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While ‘hafu’ is a familiar word in Japan, they are still a minority in the Japanese society. I want viewers to feel the diverse aspects of ‘hafus’ in the film and deepen their understanding of them.

32 Comments

Megumi Nishikura, 33, whose father is Japanese and mother is Irish-American. She has co-produced and directed the documentary "Hafu" (now showing at Uplink in Tokyo's Shibuya) that examines the struggles of mixed-race individuals in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun)

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My son saw it on Sunday and recommends it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Looks like a very upper middle class and trendy (liberal) look and view of the subject. This type of work is usually to further career and by the looks of things is not very in depth as most of things things are not in Japan.

I would prefer to see this type of film made by a working class and lower income type who had more experience of the subject matter.

This seems more of a project that the makers hope will enhance their careers, rather than push this agneda.i may be wrong though of course.

Though i would imagine that with a concerted effort i could raise more awareness in Japan and across the globe within 1 month using Youtube and social media, maybe i am cynical or maybe a realist.

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

Himajin

Someone should make a documentary about the parents of 'half' children. Now that would just as interesting.

falseflagsteve

A cynic knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing. A realist, one who understands and accepts the world the way it is.

Here, you are being neither. Both the cynic and the realist must at least have seen the documentary before spouting off about it...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When will people in Japan understand that being Japanese is a nationality and not a race? You can't be half Japanese, you either are Japanese or you aren't, no one gets half a passport or half a vote in elections. Why can't they can't separate nationality, ethnicity and race? They are not the same thing. The word is offensive because there is a tacit assumption that these people are not really Japanese.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

pochan

When will people in Japan understand that being Japanese is a nationality and not a race? You can't be half Japanese, you either are Japanese or you aren't, no one gets half a passport or half a vote in elections. Why can't they can't separate nationality, ethnicity and race? They are not the same thing. The word is offensive because there is a tacit assumption that these people are not really Japanese.

I'm trying to get people to understand this, but it's very annoying.

I guess the only correct terminology is, "Half Japanese-Asian", not "Half Japanese".

falseflagsteve

Though i would imagine that with a concerted effort i could raise more awareness in Japan and across the globe within 1 month using Youtube and social media, maybe i am cynical or maybe a realist.

Then DO it! It's probably a lot harder than you think.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The word is offensive because there is a tacit assumption that these people are not really Japanese.

The two are not exclusive. Meaning, 'half' are not Japanese; and yes, that is bigoted.

But that is Japan for you.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

When we say "half", we really mean "Half Asian (of ethnic Japanese descent)". Since obviously the concept mainly alludes to looks only, "half"s are often treated as some sort of exotic curiosity, otherwise they are something foreign, they don't "really" belong in Japan. I guess the problem is that there is so much emphasis put on merely "being" "genetically Japanese", which is obviously a concept based on a racialist theory.

The prevailing attitude and propaganda is this... there exists no other ethnicity than ethnic Japanese in Japan. If they do, then it must be a mistake. Like any propaganda, it can be brought down. But I mean this stereotype obviously applies all over the world. When people think "Japanese", they might think of an Asian, and when people think "American", they might imagine "White".

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Looks like a very upper middle class and trendy (liberal) look and view of the subject. This type of work is usually to further career and by the looks of things is not very in depth as most of things things are not in Japan.I would prefer to see this type of film made by a working class and lower income type who had more experience of the subject matter.

What on earth makes you think it's 'upper middle class' and 'liberal'? One of the young men in the film grew up in an orphanage. You slept through that part? Or you haven't seen it?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

falswflagsteve

I would prefer to see this type of film made by a working class and lower income type who had more experience of the subject matter.

LOL, yeah because so many of them are film makers on their off time from their working class lower income jobs...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Will 'hafu' become an unacceptable word in the future, a bit like we used to say 'coloured' in the UK but now to say it would be a major faux pas? I hope so.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Looks like a very upper middle class and trendy (liberal) look and view of the subject. This type of work is usually to further career and by the looks of things is not very in depth as most of things things are not in Japan.

I would prefer to see this type of film made by a working class and lower income type who had more experience of the subject matter.

This seems more of a project that the makers hope will enhance their careers, rather than push this agneda.i may be wrong though of course.

Though i would imagine that with a concerted effort i could raise more awareness in Japan and across the globe within 1 month using Youtube and social media, maybe i am cynical or maybe a realist.

Hahaha, maybe just stick to Gossip Girls mate

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm 'hafu' and have never been offended by the term nor have I ever experienced an instance where it was used in a derogatory manner. To the contrary, my being half has always been a reason for curiosity and admiration from Japanese people so I just don't get why some evidently think it's offensive. My father was a caucasian American and my mother was Japanese, so I'm culturally/ethnically half American and half Japanese as well as racially half caucasian and half asian. I am indeed 'hafu' so why should I be offended by it?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I am indeed 'hafu' so why should I be offended by it?

Well said US. My kids are both "hafu" and quite happy to be referred to as such. That's what they call themselves.

Too many people trying to make an issue out of nothing, using ridiculous language like "a child of mixed heritage." There's a website run by a certain Mr D.A. (A.D?) for you folk ; )

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

USNinJapan2 Of course i mean someone orginally from that background and film making does not cost how it used to and even those from humble beginnings can be film makers, there are many.

Thinking only a small amount of people are capable or entitles to do things reduces diversity which ithe opposite s what this film is supposed to be about. Too many people take the easy route and don't think especially i find on this site.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Look at Japanese media... look at the print media... it's 100% focused on Japan. Yes, I know we're in Japan, but not enough is being done to "internationalize" Japan. Go to any municipal office and you'll know what I'm talking about. Japan is a country that likes to hold on to tradition, and is very inert to change. I can't see the situation improving anytime soon.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I'm 'hafu' and have never been offended by the term nor have I ever experienced an instance where it was used in a derogatory manner.

You are absolutely right that the word is not derogatory in the using and people don't use it in an offensive way. However, it does in my view carry negative connotations and it also creates the tacit implication that being Japanese is something which is a race, ethnicity and nationality which in today's world is not the case. One of the problems I believe is that using words based very loosely on English, which divests it of much of it's meaning. Personally I don't like the word but that doesn't mean that I am going to be offended when people use it to describe my children because I am certain that there is no malicious intent in their use of the word. A child who is born and brought up in Japan with Japanese nationality is entirely Japanese regardless of their cultural or ethnic background. For the record I don't really like the double moniker either as it seems to me to be somewhat contrived. Perhaps problems persist because the Japanese insist on using English(ish) words without any of the English meaning.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Some people don't find "half" offensive, some people do, that's why sometimes they are referred as "double".

The "admiration" that the "half"s receive may at first seem positive, but not always necessarily so. They are almost always half Caucasians with good looks, like the ones you would usually see on TVs or magazines. This leads to the false conception that the "half"s are ALWAYS like that or ALWAYS speak English, etc, which must be quite a frustrating experience when you have to constantly deal with that kind of thing on a daily basis.

In the end, the very few may be idealized, but they are not treated as regular Japanese, or sometimes even as regular human beings.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

it does in my view carry negative connotations

Better-looking than the 'average' Japanese, longer legs, better proportions, often bi- or tri-lingual, overseas holidays staying with family instead of in hotels. It's not all or even mostly negative, by any means.

Perhaps problems persist because the Japanese insist on using English(ish) words without any of the English meaning.

There's nothing wrong with people, Japanese or otherwise, borrowing words and using them as they see fit. The problem surely is the English-speakers taking umbrage at 'their' words being incorporated into another language and used in a manner they don't understand or approve of. (I remember the rumpus on JT surrounding the song 'Toire no kamisama' and how upset some folk were over the word toilet being used in a song...except it wasn't toilet it was toire....)

Heaven help us all if all the Latin/Greek/French/etc - rooted words in the modern English vocabulary could only be used with their narrow original meanings and contexts. We'd all be tongue-tied.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

There's nothing wrong with people, Japanese or otherwise, borrowing words and using them as they see fit. The problem surely is the English-speakers taking umbrage at 'their' words being incorporated into another language

It isn't about borrowing words, borrowing words is a good thing and enriches a language but sometimes meaning is lost or changed, again no bad thing but it can have a negative effect, which in this case I believe it does. I believe that this is an inappropriate word to use. Other people think otherwise but the discussion has to be based around the meaning and implications of this particular word. Like I said nationality, ethnicity and race are not the same thing and my point is that this particular word makes the assumption that these three things are actually the same. You cannot be half Japanese, you cannot have half a vote, you cannot have half a passport, you cannot have half a nationality. It seems that you are taking umbrage at the niggly details and not addressing the point. If you think this word has positive connotations that is fine but I would like to know how because I think you are being deliberately disingenuous to prove an entirely unrelated point that you have some kind of lingering resentment about (it has been years since that song was relevant).

Better-looking than the 'average' Japanese, longer legs, better proportions, often bi- or tri-lingual, overseas holidays staying with family instead of in hotels. It's not all or even mostly negative, by any means.

Of course it is mostly positive, many people don't have the choice and it is something to be grateful for but that doesn't mean that a word doesn't carry negative connotations, these are two different things. And come on this nonsense idea that all mixed race people are better looking than the average Japanese is a ridiculous stereotype that doesn't help.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

http://thediplomat.com/2013/10/03/in-japan-will-hafu-ever-be-considered-whole/?all=true

Both producers of the film stated that they have never truly been discriminated against while growing up in Japan. Simply, they are trying to raise awareness about a raising demographic and what it means to be half growing up in Japan.

Likely, the end game is more about changing Japanese citizenship laws allowing for dual citizenship past the age of 22.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

USNinJapan2OCT. 15, 2013 - 12:38PM JST I'm 'hafu' and have never been offended by the term nor have I ever experienced an instance where it was used in a derogatory manner. To the contrary, my being half has always been a reason for curiosity and admiration from Japanese people so I just don't get why some evidently think it's offensive. My father was a caucasian American and my mother was Japanese, so I'm culturally/ethnically half American and half Japanese as well as racially half caucasian and half asian. I am indeed 'hafu' so why should I be offended by it?

That's really good to hear! I was surprised when I first got here, my wife told me some people get offended by the term "half". Because I come from Fiji and we have a lot of folks who are mixed race and we always refer to them as "half cast" , and we never have any problems about this term and everyone is cool with it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well the Japanese alternative to 'hafu' is 'konketsu', which literally means mixed blood, and is definitely not desirable when applied to people as it's used mostly as a slur and carries with it a connotation that the pure Japanese blood/race is being diluted with foreign blood. If you think about it, the term 'hafu/half' as used to describe a child/person who is half Japanese and half some other race, was most likely first used by English speaking foreigners here in Japan and the Japanese adopted the term after hearing them use it to describe someone like me. So I find it ironic that foreigners here are now finding the term offensive. Again, I prefer being called 'hafu' to 'konketsu' by a mile. And for the record, despite being bilingual, bicultural, etc., I am certainly not a 'daburu/double'. That's just silly.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Better-looking than the 'average' Japanese, longer legs, better proportions, often bi- or tri-lingual, overseas holidays staying with family instead of in hotels. It's not all or even mostly negative, by any means.

Or you could be from a non-white, non-western background and none of this would be true and you'd be bullied for being a "mutt". Again, your family's experiences aren't always the truth.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Interesting comments pochan. Indeed it is impossible to be half of a nationality.

I also think it is true that in English, halfBetter-looking than the 'average' Japanese, longer legs, better proportions, often bi- or tri-lingual, overseas holidays staying with family instead of in hotels. It's not all or even mostly negative, by any means.

Wow. Somebody's cultural bias showing through quite clearly here.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Indeed it is impossible to be half of a nationality.

Thank you, that is the only point I was trying to make. If they say it means mixed race or even ethnicity I would say ok but they don't they say haafu is half Japanese which to my way of thinking is impossible.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Lets put this in another context. In the US nearly everyone is half this and a quarter that depending on your ancestry. But despite that background no one says they are half american and half italian. An American is an American no matter what their ethnic mix. It is silly to state otherwise. The use of the term XXX-American is purely descriptive, it does not make anyone a half American.

But in "homogeneous" Japan being a Japanese is linked to ancestry. This flies in the face of genetic reality which via DNA research has shown that the Japanese people are a mixed race as well. But no one here says that I am a part Korean, part Chinese Japanese person. You never hear that in Japan. In 2001 the emperor did state that he is part Korean which of course is true. DNA testing on today's Japanese show a very mixed ethnic diversity but mostly linked to Sino-Korean origins. So Japanese are no different from Americans in their mixed background. Only the myths of uniqueness is different in Japan.

So seen from this perspective calling someone a half is redundant in Japan. Everyone here is half something or other. In this sense the use of the term is based on the myth of Japanese ethnic purity. And somehow people of more obvious mixed ancestry (just like the Japanese people themselves in reality) are less Japanese or at least less pure in this country.

Therefore as stated above the term half is similar to how the world "colored" in the USA was used in the 1950s. At heart it is pejorative and at some point hopefully its usage will become outdated. If you carry a Japanese passport you are Japanese. End of story.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"When will people in Japan understand that being Japanese is a nationality and not a race?"

As soon as the majority of Japanese stop thinking that way. To be Nihonjin means to be of Japanese ancestry otherwise "he not Japanese" but a quarter, halfu, gaijin, chugokujin, kankojin, sankokujin, etc.

Its just like somebody saying gaijin means foriegner, and not a bad word. All these words mean "others"

Im proud to be an "other" because I never would want to be a Japanese :-)

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Im proud to be an "other" because I never would want to be a Japanese :-)

Good for you man, good for you. I've changed my citizenship and I am now Japanese. I have never regretted it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Zurc

Not the end of story. Because Japanese people will believe they are a race long after you and I are dead.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

USNinJapan: If you think about it, the term 'hafu/half' as used to describe a child/person who is half Japanese and half some other race, was most likely first used by English speaking foreigners here in Japan and the Japanese adopted the term after hearing them use it to describe someone like me. So I find it ironic that foreigners here are now finding the term offensive

If you have any proof that the term was "most likely" first used by English speaking foreigners could you please offer it? If not, your sense of irony is a bit misplaced. Furthermore, are all foreigners bound to agree with what other foreigners say just by merit of being foreigners? I hear foreigners in Japan say ridiculous things on a daily basis? Is it ironic that I don't agree with them just because we're all foreigners?

Again, I prefer being called 'hafu' to 'konketsu' by a mile.

Why does it have to be one or the other?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or you could be from a non-white, non-western background and none of this would be true and you'd be bullied for being a "mutt"

Granted, if the other 'half' is also Asian there's probably no noticeable difference (in which case why would anyone consider you a 'mutt'?); but don't you think that on the whole Japanese/Indian, Japanese/African, Japanese/almost anything produces on the whole people that are deliciously good-looking, better than the average of either lineage? Not my fault if you think only white westerners have anything positive to add to the mix.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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