertainment for the teens on the base.

“I told her to ‘Have fun, make friends,’” Dominique said. “I went to school with her, and I was like ‘Hey, how old are you guys?’ and she’s going ‘Mom, stop!’ She was so irritated. But I said ‘Nope Jada, you’re not going to be in this little funk, not happening.’ And then she ended up having a blast.”

According to Jada, she was also able to take part in a lot of opportunities because of her time in Japan. On the military base, there were lots of activities and events hosted by the military to help entertain the families. For instance, many artists and bands came to perform on base. Jada was able to meet artists T. Pain and Trey Songz. There were also many places outside of the base to shop, eat and hang out, but the biggest impact of living in Japan was Jada’s growth as a person.

Jones poses in front of Kadena High school with her friend Masheque. The school is located on the Kadena Air Force base and has a primarily Japanese student body. The school
has the ability to compete against different countries in sports. (Photo Submitted)

“There was a lot of growth and learning,” Jada said. “Before, when I lived here, my understanding of the world around me wasn’t even remotely at where it is now. I didn’t really have a great understanding of myself and I wasn’t really sure of myself.  At the time, I didn’t know a lot of black kids, let alone mixed kids. And then I moved to Japan, and I really understood who I was in relation to other people and that I didn’t need other people to define me. It makes all the difference to be in a diverse community where you can understand others and yourself. I didn’t really understand that I didn’t have to prove myself to others until I was completely outside of my comfort zone, surrounded by people that really weren’t like me, but kind of were at the same time.”

At the end of her freshman year, Jada’s stepdad was reassigned to Las Vegas, which means that the family gathered up their things and moved back to the U.S. While she was only there for two school years, the difference between Vegas and Japan was staggering.

“It was drastically different than Japan,” Jada said. “There’s a reason why it’s called Sin City, let’s just be real. Outside of the negative aspects of Vegas, there were some cool parts. Vegas schools are primarily black and Hispanic, so I think in one respect that’s really interesting. There was a lot of opportunities. The community really tried to reach out to these kids because they live in this place that’s not really a place that you want to bring up a family. The community tries to do a lot to balance that out and make good opportunities.”

While visiting the sea walls, Jones poses for a picture. The sea walls are a barrier used to protect the city against tsunamis and floods. While visiting the walls, visitors can scuba dive and hang out with friends. (Photo Submitted)

Before her senior year, her stepdad was deployed to a base in Qatar. Because it was an active deployment, his family couldn’t go with him. That was when her mom decided to head back to St. Charles.

“At first it was really weird,’ Jada said. ‘People were like ‘Oh, you’re moving back to Missouri. You’ll know people.’ Okay, I know them, but it’s been six years. Some people are like ‘Oh my gosh, you’re back!’ and some people are like ‘I recognize you, don’t I?’ And some people still don’t recognize me. Everybody has changed, everyone has moved on. I didn’t even prepare for how weird it was going to be, but I don’t think you can prepare for that.”

As far as her future, Jada isn’t so sure. But she knows that no matter where she moves, it’s just a matter of finding where she fits in.

“I thought about these hypothetical situations like, ‘What if I end up going back to St. Charles?’” Jada said. “I thought it was probably never going to happen and now here I . am. At first, I was like ‘As soon as I graduate, I’m getting out of [St. Charles] and I’m not coming back,’ but I think what makes it different for me is that since I’ve lived in all of these places, I can appreciate what’s here more than I was before. Before, I didn’t really want to be here but now I don’t really mind it.  I was going to stay [in Vegas], but now that I’m here and comfortable again, I don’t have a problem with staying here. That’s definitely a benefit of being moved around like that, you get adjusted really quickly.”

This story was originally published on FHNtoday.com on January 23, 2019.