The 150-page photo book by Tetsuro Miyazaki is now available to buy online.
lifestyle

120 interviews later, photographer releases book about Japanese ‘hafu’ identity

38 Comments
By Victoria Vlisides

A Japanese-Belgian photographer who has interviewed half-Japanese people with backgrounds from nearly 100 countries released a book this month.

The book is a culmination of Tetsuro Miyazaki’s racial-identity project that grew to 120 interviews — all documented in its 150 pages. After more than two years of interviews, the Hafu2Hafu project will continue to explore what it means to be half-Japanese even after the book’s release.

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 10.59.53.png
Each page has a portrait with the question the person wants to ask related to identity.

The paperback photo book, titled “Hafu2Hafu: A Worldwide Photography Project About Japanese Mixed Identity”, is a stunning collection of black-and-white portraits of half-Japanese, or hafu, a word most often used within Japan to label a person with one Japanese parent.

The book comes over five years after the ground-breaking documentary film about hafu in Japan (simply titled “Hafu”). On each page, interviewees do not answer questions but actually pose a question to you, the viewer/reader, to foster dialogue and stimulate self-reflection about identity.

Just like the project itself, Miyazaki hopes the book can serve as both a conversation starter and a tool for mixed Japanese families between parents and children, among siblings and so on.

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Tetsuro Miyazaki, right, is a Belgium native who is half Japanese.

“For Japanese people with mixed backgrounds who have not met many others like them, I hope this book will help them realize they are unique indeed but not alone,” he says.

In 2017, Japan Today documented Miyazaki during one of his early interviews. His work got a mention in the New York Times, as well as other publications in Japan such as The Japan Times and GaijinPot.

The photo book was funded through a crowd-source campaign on Kickstarter.com which wrapped up in March 2018. It is bilingual in Japanese and English, has 98 “other” countries represented, ships worldwide and costs around ¥3,700. You can buy the book off his website.

Miyazaki is still looking to do interviews with other hafu. Find details on his website if you or someone you know is interested in participating.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments
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Please stop usong the term “Hafu”. It’s racist, discriminatory and by the way the Japanese people are using it, sounds like half-breed or half Japanese, but in a bad way.

-6 ( +7 / -13 )

Euro@the word was coined to replace terms like ainoko (half-breed) or konketsuji (mixed blood), terms that were even more discriminatory. It may be racist in your eyes, but that was not its original intent.

Japanese Wiki has a good explanation for the various terms used to describe multiracial people. Try a search using 混血 (koketsu) in Wiki.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Back when my mother was a small child in Japan in the early 1950’s people like her - American father with Japanese mother were often called “間の子" - “ainoko” or half breed, or even worse, “パンパンの子”-“panpan no ko” or kid of whore, and treated like garbage once they no longer live inside of US base after father leaves.(it was even worse for those who’s father was black)

those are straight racist term.

“Half” is not.

“Half”, however, can be used to pick on such a kids. I remember being picked on and called “half” due to my multi racial background, I look more like Mexican or Vietnamese then a Japanese.

my 8 y/o daughter is look pretty much white girl with tanned skin. But when we visit Japan, and she is going for walk with my father around very conservatives neighborhood where I grew up, no one seems to be bothered by the fact she is not pure Japanese.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Please stop usong the term “Hafu”. It’s racist, discriminatory and by the way the Japanese people are using it, sounds like half-breed or half Japanese, but in a bad way.

You can stop using Hafu in English if it upsets you so much, but the Japanese ハーフ is not racist or discriminatory, and whatever it might sound like to you it is not used in the sense of 'half-breed'. It simply denotes a person with one Japanese parent, and in my experience it almost always has a positive ring to it - ハーフの子は可愛くていいね - ハーフはかっこいい.

I've never heard it used in a derogatory sense.

In the past (after the war) a child of mixed parentage was nearly always the result of a fleeting encounter between a Japanese woman and an American GI, illegitimate, never knowing his or her natural father, and doomed to a life of poverty. The 'extra' blood was seen as nothing but a negative.

Now we live in a different world, and the 'extra' blood (and more importantly, culture) is seen as a positive at best, no big deal at worst.

People make too much fuss over Japanese words that they think sound like English words they personally have a 'thing' about - like those who get their knickers in a twist over the Japanese word トイレ because they prefer to use bathroom instead of toilet in their version of English, to refer to a room that doesn't have a bath in it. Anyone remember the kerfuffle on JT over the pop song トイレの神様?

6 ( +10 / -4 )

My kids are hafu and have no problem with the term.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

My kids are hafu and have no problem with the term.

Same here and both say they have never had any issues with being haafu even though they both went through generic Tokyo public schools in a somewhat down market area.

Further, when the older boy was preschool age, I'd hear people saying "Haafu are so cute." Sometimes, they'd stop and tell us directly. A couple of women even remarked that they wished they could have kids like mine. With my wife at my side, I thought it was best not to volunteer my services toward that goal.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

@cleo

You can stop using Hafu in English if it upsets you so much, but the Japanese ハーフ is not racist or discriminatory, and whatever it might sound like to you it is not used in the sense of 'half-breed'. It simply denotes a person with one Japanese parent, and in my experience it almost always has a positive ring to it - ハーフの子は可愛くていいね - ハーフはかっこいい.

I've never heard it used in a derogatory sense.

In the past (after the war) a child of mixed parentage was nearly always the result of a fleeting encounter between a Japanese woman and an American GI, illegitimate, never knowing his or her natural father, and doomed to a life of poverty. The 'extra' blood was seen as nothing but a negative.

Then they should use term the signifies "extra" like bi-racial or bi-cultural instead of using a term that makes it

seem like the glass is half empty.

My kids are hafu and have no problem with the term.

Same here and both say they have never had any issues with being haafu even though they both went through generic Tokyo public schools in a somewhat down market area.

Further, when the older boy was preschool age, I'd hear people saying "Haafu are so cute." Sometimes, they'd stop and tell us directly. A couple of women even remarked that they wished they could have kids like mine. With my wife at my side, I thought it was best not to volunteer my services toward that goal.

I have heard the term half or haafu used in a positive and derogatory. Probably because I don't have any bi-racial children. I hear it used positively in the presence of said child or parents. I hear the negative usage when those same types of people are not around.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The beautiful people!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm not "hafu", I'm "duburu" (double).

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Then they should use term the signifies "extra" like bi-racial or bi-cultural instead of using a term that makes it seem like the glass is half empty.

If only 'makes it seem like the glass is half empty' if you insist on understanding hafu (or haafu) as half. It isn't; it's ハーフ, a Japanese word.

Bi-racial or bi-cultural would translate as 二人種人や二文化が併存する環境で育った人, which is a bit of a mouthful and frankly more than a bit daft. Who are we English-speakers to dictate to the Japanese (or any other language group) how they should use their own language?

Do you also object when they use words like スマート、シスター、タレント etc., to mean something different from your idea of smart, sister or talent? 

I'm not "hafu", I'm "duburu" (double).

Then what are my grandkids, with a haafu mother and a Japanese father? Quatro? We just see them as beautiful kids.

As more and more interracial couples produce kids and those kids also intermarry and produce more kids, we'll end up at some point where the whole idea of separate races seems silly, and we'll just look at people as people. Which is what we all are and always have been.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Euro dude

I’m Japanese/Hawaiian/Caucasian.

The term hafu is not racist to me. You don’t get to define everyone. With your hard line stance, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

There is another problem with the term double. It assumes that having a non-Japanese parent gives kids something that children with Japanese only parents lack. In other words they are superior to run of the mill Japanese. That's at least as nasty as the interpretation that haafu means they have only half of what they should have.

In my case, my kids have gained nothing in the way of a second culture or second language because my ancestry is English-Scotch-Irish and I moved to Japan from Britain. I worked in a Japanese university for 18 years teaching Japanese sociology and social history. All my courses were taught in Japanese. I speak Japanese at home. My kids have been in Britain for a total of 10 days. There's nothing British about our life style.

I'm much more confident talking about Japanese history and Japanese society than I am in talking about British history and British society.

In other words, kids with mixed parentage may have two cultures and two languages. Or, they may not. It's a case by case thing.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Always hilarious to see westerners come to Japan and lose it over what they think are slights and derogatory terms.

Most of you have no idea what Japanese hafus have endured and what kind of skin we have had to grow. You want me to run around calling myself a double? What a nonsense.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Most of you have no idea what Japanese hafus have endured and what kind of skin we have had to grow.

No question that some have had real problems but if you watch Japanese television you see numerous haafu who have been making real money from their slightly exotic appearance. As I said, it's a case by case thing.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Belrick - My kids are hafu and have no problem with the term.

Half what? Half human? This is just a derogatory and racist name given to anybody of mixed race in Japan. I'm Australian, my parents are from England, my grandparents are from Scotland and Wales respectively. My ex-wife's great-grandmother is Korean. How does that make my kids half? It's such a pathetically racist term that I find extremely offensive.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

In the past (after the war) a child of mixed parentage was nearly always the result of a fleeting encounter between a Japanese woman and an American GI, illegitimate, never knowing his or her natural father, and doomed to a life of poverty. The 'extra' blood was seen as nothing but a negative.

Its the same thing with the Philippines, those who were born post war with an American lineage were often called "GI babies" but weren't ridiculed that much since they looked more beautiful that racially pure Filipinos.

Now we live in a different world, and the 'extra' blood (and more importantly, culture) is seen as a positive at best, no big deal at worst.

Thank You! As a mix of two races myself, the only I could say is that humans and human, peel back that skin color, belief, culture and values and we're all just the same. Just to glorify the interracial people out there, here are some articles that might pique your interest:

https://www.quora.com/Are-mixed-race-children-genetically-better-due-to-diversity-of-the-gene-pool

http://www.unz.com/article/mixed-race-people-taller-more-intelligent-better-looking-but-also-crazy/

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Please stop usong the term “Hafu”. It’s racist, discriminatory and by the way the Japanese people are using it, sounds like half-breed or half Japanese, but in a bad way.

Oh God please not another SJW!! Stop finding nonsense in words used by millions of poeple and it's even not your language!

Just accept a culture and his language!

Hafu means only poeple born from different nationalities. When i lived in Japan i often said that i was hafu because born from 2 different cultures.

Nothing discriminatory or racist behind these words. It's only of how you use these words.

And let's be honest a White hafu will always have less problems then a Black one...

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I've only ever heard it used in a positive sense. In fact for a young woman to say to another "oh you look half" is considered a massive compliment. And the "half" boys are always the coolest and get the hottest girls.

If it's used in a negative sense it's only out of insecurity and jealousy

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Interesting article and responses. "Hafu" is an interesting word-and-a-half, can be open-ended and adaptable to however you want to define it. I don't see anything racial or inflammatory about it. It sounds better than "half-breed" or "half-caste".

Most of you have no idea what Japanese hafus have endured and what kind of skin we have had to grow.

When I was a young boy, my mother once told me a story about a friendly bat who tried to make friends with mammals and birds. He wasn't successful as neither group wanted him on their team. He went to the mammals saying he has fur and looks like them , only to be rejected because of his wings and ability to fly. So he went to the birds, stating he had wings and can fly just like them. They rejected him because he had fur and looked like mammals.

He flew off in dejection and disappointment. I can empathize with that bat.

In my case, I'm a "Hafu" by definition and tri-cultured as well: Product of Caucasian father and Asian (native Okinawan) mother. I was born and spent early childhood in a Latin American country. My teen years was in a heavily Latino community in a southern U.S. state during the late 1960s/early 1970s. I've had my share of prejudice and discrimination from all sides....from Caucasians, Asians, and Latinos. But one of my high school teachers thought my being multi-racial and multi-cultured was a wonderful thing and encouraged me to embrace the best that all three cultures offered. It was one of the best and encouraging advice I ever received.

(As for bats, bats aren't so bad and are fascinating creatures, once you get used to them and accept them for what they are.)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"As more and more interracial couples produce kids and those kids also intermarry and produce more kids, we'll end up at some point where the whole idea of separate races seems silly, and we'll just look at people as people."

Wait a second, Cleo: Aren't you the person who wrote on this comment board some years ago that being a blonde white woman gave you great advantages in being accepted by Japanese people when you first visited the country decades ago? In other words, perhaps your experiences in Japan would not have been so positive had you come to the country as a black or non-Japanese Asian woman? And now you wish to insist that the idea of separate races is silly?

There is, I perceive, a sharp difference in the experiences of haafu in Japan who have one white parent and one Japanese parent versus those who have one Japanese parent and one non-white (and non-Japanese) parent. The latter are likely the majority of haafu in Japan and so their experiences in the country should be treated as more typical and representative.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Heres what I have noticed.

Other Asians, South Americans, Africans...my friends from these parts see the positives and move on.

Europeans and North Americans get outraged half the time and demand to be called double instead of half (because you know...double is better.)

When you don’t understand, its better not to speak.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Always hilarious to see westerners come to Japan and lose it over what they think are slights and derogatory terms.

Most of you have no idea what Japanese hafus have endured and what kind of skin we have had to grow. You want me to run around calling myself a double? What a nonsense.

Good post. I am also Hafu, but not half Japanese and something else. I am black and white. Still, I feel I can relate to what you have said. I also have had to grow a thick skin, as people from both sides of my heritage were pretty racist to me--one side more than the other, and not the one you probably think. I have grown to accept and even love all the epithets that have been tossed at me. There will always be people who either love you or hate you. I think it's a power to be able to stir up such emotion in people.

But I digress. What nonsense for someone to recommend you call yourself double. I have noticed that it's always some mono-racial person insisting that we categorize ourselves so that it's mentally easier for them to function in our presence. But that's their problem. I'm totally comfortable in my skin.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Really guys, there's only one type of people, that is "humans", and we really only need that label to avoid confusing us with other animals.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Agreed Noidall, and yup it is usually a single blooded person, many times a parent, and also often one who doesn’t speak Japanese well, who gets upset and wants their child to be called double.

Its actually asking for negative attention. Nobody cut me in half by calling me a hafu ok? I don’t need to double up, throw a fit, and look funny and pathetic.

I have no problem calling myself half this and half that. It’s exactly what I am, and I’m very comfortable with myself :)

I also at this point am well able to discern when someone is talking about me being “hafu” in a good or bad way.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@bullfighter

There is another problem with the term double. It assumes that having a non-Japanese parent gives kids something that children with Japanese only parents lack. In other words they are superior to run of the mill Japanese. That's at least as nasty as the interpretation that haafu means they have only half of what they should have.

In my case, my kids have gained nothing in the way of a second culture or second language because my ancestry is English-Scotch-Irish and I moved to Japan from Britain. I worked in a Japanese university for 18 years teaching Japanese sociology and social history. All my courses were taught in Japanese. I speak Japanese at home. My kids have been in Britain for a total of 10 days. There's nothing British about our life style.

Yet......

Further, when the older boy was preschool age, I'd hear people saying "Haafu are so cute." Sometimes, they'd stop and tell us directly. A couple of women even remarked that they wished they could have kids like mine. With my wife at my side, I thought it was best not to volunteer my services toward that goal.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@cleo

People make too much fuss over Japanese words that they think sound like English words they personally have a 'thing' about - like those who get their knickers in a twist over the Japanese word トイレ because they prefer to use bathroom instead of toilet in their version of English, to refer to a room that doesn't have a bath in it. Anyone remember the kerfuffle on JT over the pop song トイレの神様?

It is a false equalivency to compare the political, social, and psychology ramifications of calling some one haafu to the disagreement about the usage of the word トイレ.

I have personally heard the term haafu used by other Japanese people to justify the exclusion of others or to explain their prejudice. I am not saying it isn't getting better, but just because your situation has been positive, or you have chosen to ignore the noise that doesn't automatically outweigh those offended by the term.

@thepersoniamnow

Most of you have no idea what Japanese hafus have endured and what kind of skin we have had to grow. You want me to run around calling myself a double? 

Why not bi-racial, bi-cultural, multi-racial or multi-cultural? Based on cleo's logic, that would be more accurate than haafu. Especially for you! It also wouldn't matter if your parent was from another country, one of your parent's was bi-racial, or one of your grandparents was bi-racial.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Wait a second, Cleo: Aren't you the person who wrote on this comment board some years ago that being a blonde white woman gave you great advantages in being accepted by Japanese people when you first visited the country decades ago? In other words, perhaps your experiences in Japan would not have been so positive had you come to the country as a black or non-Japanese Asian woman? And now you wish to insist that the idea of separate races is silly?

There is, I perceive, a sharp difference in the experiences of haafu in Japan who have one white parent and one Japanese parent versus those who have one Japanese parent and one non-white (and non-Japanese) parent. The latter are likely the majority of haafu in Japan and so their experiences in the country should be treated as more typical and representative.

Yes, she was!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Why not bi-racial, bi-cultural, multi-racial or multi-cultural?

Nelson Mandela in his 2010 book Conversations with Myself argued in favour of a non-racial world. I stand with him.

Race is a cultural construct used to separate and diminish others. But like sexism and other nasty isms, racism and racially-based thinking isn't going away anytime soon. Especially not now with the rise of right-wing nationalism and religious wars fomenting world wide.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This book sounds great. I think I'll buy it.

I don't know if it still is, but the "Hafu" documentary used to be one of the movies you could watch for free with Prime on Amazon Japan. My other kids are too young, but I watched it with my eldest and she liked it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Half what? Half human?

Not half anything. ハーフ.

Wait a second, Cleo: Aren't you the person who wrote on this comment board some years ago that being a blonde white woman gave you great advantages in being accepted by Japanese people when you first visited the country decades ago? 

Blondes always have more fun, wherever we go. ;-)

It is a false equalivency to compare the political, social, and psychology ramifications of calling some one haafu to the disagreement about the usage of the word トイレ.

It's the same thing; people getting upset about a word in a foreign language because to them it sounds like a word in their own language that they don't like.

Why not bi-racial, bi-cultural, multi-racial or multi-cultural?

If you're speaking English, fine. Any or all of those, if it makes you happy and more comfortable in your own skin.

But why should Japan need to import words it neither wants nor needs?

バイレシアル、バイカルチュラル、マルチレシアル、マルチカルチュラル would in any case soon get abbreviated in time-honoured Japanese fashion to バイ/バイカ and マルチ which would no doubt soon have folk complaining that their kids were neither bikers nor maltesers.

Based on cleo's logic, that would be more accurate than haafu.

Mmm, based on my logic, there's nowt wrong with using Japanese words when speaking Japanese.

It also wouldn't matter if your parent was from another country, one of your parent's was bi-racial, or one of your grandparents was bi-racial.

Based on my logic, it doesn't matter anyways. We're all multiracial.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

My younger son and daughter are both "hafu" and are beautiful people. They have Japanese names and were never discriminated by our neighbors or people in town when we shopped or ate out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We all came out of Africa and all have different abilities, but not because of the artificial construct "race" but because of our genetic individuality, which is largely down to chance.

People born of parents with diverse parentage are less likely to have genetic defects because faulty DNA is unlikely to be on both strands.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@cleo

It's the same thing; people getting upset about a word in a foreign language because to them it sounds like a word in their own language that they don't like.

No one posting on this article is debating because haafu sounds like half. It sounds like half because it was borrowed from English specifically for its meaning. We are debating because of the meaning of haafu and how it is used. Don't try to confuse the conversation!

But why should Japan need to import words it neither wants nor needs?Mmm, based on my logic, there's nowt wrong with using Japanese words when speaking Japanese.

Yeah, but haafu isn't a Japanese word it is a loaned word that is why they are all in katakana. Like トイレ, it was chosen for its meaning.

Based on my logic, it doesn't matter anyways. We're all multiracial.

Which means you agree multiracial is better. Thank you!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Silvafan

Why not bi-this or bi- that?

Because in Japan, at this time, those words aren’t used. The wiord hafu is used, and what all of us hafus are saying, is that the only people with a problem arent bi racial and they choose to be offended by their interpretation of the word.

I am half American and half Japanese.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@thepersoniamnow

what all of us hafus

Really? You are speaking for all? Or you know what all think? You don't even know who all on this article is biracial or bicultural.

I am half American and half Japanese.

Unlike you, they don't all lead most conversations about being half this or half that. Nothing wrong with sharing one's background, but it doesn't automatically make someone correct on all topics regarding race. There are experts and researchers who have a better understanding than most of us.

Why not bi-this or bi-that?

Ok, so haafu is referring to having two or more nationalities or two or more races? The problem with this conversation is people who are defending haafu aren't even consistent with their definition or message.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I am not Japanese, but one of my parents is of a distinct nationality, and I grew up saying I was half-[X] (the nationality). This was pretty common in the schools I was in, in a few different countries. Are the people who have a problem with the term hafu from countries where this terminology isn't used? I knew a girl who was "half-Japanese".

I don't have a problem with the term, in English or in Japanese.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Half and Haafu

https://japantoday.com/category/features/opinions/half-and-haafu

Interesting! Read the comments from the posters as well as the article. You will see some familiar people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Euro Dude: Stop telling us haafu people what to do. We're cool with it, any word can be said with disdain or disrespect, kind of like some of us are doing with "Euro Dude" right about now. :D I'm joking but seriously, get off your VERY HIGH PC high horse, it's not a good look esp on a subject in which you are not an expert.

Congrats, Tetsuro. You are a man with a big, kind, giving heart!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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