At first glance, you wouldn’t have the slightest notion that my ethnic heritage is part Native American. The truth is, I don’t know much about it, either. My part-European and part-Native American grandfather refused to speak of it until medical reasons made it a dire necessity. My mother, however, instilled in me a pride about my roots that my grandfather didn’t possess.
Unlike a person raised to think that it’s OK to be different, there are many children in Japan who still don’t get a chance to form their own positive spin on their ethnic identity. They often come from mixed-roots backgrounds and in Japan they are labeled: hafu.
The term hafu is commonplace for someone who has one parent of Japanese descent and one parent who is of foreign descent. For those unfamiliar with the term, it does come preloaded with its fair share of controversy and negative undertones. It can imply that someone is “only” half — and lead to the larger perception of just how Japanese is “Japanese enough”? In 2015, the Miss Universe Japan crown went to half-African American, half-Japanese Ariana Miyamoto and one year later, the 2016 crown went to half-Indian, half-Japanese Priyanka Yoshikawa.
While I am no advocate of anything that involves judging women on their wearing of glittery nightgowns and bikinis, pop-culture moments like this brought the conversation to the forefront. Yet it has faded since then, as most pop moments do.
The general attitude about diversity in Japan is that the concept itself is as foreign as, well, foreigners.
Do Japanese people still believe this? Or is the younger generation merely acquiescing to a cultural perspective passed down from their elders? Like other non-Japanese people living here, I can’t speak to being half. Neither am I a parent. But as a former assistant language teacher (ALT) who worked in three Japanese public high schools, I did encounter the cognitive dissonance that surrounds hafu children and how they can be treated and talked about at school.
Click here to read more.
- External Link