'Hafu' tells story of Japan’s mixed-race minority and changing attitudes in society

TOKYO —

For such a small word, “half” carries an awful lot of weight here in Japan. Adapted to fit the syllabary, the word is pronounced “hafu” in Japanese, and describes a person who has one Japanese – and of course one non-Japanese – parent. More often than not, the word carries certain connotations, and many Japanese have preconceived, often erroneous, notions that hafu have natural English ability, have spent time abroad, and possess many of the physical characteristics Japanese associate with Westerners. At the same time, the word is immediately indicative of something very un-Japanese, and many hafu – even those who have never set foot outside of Japan and speak no other language – are never truly accepted by society as a result.

The Hafu Project was begun in 2009 as an initiative aiming to promote awareness of racial diversity in Japan and the issues facing those of mixed heritage. It was after becoming involved with the project that two filmmakers, Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi, began a collaborative work that would eventually become a full-length feature film titled, simply, “Hafu.”

Three years in the making, “Hafu” was completed in April this year, and has been screened at independent cinemas everywhere from Madrid to Tokyo. After checking out the film for ourselves when it came to Shibuya recently, RocketNews24 talked with Megumi and Lara to learn a little more about the making of the film and how in their opinion attitudes in Japan are evolving.

“Hafu” documents the daily lives and experiences of five hafu who have either lived most of their lives in Japan or are visiting for the first time in an effort to learn more about their Japanese heritage. Shot in the documentary style with the featured hafu providing the voiceover throughout, the film has a quiet poignancy to it that at times brought us close to tears, yet ultimately left us feeling both upbeat and confident that attitudes toward hafu in Japan are changing for the better.

Hugely impressed by this profoundly moving and inspiring film, RocketNews24 got in touch with Megumi and Lara, who kindly answered our questions about themselves, the making of the film, and how they see life for hafu in Japan changing as the number of children born to mixed-race parents increases each year.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourselves. How did you become involved with the Hafu Project?

Megumi: I grew up in Japan as a child but moved with my parents to the United States when I was 15. When I returned [to Japan] at 26, I thought that my identity issues of being half-Japanese were long over. However, living in Japan as an adult for the first time, I was constantly questioned by others: “Where are you from?” – indicating that they didn’t see me as being from Japan – or “Why do you have a Japanese name?”. All this questioning caused me to question my own identity. In my search for answers, I started connecting with other half-Japanese individuals, which is when I came across the Hafu Japanese Project in 2009.

Lara: I was born in Tokyo, to a Japanese mother and a Spanish father. I’ve grown up in several countries – Japan, the USA, Canada, Spain, Australia, etc. Learning three different languages and being surrounded by different cultures made me always feel different to the rest, but also helped me become adaptable to any country I lived in as an adult. My parents made sure I was exposed to both of the cultures they shared, so now I culturally feel Spanish and Japanese, but personality-wise since I’ve lived the longest in Spain, I feel closer to Spain.

When I moved to Japan in 2007, my plan was to improve my language skills and to become more “Japanese” and integrate into society, settling here long-term. But after my first year, I had so many things to think about my identity as it was difficult for me to be recognised. I was constantly questioned by people about my origins and language skills; people were incredulous when I told them that my mother was Japanese and that I was exposed to Japanese culture at home since I was a child.

Q: What are your overall goals with Hafu?

Megumi: First and foremost, our goal is to create awareness about the hafu experience amongst the general public of Japan. When we first started developing the idea of this film, it was a shock to discover how little information and media attention there was available about the hafu experience. I believe the hafu born in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s are the first sizable generation of hafu that are visibly active in society today yet very little about their experience had ever been explored. Personally I believe that in your late twenties that you have enough work and life experience under your belt that what you do can have a significant impact on society. In the film, three of the five stories are people of this same age demographic, and while it was not our intention when we started out to film people necessarily at that age, by the way we can see how they are contributing and shaping society gives us a hint of what Japan might look like when the 1 in 50 hafu babies grow up in 25 years.

Lara: We hope that this film will be seen by as many people as possible, both in and outside of Japan. Our goal is to create awareness of the diversity that exists in Japan, and also start a dialogue about what it means to be Japanese today. For those outside of Japan, we hope they will be able to reflect upon what the mixed-race experience is like in their own country. As the world is diversifying faster than even before, we need to start asking ourselves what changes are needed so that multiracial or multicultural children can grow up with confidence rather than with the fear of being different. We will be happy if our film can even make a small contribution towards that.

Megumi: Another specific goal related to showing the film in Japan is that we want people to see the reality of hafus. As a result of viewing models and performers exclusively on television, the general public has been fed this idealized image of hafu. According to this ideal, the hafu are “model beautiful,” are mixed with Caucasian, and are bilingual. The adoration of hafu has extended as far as magazines offering techniques on how to apply make up so one looks more hafu. Even more extreme, I recently came across a plastic surgeon who offered services to make women look more Western or hafu. I have even come across people who are “urayamashii” [envious] of hafu, saying that all hafu are beautiful, that they are lucky to be bilingual, that they wish they were hafu themselves or that they want to have hafu children one day so that their children can become models. While these comments can be viewed positively they are also stereotypes and they over simplify the hafu experience; there are many of us who don’t fit that idealized image. I have heard of hafu receiving comments like “Oh you’re an Asian hafu? Well you don’t really count,” or, “You don’t speak English? How ‘mottainai!’ [What a waste!]” In making this film, we wanted to show that hafu are complex and diverse as any one else out there.

Q: We definitely have faith that the film will strike a chord with both Japanese and non-Japanese alike. Were there any particular moments during filming that you felt would really resonate with audiences?

Lara: Many different parts of the film show moments in which people can resonate with. For instance in my case, I had the exact same thing happen to me as Sophia [who was raised in Australia] when I brought my Japanese bento [packed lunch] to school. Or when Alex struggles trying to learn between American measurements and currency compared to the metric system and yen, also speaking three languages at home; or with Ed trying to find others like himself using the internet and social networks; David being asked if he’s married to a Japanese… the list is long.

Megumi: It wasn’t until we had our first rough cut screening in December 2011 that I realized how much the film resonated with people–to hear their laughter at moments that I didn’t realize were funny, or to hear that they were moved by scenes where our subject reveal their pain. Also, it was not until we started to screen the film in Japan that I realized how many people, not just hafus, empathise with the stories in the film.

Q: Although he has an exceptionally positive outlook on life, one scene in which David describes his feelings after visiting Ghana – the country that most Japanese assume is his home despite the fact that he was born and raised in Japan – struck us as particularly powerful. David says that he never felt especially welcome in Japan during his childhood, but on going to Ghana he felt very much like a foreigner there too. We get the feeling that this sense of “not belonging” in either country is one of the greatest challenges hafu kids growing up in Japan face. Having interviewed so many hafu in Japan, and with your own experiences in mind, what advice would you give to mixed-race families in Japan or hafu struggling to find their place?

Megumi: It certainly can be very challenging when you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, however I think that comes from a sense of looking to the outside world to validate whether you belong or not. That validation ultimately has to come from within. When you figure out and accept who you are then I think people will respond accordingly.

I think for parents I would encourage them to tell their children to not take comments from people too personally and to take pride in what they have been given. It’s important to build confidence in your child so that they enjoy being themselves. No hafu is a perfect 50/50 blend of their two countries – yet there is some expectation of that – so I think raising children so that they are happy with who they are, and allowing them to explore or not explore the parts of their cultures, that either is okay. I will add, though, that if you have the means to raise your child bilingually by all means do so. Almost all hafu I meet who are monolingual wish their parents made more of an effort to raise them bilingually.

Individually, I think the most important thing is to find something you really enjoy doing–a hobby, a job, an area of study etc. I think when one finds this thing then all those external expectations begin to fall away and naturally out of the joy of doing that activity a sense of self and belonging will emerge.

Lara: Parents play a strong role, and building children’s confidence is the biggest part. Not letting them feel negative about either culture as they grow up is important. But I understand this is hard. When I was a child I had a bad experience in Japan at a summer camp in Chiba, so I automatically felt like neglecting my Japanese side and not wanting anything to do with the culture at all. But thanks to my mother’s determination, I attended Japanese Saturday school and now as an adult I’m thankful for it, despite how much I hated going to school on the weekends. Being aware of the education that you choose for your children is very important, but of course to some extent, if there is a situation where the child is suffering every day, then it is important to find solutions and give the child a chance to regain the confidence that was lost.

To me, visiting both [Spain and Japan] and learning the languages helped me define who I am today. My advice for them is to be proud of who they are and accept the cultures they grow up with. I wish for them to have a strong enough heart and will to not be affected by what society expects from them. You don’t need to be a certain way, you just have to be comfortable with who you are, and when you find that comfort zone, then there shouldn’t be anything you have to worry about.

Q: At the close of the film, we learn a lot of interesting facts about the number of dual-nationality families and increasing numbers of hafu children in Japan. In what ways do you think that Japan is changing as a result of this?

Lara: With globalisation being more and more present each day the number of international marriages increases and more hafu children are being born. Japan is probably becoming slightly more aware of the diversity that exists within their own country that was actually present since many years ago. They are just slowly recognising what they once ignored.

Megumi: In 2008, Japan officially recognized the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. In a presentation I gave at Doshisha Women’s College last year to an all-Japanese audience, more than half the room raised their hands when I asked if they or someone they knew had been in an international relationship. I believe that Japan has always been diverse but it is diversifying at an increasingly rapid rate, however the awareness of this is changing slowly. We hope that our film will raise awareness of this change and start to dissipate the pervasive belief that Japan is mono-ethnic.

There is a strong emphasis on being the same in Japan. In the language, the word “chigau” – different – can also carry the meaning “you are wrong.” I think with an increase in diversity the belief that “different equals wrong” will slowly dissipate. Through this film we want to show that hafus are not so different – in the sense they are human beings with dreams and hopes like anyone else – and even the parts of them that are different are nothing to be fearful of.

If you’re interested in seeing “Hafu” for yourself, you’ll be pleased to know that along with plans to make the film available on DVD, Blu-ray and on download and streaming video services in 2014, the film is also available worldwide for anyone who wishes to screen it for their community. For more information on screenings and hosting your own event, visit the official Hafu website.

Read more stories from RocketNews24.
7 tips to make learning Japanese that little bit easier
Is Japan really racist?
Blogger’s Troubling Insight into the Psyche of Post-Disaster Fukushima Residents

RocketNews24

  • 9

    Novenachama

    Being "haafu" is the best of both world. Needless to say, it does not mean being arrogant, conceited or thinking that you are better than anyone else. You have to accept yourself as you are to come to terms with those aspects of yourself that you cannot change. It means to have self-respect, a positive self-image, and unconditional acceptance. It also means having a healthy regard for yourself knowing that you are a worthy human being and that each of us is unique and has specific talent and abilities to offer. You cannot sit around and wait for approval from others. Therefore work on accepting yourself and be the best you can.

  • -6

    papigiulio

    Im not a haafu so I cant really know what they are feeling, but I think they shouldnt be so negative. 2 or sometimes even more nationalities. Most of the time bilingual and recently becoming more and more popular on the TV. see f.e. Becky, Shelly, Joy, Trindle, Yuji, Morizumi, etc etc.

  • 12

    pointofview

    Haafu is a silly name. It sounds as bad as "Gaijin." Like you have no worth, not human. Its a good indication of the ignorance running rampant in Japan. Why not bi-national or bi-cultural etc? When Im out with my kids I hear countless times "haafu" "haafu" "haafu." Is there really a need to continually say this? Actually, why even say it to begin with? It`s even worse when the grandparents say it. Very immature. And this film just made the term even more popular. Oh my.

  • 5

    Sensato

    Why not bi-national or bi-cultural etc? When Im out with my kids I hear countless times "haafu" "haafu" "haafu." Is there really a need to continually say this? Actually, why even say it to begin with? It`s even worse when the grandparents say it. Very immature. And this film just made the term even more popular.

    @pointofview I completely agree. Hearing "hafu" always makes me cringe, it reminds me of "half breed" from racist 1950s-era westerns.

    When my children were babies/toddlers in Japan nearly every time we went out in public we would endure the same scenario of people squealing "haafu" repeatedly. It felt like scenes I have watched of the Beatles setting foot on U.S. soil for the first time. Once at a low-brow theme park in a rural area we had thirty-plus junior college students completely surrounding us, all shrieking "haafu". The kids were unnerved/overwhelmed to say the least.

    Anyway, it sounds like a worthwhile documentary, just wish they had chosen a different title for it.

  • 1

    pochan

    Having dual nationality, mixed ethnicity or race in 2013 is not a big deal anywhere in the world, so why is this different or special?

  • 8

    gogogo

    I'm all for equality but when you define yourself you are part of the problem. Google why Morgan Freeman hates black history month.

  • 3

    Nihon1975

    I'm all for equality but when you define yourself you are part of the problem.

    @gogogo

    Well said, I couldn't agree more.

  • 1

    inakaRob

    I always thought "hafu" was somewhat racist or rude. I guess in the end it is no worse than using "white" or "black" to describe a person. Anyone with ANY hispanic desent is usaully "lantino". That gives them so much more identity than white, black, half. Half WHAT? it could be half anything and anything. I don't know. If you hare a mixed race persong and you call yourself hafu, then fine. But to have "hafu: Japan is changing" well... not enough if you ask me. still shows a pretty closed minded view.

  • 14

    Jaymann

    So very, very happy that my son is being raised in New Zealand. No one calls half, or double, or asks him about his appearance, it's just a non-issue. English is is first language, rugby his first sport; Japan a place we visit for log periods. I hope never has to feel the weight of Japan's systemic racism.

  • -4

    syzyguy

    is it really all that difficult for people to comprehend that the term "haafu" doesn't have the same negative connotations in the Japanese language as it does in English? think about how many loan words are used in Japan improperly... (risutora=laid off, pantsu=underwear, aidoru=celebrity) why do people insist on bringing their own linguistic biases into an entirely separate and distinct culture?

  • 8

    Scrote

    I also dislike the term "haafu" and I do think it is often used in a negative sense in Japan. My son has two passports and can speak two languages fluently. If you only have one passport and can only speak one language, who are you to call him "haafu"? It should be the other way around.

  • -1

    lucabrasi

    @Jay

    How do you explain to your boy that while Maoris make up 15% of the total population, they are 50% of the prison population?

  • -3

    kickboard

    Syzyguy, I agree. These days the first thing that comes out of the mouth of Japanese after they hear someone is "haafu" is "iina~"

  • 4

    inverse

    I dislike the word "half" in regards to people (especially children!). "Half" insinuates that a person is not "whole," and it comes across negatively. If I had to choose a word to describe a person's heritage, I'd use the word "mix" or "mixed race." It seems more positive.

    In general though, I find it unnecessary for people to constantly point out someone's race and/or heritage, especially in public. I feel sorry for kids who will have to grow up always being an "other."

  • 2

    Amused511

    It's tough, because being haafu often comes with many positive stereotypes, so people may not see that type of stereotyping as offensive; it falls into line with the "innocent racism" that's mentioned in another article currently on JT.

    Anyway, this looks like an interesting documentary; I'm looking forward to seeing it.

  • -1

    Jaymann

    @lucabrasi - I don't have to explain: Even at 7 years old he is beginning to answer that question for himself.

  • 1

    Ms. Alexander

    As Novenachama said, being hafu is having the best of both worlds. But It also means having the worst of both worlds too. The only "bad" thing for me being "hafu" is feeling homeless. I grew up here but will always be a foreigner so hence kinda am out of place. But I have no state to call home so I'd definitely be out of place in the states. I am, however, comfortable here.

    I guess I don't look "haafu" so I usually get complemented on my Japanese. When people ask me why I can speak, I say my mom is Japanese and I grew up here. They always respond, "Ah, haafu ne." I never really felt insulted by it. Guess I'm used to being labeled it.

    My opinion, Japanese will never accept us "haafu" as being equal to a full Japanese because we aren't.

  • 4

    pochan

    Just for the sake of argument could you imagine this documentary being made in England, Australia, France, America? It would be laughed at. The fact that it has even been made says more about Japan than the hafu people in the documentary. Is the Japanese half the important half?

  • -3

    Get Real

    Jaymann shares that:

    I hope (my son) never has to feel the weight of Japan's systemic racism.

    Yet when asked:

    How do you explain to your boy that while Maoris make up 15% of the total population, they are 50% of the prison population?

    ..sees no irony in replying:

    Even at 7 years old he is beginning to answer that question for himself.

    There's more than one possible subtext here. Perhaps Jaymann can kindly clarify?

  • -1

    80393

    My opinion, Japanese will never accept us "haafu" as being equal to a full Japanese because we aren't.

    @ms alexander, in which way?

  • 5

    jforce

    So easy for people to judge something they have no idea about. This movie needs to get out there to the more than ignorant population of Japan on this issue. Whether it is understood by Japanese is another question. I do feel there is no need to bring attention to this on a grand scale, but in this society the ignorance and constant inquiry into someone's background makes a film like this necessary.

    They should simply be saying to Japan, "Grow up."

  • -2

    Mike45

    "is it really all that difficult for people to comprehend that the term "haafu" doesn't have the same negative connotations in the Japanese language as it does in English? "

    No its not that difficult to comprehend...its just an innocent word used by Japanese who mean absolutley no harm..just like "gaijin" Its just a harmless word, right?

  • 3

    Get Real

    Just for the sake of argument could you imagine this documentary being made in England, Australia, France, America? It would be laughed at.

    Let's look at the online reaction to General Mills' Cheerios TV ad with a mixed-race American family:

    <http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/06/03/cheerios-general-mills-commercial-mixed-race-ad/2384587/

  • 4

    Verisimilitude

    as a "hafu", born in the west, educated in the western fashion, and raised in a oriental household.. now living in Japan, I find that one should not be too preoccupied with the notion of national identity. What matters, is that one understand, clearly.. that you exist as a bridge between nations, cultures, societies.. whether you like it or not. For that is what defines a foreigner, a existentialist perspective perhaps.. but hey, thats just my opinion.

    One`s identity is never skin deep.. what counts is the human heart.. even if human emotions are capricious.. society will eventually change.. be proud of who you are, regardless of the past, even if it is painful in the present, the future is brighter, if you have a open heart.

  • -1

    billybegood33

    I am an American, who is of mixed background, but I don't feel any changes here. I am not welcomed. This documentary doesn't seem real. Whenever I am out and about in Japan, i get a lot of strange looks. None of the women like me. They kick my legs when I am walking at the station going to work. I had the police called on me for talking to a girl at the convenience store. Is this treatment ONLY towards me? Why? Because I won't grow dreads, cut my head bald, or cut my hair into a mohawk? I am mixed and it is clear. I am happy about it. I don't discriminate on race. I like people to be who they are. Thats what makes drinks at a table and a chat fun.

  • -1

    pochan

    rugby his first sport

    Just think if he isn't very good he can play with his compatriots in Japan.

  • 3

    southsakai

    NovenachamaNOV. 15, 2013 - 08:18AM JST You cannot sit around and wait for approval from others. Therefore work on accepting yourself and be the best you can.

    You said it beautifully!

  • 1

    pochan

    There are still few non-Japanese in Japan, and for many of us living in the country, some with hafu kids, the movie does hold interest, as does this news story about it.

    Me too but I think that things like this only exacerbate the perceived differences. You can't be half Japanese because being Japanese is a nationality, you either have a nationality or you don't. Why is it that in the UK my daughter is just English but in Japan she becomes half? My daughter didn't change but the perceptions of the people around her did.

  • 0

    Jimizo

    I'm half Irish and my mum told me I had the charm of an Irishman and the manners of an Englishman. My wife says I have an Irishman's capacity for alcohol and an Englishman's capacity for pomposity. My mum has the right idea - respect both 'halves'.

  • 1

    Ms. Alexander

    @ 80393 - even if we 'haafu' had Japanese names and can only speak Japanese, we will always be seen as foreign.

  • -1

    pochan

    I get what you are saying strangerland but it seems to me then that the Japanese want it both ways. If Japan wants to be exclusive they can do so but they say they want to be part of the international world, if this really be the case they have to accept the reality that you can be Japanese and not look East Asian.

    You think people in the UK won't refer to her as half Japanese?

    It isn't the fact that people refer to her that way, she can still be accepted as fully British but also have other cultural origins. The problem with the hafu label in Japan is not that it is discriminatory (I don't believe it is) but that it is othering some Japanese people.

  • -15

    Nippon Nation

    Why can't "hafu" embrace their uniqueness in society without demanding society accept and embrace them as Japanese? You were born in Japan and probably speak Japanese, but that doesn't mean Japan has to change. You have to change and you have to accept that you will always be different. Japanese people tolerate different aspects of its society, but not embrace it. They simply do not have to. In order for Japan to embrace 'hafu' we'd have to embrace all peoples of the world regardless of their racial background. I do think that awareness is a positive step in the right direction, though. Well...on a case by case basis.

  • 3

    Loki520

    Why can't "hafu" embrace their uniqueness in society without demanding society accept and embrace them

    In the context of the way you keep using the word "embrace", which isn't even what they are asking for, change "hafu" to "homosexuals", "Blacks", "Gingers", or any other descriptive term and you'll have your answer.

    Besides, nobody is asking them to "embrace" anybody. They are asking for acceptance.

    Do you go up to someone with brown eyes and treat them differently? How 'bout someone who is taller or shorter than yourself? Left-handed? Right?

  • -2

    Mike45

    "Haafu is a silly name. It sounds as bad as "Gaijin." Like you have no worth, not human. Its a good indication of the ignorance running rampant in Japan."

    I agree, its barbaric. Many Haafu are called Gaijin, so both words play on each other.

    I dont think its wise to wait on Japan to change or the gov to enact any laws on discrimination. Just when things change they are changed back to fit whoevers agenda is at the time in the gov. I think the change will have to come from within. Gaijin and mixed peoples will have to form their own communities and find joy within that. Japanese are attracted to the openess that is lacking in their own culture and seek to find it overseas, or by learning English etc. Its not going to be easy to change Japan, but within 50 years with the declining population and increases in international marriges, change might come.

  • 1

    pochan

    I don't think this Japanese consciousness of which you speak, exists. I don't there is a central collective thought process saying 'we want to be able to be exclusive AND internationalized. Rather I think you have speaking of two unrelated things, and bridging them together.

    I think you're right. Thinking about it your point makes more sense than mine which looking back is something of a gneralization. Nice post

  • 5

    80393

    @nippon nation thank you for your post. its refreshing to hear your point of view, which i think many foreigners feel is the point of view of the majority of japanese people. its easy to feel like youre going crazy, seeing things that arent really there, so it was a relief to read that we're not crazy and that japan is in reality not accepting of other races, even if they are born in japan.

    You were born in Japan and probably speak Japanese, but that doesn't mean Japan has to change. You have to change and you have to accept that you will always be different. Japanese people tolerate different aspects of its society, but not embrace it. They simply do not have to. In order for Japan to embrace 'hafu' we'd have to embrace all peoples of the world regardless of their racial background.

    this part, especially, was like a breath of fresh air. its exactly what ive suspected but nobody has come out and said it directly. so in essence, you can be a japanese citizen born in japan but dont expect to be treated like a pure blood japanese. its this belief in superiorty that is the core tenent of racism.

  • 0

    Mike45

    @80393,

    No your not going crazy; the quicker you realize this truth and stop believing all the other hype the faster you can get on the road to recovery. Things in Japan are extremely rigid to the point of being almost paranoid of anything from the outside world. many Japanese feel the sky will fall down if they go out of Japan to live. If its not Japanese then its not safe or must be treated with suspect. Not all Japanese are this way, but if you start with this baseline, it will save you allot of grief. As they taught us in the military, "always expect the worse" I apply it to Japan as well.

  • -2

    80393

    strangerland, some good points. but has any country been as exclusionary as japan is today because they felt inferior? usually people are rejected when they are seen as less than, not greater than.

  • 3

    Mike45

    "Very few Japanese are this way"

    If very few are this way then why the need to make a documentary about it?

  • -1

    80393

    i dont have any experience with korea or china so i cant speak to that. as for the nerd case, i think it just depends on what you consider to be lesser and greater. a "nerd" may be rejected because he lacks social skills, not because he is smarter. likewise, a hafu might be rejected for not having 2 japanese parents, not because he is cool or whatever. people can be rejected for small portions of what makes them the person they are. and those small portions can greatly outweigh the rest when viewed by people who look down on that feature or trait or whatever you want to call it.

  • -1

    darnname

    "If very few are this way then why the need to make a documentary about it?" -- Mike45

    They can split the money in Hafu?

  • 10

    inakaRob

    "Why can't "hafu" embrace their uniqueness in society without demanding society accept and embrace them as Japanese?"

    ummm. seriously?!

    Lets try this sentence :

    ""Why can't "BLACKS" embrace their uniqueness in society without demanding society accept and embrace them as EQUALS?"

    Do you MAYBE see where your sentence is a little closed minded. Lets try this agian

    ""Why can't "HOMOSEXUALS" embrace their uniqueness in society without demanding society accept and embrace them as EQUALS?"

    ""Why can't "LATINOS" embrace their uniqueness in society without demanding society accept and embrace them as EQUALS?"

    It doesn't matter if its sexism, racism, or bigotry. EVERYONE in the ENTIRE effing world should be treated as an equal to the man or woman standing next to them. IT IS THAT SIMPLE!

  • 2

    taiko666

    You think people in the UK won't refer to her as half Japanese?

    Possibly, but never just "half"

    People in the west acknowledge the origin of the other "half."

    People in Japan just fixate on the fact that the "haafu" is only half Japanese, without considering what the other "half" is (after all, gaikoku is all the same isn't it?)

  • -5

    Selchuk Driss

    Stop the whining! You are not better or worse (off) than anybody else!

  • 7

    jake72

    I saw the movie and have to say that the Japanese-Ghanian guy was an inspiration. Just such a positive guy despite the hurdles he's had to face----really loved his story.

    And, while the Japanese-Korean woman got a little too much screen time, IMO, her story was thought provoking as well. Even though she could easily pass as "Japanese," the fact that she felt that she had to keep that from everyone spoke to the insidious nature of racism in this society.

  • -2

    Nippon Nation

    @inkaRob << Equality and notions about "e pluribus unum" sound really good on paper, and for North American countries has partially worked. We have Obama to show for it. However, social equality has never been 100% successful, even with an "hafu" president. Employment rate still hovers at around 17% for African Americans, whereas whites make up less than 10% on that spectrum. Having social equality didn't work in this instance. Juxtapose that with Japan, a nation whose principles were founded on the Meiji Constitution; now defunct American mandated constitution which stipulates that all people have equal rights under the present-day Constitution. That includes universal suffrage for women and anti-discriminatory laws which are intended to protect all citizens. These constitutional guarantees are loosely enforced because most Japanese do not care. This is owing to the fact that the people simply do not have to care as long as the government doesn't care, because the letter of the law has no weight. In other words, how can you ask the Japanese to embrace,accept, and include hafu, quarter, and non pure blood into their social dynamic when only the Meiji system of governance is deeply rooted in their psyche??

    Meiji Emperor separated the undesirables from mainstream society, even native Japanese people who had tattoos ( irezumi). This was designed to create a cohesive social dynamic that is still evident today as it was centuries ago.

  • 1

    Cos

    Just for the sake of argument could you imagine this documentary being made in England, Australia, France, America?

    Yes. I have seen such documentaries.

  • -12

    darnname

    I'm tired of embracing everyone and everything. Long lasting societies are built on common traits, not diversity.

    The countries that consider themselves to be bastions of diversity are violent, divided by race, religion, politics and home to some of the most intolerant groups on the planet.

    Life in Japan is a picnic for foreigners and ha-fu.

  • -3

    taiko666

    Yes. I have seen such documentaries.

    So have I, but they were all made in the 50s, 60s or at a stretch, 70s.

  • 4

    pochan

    Yes. I have seen such documentaries

    I just took a quick look through youtube and you are right a lot of these documentaries exist. I take that comment back, wrong assumption I made

  • 2

    Mike45

    "how can you ask the Japanese to embrace,accept, and include hafu, quarter, and non pure blood into their social dynamic when only the Meiji system of governance is deeply rooted in their psyche??"

    This is very true and its why Japan will not change anytime soon. There are a few good things about Japan, but the bad things are what they are, and its not a dynamic society so its of no use trying to change it, but I do admire these hafuu trying to bring attention to it. I think with the declining population, increase in mixed peoples, and outside economic pressures, Japan will change, slowly on its terms, over the next 50 years.

    @darnname Life has never been a picnic for me or other foriegners I know living in Japan. Every country has its violence, petty racism, etc but you cannot manufacture happiness or a utopia as some japanese have tried. The will of the individual is crushed for the sake of the whole.

  • 1

    Dutchduck

    In Holland we call mixed kids "half bloods", (I'm one), the Dutch have no negative intent when saying this, and I never interpreted it as negative instead I learned to embrace being different. I teach my kids the same thing...they are proud individuals and will be excepted by their friends and family for who they are, not for what they are....and who gives a crap how society regards you. Stop looking for the negative aspects and embrace the positive ones. Let your kids be proud haafus, instead of frustrated Japanese wannabes. My sons will hopefully turn out to be proud, taller than average, well endowed, bi lingual hybrids.

  • 0

    paulinusa

    "...gives us a hint of what Japan might look like when the 1 in 50 hafu babies grow up in 25 years."

    Yes, overall attitudes will gradually change, but I have to think that wall of resistance created by many Japanese will always be difficult to overcome.

  • 10

    Himajin

    You hate the word 'hafu'? I thought we were done with all that now that our son is 30, but now we have grandkids and are greeted with 'Kuotaaaa? Kawaiiiiii' It makes me feel like punching someone....there's no end to it...I expect a few generations down the line for people to be shrieking '1/32? Kawaiiiiiii!'

  • 0

    serendipitous

    Dutchduck

    "half bloods"?! Shades of Harry Potter there.

    Hafu is the easiest word to use I guess. We are all hafu something I guess. Or fulls? Fools?!

    I am looking forward to seeing this documentary. The comment about how 'chigau' can mean 'different' and 'wrong' is very interesting.

  • -2

    billybegood33

    O'l boy in the picture/documentary looks just about or more japanese than some japanese i see, with his hunters hat.

  • 1

    sf2k

    half what? irritating to use the adjective as a noun. Stop using English for your racist predilections. This has been going on for decades and only now because there's a popular word it's suddenly a story.

    This doesn't create respect only more compartmentalization and categorizing

  • 2

    Cos

    So have I, but they were all made in the 50s, 60s or at a stretch, 70s.

    Then you stopped paying the TV tax or you became blind ? They made docs interviewing Obama, Lenny Kravitz,,, just to name some everybody knows. Depending of the type of bi-culturality and in what part of the country they live, for some, things are not better than in the 50's. A friend with an Iranian parent said his "problem" started in the 70's as prior he and his siblings were welcomed both in Europe and Iran, and then they were banned from Iran and "Arab" migrants, potential terrorists in other places.

  • -2

    genjuro

    @Himajin haha I got a chuckle out of that. Good one.

    In the U.S. and particularly Hawaii they call people of mixed heritage hapa, a pidgin term from the word half. Far from being a derogatory term, it's actually more of badge of pride and identity for mixed-race people and especially for those who are half-Asian.

  • 0

    JTDanMan

    Japan's been at this so-called crossroads for, well, going on generations now.

    At yet nothing ever changes.

  • -1

    Jaymann

    @ Get Real - I'm pretty sure you know where I went with that previous post. The situation with Maori over-representation in prisons is not one of systemic racism. And as the moderators are so oft to remind us.... not the topic either.

  • -1

    haafulilly

    In Tokyo, it's less of a novelty, but outside the city, you get stared at. A LOT. You're generally seen as superior to foreigners, but sub-Japanese.

    Needless to say, I have no problem with the word itself.

  • 0

    No Miso

    @papigiulio

    Im not a haafu so I cant really know what they are feeling, but I think they shouldnt be so negative.

    Er, I think the good work his project has done has pointed out that it might not be them that is being negative - they are reacting to others treatment of them. Posted something similar on a different thread that this is mainly ignorance, and can be resolved by education. A very "sensational" media machine doesn't help, and nether do the Hafu tarento who tend to be seen or portrayed as amusing, and very rarely intelligent.

  • 3

    FightingViking

    Personally, if my sons have to be called anything other than "human beings" I would prefer the term "Eurasian" which is exactly what they are.

  • 1

    Himajin

    @Himajin haha I got a chuckle out of that. Good one.

    The first time it happened, I was in shock....my first thought was 'You have GOT to be sh*tting me'. I was blindsided...I'd never heard anyone in Japan use the term.

  • 0

    billybegood33

    Wow. Japan is changing!! After seeing this doc, they like all kinds of people! What the hell was I thinking!! They don't discriminate! Well, can't explain my situation. Maybe I need to off myself because I have no place in this society and or world ruled by the omotenashi. All the looks, laughs, kicks to the back of the legs at the station, women lying in my face numerous times, and all the time being here, i thought I might find someone who might take a liking to me. But its just me!! Good-bye cruel world.

  • -3

    billybegood33

    why are you saying i need psychiatric help because i get kicked and attacked at the station? fortunately i haven't flown that far over the coo coos nest as of yet, i did call that number though. not because of being attacked at the stations, but because of something else. i am half. Not a japanese half, but i am an American of mixed background. And I don not feel japan changing at all. So i don't really understand where this documentary is getting at. I don't think it is getting any better. but maybe you are gonna say i am being negative.

  • 2

    hidingout

    @lucabrasi

    How do you explain to your boy that while Maoris make up 15% of the total population, they are 50% of the prison population?

    He doesn't. He's too busy being grateful to live in a paradise where he never has to hear the dreaded word "hafu".

  • 2

    J.basher

    Be yourself, doesn't matter what other think of you, you are as human as they are, be happy and don't worry.

  • 2

    LH10

    this is good that they are exposing this yet sad its still happening there. in other countries your just labeled as immigrant, or just not even freakn labeled no one cares but in japan lolol you are this half breed this hafu, making these poor people like they're weirdos. japan better open up its doors cause first of all their so called "japanese is a special breed" is going extinct. so japan stop labeling, stop being xenophobic and start respecting these people and any culture (including people with tattoos) kick out the old geezers who are in gov and start hiring people that want and accept change! lolol

  • 3

    CanuckNikkei

    Japan will change...She has to. If a person has even a tiny finger-tip of Japanese blood, embrace them as one of your own. The world is getting really crazy out here. The more allies you have, the more people who want to love you, the stronger and better for you.

  • 3

    Michael Walls

    My daughter and son have been taught since they were old enough to understand that they are NOT half they are both American and Japanese and that they are to be PROUD of both of their nationalities and the uniqueness that it brings. They are NOT arrogant and to be honest I feel they have embraced their Japanese Nationality more than their American but that is because they grew up here. They are PROUD to be both and when they are confronted by someone and asked "Are you half?" They politely reply no I am both American and Japanese. To say someone is half is to indicate that they are not a whole of either which to me is WRONG and leads to bullying and misunderstandings. Luckily my children have only had to put up with bullying for a short time as they did not let it bother them but educated those around them the way they were taught to do. They now live happily with many friends who accept them for who they are ...... themselves.

  • 1

    Nick Szasz

    For those interested in seeing the film in Fukuoka, a screening was just announced yesterday for Dec. 15 at KBC Cinema. Details on the Fukuoka Now website: http://fukuoka-now.com/event/hafu-the-film-special-screening-in-fukuoka/

  • 0

    koiwaicoffee

    People in Japan just fixate on the fact that the "haafu" is only half Japanese, without considering what the other "half" is

    This is the main problem as I understand it. I don't like the term "half" because they don't acknowledge that person to be fully a part of the same society.

  • 0

    ka_chan

    Of course haafu is a derogatory term. It implies you are not one of "us". You are different and in Japan, different is bad. I found it interesting American how serve for the armed forces who may not have felt racism at home do feel it Japan. It is not major but you hear it in their comments. In traffic incidents, if you are not Japanese, you are in the wrong. It is as clear as that. How will a "haafu" be treated if they were to go to an establishment with the sign "no foreigners" ? And there's the rub. Japan lost to the west, so the west is more tolerated. Japan has a history of being a closed society and it still prevails. Being Korean decent is worst, there is some history there. If Japan returns to it's pre-war conservatism, how will "haafu's" be treated, do you think.

  • 0

    Mona Choubdari

    I don't really see why people are saying that ha-fu being used is a bad thing. I am a ha-fu, and when I was in school in Japan, it was easier to make friends (although this one girl did not like me :( ). I'm not too sure about how it is for them, but I was never discriminated (I get along with everyone). Younger people seem to admire you more because its different, interesting, and unique. I think its fun when people say ha-fu, but maybe that's because I like attention... For example Lola is a Japanese star that is just a quarter Japanese, but she is really loved by mostly everyone. Older people are a bit more strict with you, and usually think that you do not know anything of Japanese tradition, history, or even the language even though most of us have taken more than 10 years of Japanese school. You may be treated differently at first but soon people will grow an interest to you and want to know more. Don't take it too personally, sometimes it is hard to adjust to changes and accept things. In Canada, I would always bring a bento box during elementary. It gained me more friends because of the neat way the okazu was placed and the good taste of the food. They just loved the onigiri, umeboshi, and the wakame salad. :)

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