The year is 1995. Fresh out of a long-term relationship, twenty-two-year-old MariNaomi finds herself amidst a flurry of major life changes. Newly immersed in the pan-Asian diaspora of San Jose, California, half-Japanese Mari searches for connections to a culture that has so far eluded her.
It doesn't take long for Mari to find new love and a new job--at a hostess bar for Japanese expats--in a bid to learn the language and culture. Turning Japanese follows Mari from Northern California to Tokyo, Japan, as she tries to get by in an unfamiliar city with rudimentary language skills--all in the hopes of finally connecting with her Japanese relatives without the use of her mother as a translator.