Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Its gravitational pull draws in worlds, giving them life and light.
This is what comes to mind when I think of Kengo James Adachi. He’s more commonly known as KJ, but I call him Brother.
Tackling this post has been difficult because of the vast influence and complexity KJ poses, but it is because of these things that I can only compare him to the sun.
The sun is a symbol of hope and joy—two adjectives that are immediately prescribed to KJ. It is very fitting because, for as long as I have known him, he helps everyone he comes in contact with emerge from the dreary gray fog that clouds our day-to-day and actually feel seen. No matter how small the interaction. Just like the sun, he spreads warmth indiscriminately across the earth, and KJ’s influence does actually reach all corners of the earth. His light is so vast that people all over the world can call him a friend, despite cultural, physical, and ideological differences.
You will be hard-pressed to find someone who is as nonjudgmental and giving of human kindness. The sun’s radiant light shines down on everyone, just as they are.
One particular story that embodies KJ took place when we were in Junior High together. There was a young man, little noticed by those around him, that KJ said hi to every single day. KJ went out of his way to talk to him and make him feel less alone. Sadly, this young man took his own life, much to the discomfort and guilt of his peers. KJ, being who he is, decided to go to the young man’s funeral. He almost backed out because he didn’t want to feel like he was crossing any boundaries. But, almost as soon as he came to the funeral, the young man’s family instantly recognized him and came up to him. They thanked KJ for being such a good friend to the young man. They told KJ how the young man would talk about KJ all the time, and how kind he was to him. They were so grateful for KJ's friendship and what it meant to their loved one.
I wasn’t surprised when KJ told me this story. He has always reached out with kindness to everyone, especially those that seem misunderstood and lost.
I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who is as devoted to relationships as KJ is.
He cares with a deep resonance and gladly sacrifices his time, energy, and even health, on others.
Even if you have only met KJ once, you call him a friend. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he has saved actual lives because of who he is. He is able to relate to people because he has felt like an outsider himself, despite the global love that is thrown at him.
Despite impressions, KJ has had a difficult life.
From a conflicted childhood to dealing with intense depression, KJ has had a harder time than most would ever imagine. He has learned to cope with his hardships by grinning and bearing it and has become an expert at hiding what he is truly feeling. This has largely to do with his desire to assimilate and his ability to set his own needs aside for others.
KJ is so adept at adapting and making other people comfortable that people can forget he is Japanese. That is, until a girl turns him down because she "isn't attracted to Asians." His race is forgotten until it very much isn't. People love him when he is giving his energy to them, but when he has been used up, KJ is reminded of how painfully different people make him feel. The area KJ grew up in is predominantly white. And, because he has such an infectious sense of humor and is very accepting of others, people tend to make derogatory comments about his race with a light-hearted intent. Even though the intent isn't to hurt, many of those words hurt all the same. He has had to face comments about his race his whole life, with no one actually taking the time to understand the culture he comes from.
Perhaps KJ has gotten so good at assimilating because we have forced him to.
In order to not be spurned for being different, he has had to develop a robust sense of humor, be pleasant toward everyone, and shrug off condescending remarks..
Being a symbol for happiness is a heavy burden.
His kindness and joy have become so universally acknowledged, that KJ hasn’t been given the room to be human. As an extrovert, he likes being the center of attention, but it also means that people have seen his human moments and condemned him for them. He is inescapably at the center of our universe.
The sun has historically been an object of worship. Just like past sun deities, KJ has been held to standards that are above and beyond the normal mortal.
This intense deification has not allowed him to make mistakes.
This makes the times that he hasn’t lived up to people’s wildly impossible expectations painful in a very strange and personal way.
These expectations stem from experiences with KJ that have set the bar extremely high, because that is just who he is. The expectations come from awe and admiration—good things in and of themselves—but, they can easily and unwittingly create distance. This renders KJ to be something that is worshipped from afar, rather than seen up-close-and-personal.
What many people don’t realize is that KJ can feel incredibly alone, millions of miles away from the people he magnetically pulls in. The irony with this is that these people think the sun is much closer than it actually is—complacent with the distance.
People want to receive the sun’s warmth and illumination, without staring into the burning. The sun’s true nature is in plain sight if you look at it directly. But most of us would rather enjoy the sun’s effects in our own lives, rather than have our eyes be forever changed by the searing pain and blinding beauty. We have pinned him into a corner by expecting his continual self sacrifice and self neglect, between the walls of human fallibility and our own expectations.
It’s easy to think that the sun actually revolves around us. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west because we need it to. Forgetting that we were the ones who were drawn into its orbit.
People want to love him for who they want him to be, rather than the person he actually is.
He has been taken advantage of and taken for granted. He has been forgotten until he is remembered for his shortcomings. He is only called upon when people are in need of something. Most of the time, we only notice the sun’s absence when there is inclimate weather.
Let's put it in perspective.
What would we do without the sun? All life would cease to exist. This seems hyperbolic in terms of the metaphor, but have we actually stopped to consider what our world would be like without KJ? It immediately is dark, dreary, and creates an ominously empty space, void of compassion.
Yet, still being here is what KJ considers his greatest accomplishment. Still breathing. Still choosing to exist. Have we realized how close we have come to losing him? Through all of the many suicidal bouts KJ has endured—which by no means implies the he’s cured or will be cured—he is still here. Every breath he takes is a testament to his strength, all the while in the spotlight and expected to be happy.
In that spotlight, KJ does amazing work. One example is the podcast he started called
In My Head. The point of the podcast is to talk about life in an honest and unfiltered way. He has a range of topics and makes sure to try and see all sides to these topics. He brings in people that inspire him to have discussions. All in all, he is doing a world of good through his humor, intentions, and insights. If you want to start understanding KJ at a more personal level, this is a great way to start.
KJ’s circumstances and our relationship with him should serve as an example for a larger narrative. Instead of trying to change others to the bent of our own will, we can allow people to be who they are and love them for it. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but it is possible. It’s very embodiment exists in KJ. And, it’s a small price to pay for the eventual love and understanding that can be born from it, while fighting off the potential darkness and anguish that could occur if we didn’t pay such a price.