HAFU: THE FILM is a new documentary coming out about Haafu — people of half-Japanese descent and their cultural experience.

I’m not sure what I think about this blurb and I’m still learning about the film. This is rare for me, but I’m reserving comment at present. What do readers think of the above street interviews on hafu, and has anyone heard more about this film?

51 thoughts on “Hafu”

  1. The documentary is an extension of a 2008 photography exhibition and seminar series.


    I went to see it in London and, while it seemed like a worthy undertaking, the execution and analysis left a lot to be desired. It all got off on the wrong foot for me with Marcia Yumi Lise’s bio, where she wrote:

    “Her research interest lies in the area of race, ethnicity, identity and nationalism, in particular the link between the treatment of the half-Japanese and the unique Japanese racial thinking.”

    Unfortunately, the video clip seems to match the general half-arsed nature of the analysis on show in London. That’s a shame but one major positive of the whole exercise was the way it brought together people with varying degrees of Japanese heritage and allowed them to swap experiences. It looks like that’s carried through to events elsewhere and I see from the site that they have involved Love Drive, the manzai duo who talk about being half-Japanese in many of their routines.

  2. I’ll stick to commenting on this clip.

    The responses are much like I imagined that they would be. Carting around a half Japanese kid in Japan and chatting randomly with other parents, old people, etc. on the street, I hear the same kinds of things all the time – halfs are cuter, lucky won’t have short legs, great to have two languages and cultures, etc.

    However…. rating the “documentary” segment that I see: it is polished but fundamentally shallow. Having “halfs” themselves do the interviews totally blows its credibility as a survey (imagine an African American doing a “what do you think of black people” survey).

    The point that is frequently made – “halfs” are more outspoken – is a marker of difference that is a bit problematic (positive discrimination still being discriminating – this could also be problematic for kids who grow up in Japan, are just like everyone else, and wonders why people expect Becky). However, having obviously outspoken “halfs” doing the interviews could be said to create this sort of response.

    In the end, I’m left wondering – “why this clip?” It shouts “lightweight entertainment product.”

  3. What M-Bone said. I’d be interested to see what responses you got if you sent two pure Japanese, in their forties, wearing 外国人参政権絶対反対 t-shirts out to do the interviews. I really don’t know what responses they’d get; I don’t get the impression that there’s latent racism out there, but then “Japanese people are really good at hiding their true feelings”, right? Everyone knows that…

    Also, I don’t like the choice of cover still. It grossly misrepresents that interviewee. She didn’t say that; she was reporting what hafus she knew had said to her about the way they felt. She immediately goes on to say “but I’m still really envious that they have two countries” (at 3:40).

    That said, having looked at the website, it’s an interesting shoestring project. Hafus are becoming a significant slice of Japanese society, so it’s worth looking at their experiences.

  4. Interesting topic, mostly because it’s relevant to me, but I have no idea what the purpose of this is. Why are they making this?

  5. “I’d be interested to see what responses you got if you sent two pure Japanese, in their forties, wearing 外国人参政権絶対反対 t-shirts out to do the interviews. I really don’t know what responses they’d get”

    I think these dudes had made this pretty clear to everyone.If a foreigner wants a voting right,he or she should get the citizenship first.

    “Japanese people are really good at hiding their true feelings”, right? Everyone knows that…”

    Now really?.Just as “everyone knows” that Jewish people are really good at making money through international finances?(Although I had to admit this thesis actually condtradicts with my personal observations from time to time.)

    Always interest me when foreign guy use this term and the conclusion is always “Deep in their minds,Japanese are all racist”and never the vice versa.
    We are supposed to have this unique talent of disguising honne in the outfit of tatemae,yet we never get away from deep insight of passer-by foreigners.
    Little wonder why among so many pure blooded Japanese(myself included) prefer hafu over some dumb pure Japanese as their offspring.We just want some of these six senses-like insight in our children.It could help them to do well in the entrance exams.

    I’ll tell you some Japanese secrets,David.
    While we are acting like a pure xenophobe on surface,our true hidden feeling is we actually want to change this country into a rainbow nation as the United States,or perhaps even the better version minus race riots,high crime rates,polaraized opinion about immigration and talk show host like Glenn Beck.

  6. “the general half-arsed nature of the analysis”


    For Zainichi, we have a number of books in Japanese and English based on dozens (to as many as 200) in-depth interviews and surveys with people of different generations as well as phone surveys (a lot better than proverbial 外国人参政権絶対反対 oyaji) about perceptions, etc. I’d love to see something like that for halfs, but it doesn’t look like this is it.

    Looking at the interviews on the website that you linked, something definitely seems off. Some of the people that they talked to have, it seems, not been to Japan. Can the “half” concept have any real meaning in that context? Why not include people of other mixed ethnic backgrounds who live in Japan? Why only deal with half Japanese since you can be a “half” of two of anything in Japan and still be Japanese by virtue of citizenship, culture, residence, etc. ? Where are the Zainichi and Ainu? A Zainichi and African American half could also be a Japanese half in this context.

    In the end, it seems as though the director/interviewer understands that ethnicity is a problematic concept, but doesn’t think to apply the same critical tools to the “half” idea and ends up producing a pretty canned idea of what it means to be Japanese and the project ends up narrowing instead of broadening.

    Something about the bio concerned me – she’s touting the academic credentials, but the cover still point that David Chase makes… might be enough to have her expelled from an academic sociology program. Most consent forms for this type of thing that I have seen protect interviewees from out of context presentation. Honestly, when I saw the embedded clip, I rolled my eyes thinking that the person depicted is probably a meathead, but it is way different than that in the interview itself. It might seem minor, but if she were university affiliated, administration would be baked about legal liability.

  7. “I don’t get the impression that there’s latent racism out there”

    Ace, we should cut the dude a break on that alone.

  8. Being a pure blooded Japanese whose going to be 40 in just about two weeks and not being good at hiding true feelings especially on this matter,I had to type out some words while having a seven months old hafu child in my arms.

  9. Aceface: My apologies for the inadvertent offence. I thought I was signalling the sarcasm pretty strongly for those comments, but obviously not strongly enough. To be clear, the intent of the quotation marks and the paragraph was that, yes, it’s exactly like “Everyone knows that the Jews make lots of money in international finance”, particularly in the respect of not being true. However, Japanese talking to me about hafus are hardly going to insult my daughter to my face, so if some Japanese people do harbour negative attitudes towards hafus, I’m not going to hear them.

    Further to that, where, exactly, in my comment is the conclusion that all Japanese are racist? Or did you just assume that, as a foreigner, I must think that? Despite the explicit assertion that I don’t, I should add.

  10. “Japanese talking to me about hafus are hardly going to insult my daughter to my face, so if some Japanese people do harbour negative attitudes towards hafus, I’m not going to hear them.”

    If you don’t hear anything negative about your daughter from surrounding
    neighborhood,one possibility is the fact that no one has any ill feeling toward her for your daughter being nice or something,or as you’ve mentioned,Japanese tendency of not insulting at anyone to their face,a unique cultural practice rarely seen anywhere else on this planet(very obviously this hypothesis is being supported by the absence of Japanese equivalent of John Stewart)is at work.But then,I could be wrong just as I was with many things being discussed on this blog.

    If someone has any negative attitudes towards hafus,then that has something to do with the fact that whole Japanese nation is just fed up with Becky trying to sell us something on TV.

    “Further to that, where, exactly, in my comment is the conclusion that all Japanese are racist? Or did you just assume that, as a foreigner, I must think that?”

    No,all is a misunderstanding and my low level English ability is to be blamed.Also the previous comment has something to do with me losing my culture and virtue that I had with but somehow lost at some point of my married life with a foreigner.

  11. My friend directs this movie. Can forward info if anyone wants to know more about it.

  12. Hoshikagi and others: Yeah, the motives and message are all opaque to me, which why I am still waiting to comment and call judgment on this. But I knew the MF readers would be less reserved!

    J: Any chance you can send us a torrent link?


    “I’d be interested to see what responses you got if you sent two pure Japanese, in their forties, wearing 外国人参政権絶対反対 t-shirts out to do the interviews. I really don’t know what responses they’d get”
    I think these dudes had made this pretty clear to everyone.If a foreigner wants a voting right,he or she should get the citizenship first.

    I wish it was that clear. Unfortunately that’s my position. My hunch is that 外国人参政権絶対反対 activists are like lots of anti-illegal immigrant activists in the US — they just hate foreigners/Mexicans and this is the acceptable way to voice their opinion.

  13. Well,that’s one reason I support the voting rights,only because it’s a political goal opposed by someone I hate.But it was only recently I changed my camp.I have been pretty skeptic about allowing voting rights for the local government especially Tokyo being pressured to do so from Seoul

    The current stream of anti-illegal immigrant campaign in America may not be acceptable,but somewhat understandable,for most of the Mexicans crossing the borders are migrants and no immigrants,hence illegal.
    No doubt there are people genuinely classified as bigots are the core of the campaign,but bigots don’t form majority in wealthy society.They can from movement only when joined by concerned citizens who worry the deterioration of the life as they know it.Which seems to be happening because of the economic recession and street signs being occupied by Spanish.

  14. Japanese racism is cool. And natural. Most people are like that if not brainwashed against it like western people are.

    Complaining about white racism against Japan though stinks of hypocrisy. And they do that all day.

  15. ”My hunch is that 外国人参政権絶対反対 activists are like lots of anti-illegal immigrant activists in the US —they just hate foreigners/Mexicans and this is the acceptable way to voice their opinion”

    And here’s another way of voicing an opinion on the matter.Only this time it’s from the other side of the border.

    I have to see this film.

  16. Debito, to address your small tangent:

    > I’m more teased by the blurb for this movie. Anyone know more about it?
    > http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/26031/great-happiness-space-the/

    That is an interesting film. It’s composed entirely, if I recall correctly, of interviews with the male hosts of one Osaka (I think?) host club and their female clients. The clients seem to be entirely hosts (if that’s the right name for the female version) themselves. Through the course of the movie–in particular a few really heartbreaking scenes–you get a picture of a collection of people who are all conflicted about what they do, lacking in trust in relationships because of their profession, and all desperate for intimacy. I can’t speak to how truthful it was, I don’t really know much about host clubs, but I felt like it was a pretty powerful film and worth seeing. I’ve seen it twice actually and enjoyed it more the second time.

    For folks living in the U.S., you can get it on Netflix and last I checked even watch it through their “watch now” feature.


  17. Oh, yeah, I guess that review (which I didn’t read until after I posted a comment, doh) states pretty clearly that it is set in Osaka. There ya go.

  18. While recognising the framing and sampling issues with this, I am sort of encouraged by the lack of naval gazing – even if it comes across as superficial. The first responses in response to the “image” of Haafu’s (“they are mixed blood” or “they are 50-50”) probably sum up what I mean – “yeah they are mixed blood I suppose, で” kind of thing.

    In my experience the older generations do engage in more of the “positive discrimination” kind of speculation (that we saw some examples of in the clip), but I find in general people my own generation in Japan do need to be “pushed” to reflect either which way.

  19. While I do think there was some good, genuine commentary that came out, the whole deal seemed amateurish in a bad way. I just didn’t like the feel and I didn’t like the idea of being hafu and coming up on the street to ask questions about hafu. It simply asks for questionable responses. But, there were some responses by Japanese people that I would easily say myself as a total foreigner. Moreover, who wouldn’t expect normal people to say things like “they are super pretty” etc. when that is how most hafu are portrayed in the Japanese media. If they are trying to garner anything besides really superficial facts the approach has to change.

    The only thing I thought was pretty useful were comments about working, studying, living etc. together makes difference less pronounced or important. Nonetheless, o1 makes some good points. The lack of naval gazing is nice and I guess I wouldn’t dislike the style of it if it was just executed better, I do not know what the image about their documentary they are trying to put across.

    For Debito – Great Happiness Space is good, basically what Dave said. Instant play on Netflix in the States at least. I also watched it twice and is perhaps the best look into the host world amongst other essays/stories etc. I have seen/read.

  20. As a Nigerian/Japanese kid I was personally a little bit surprised by the interview. However, I grew up in America and currently live / go to school in Canada. But, I do have some close friends in Japan.

    Generally I feel like I’m treated equally around them but, things differ a bit when it comes to being with people I’m not close with. The most recent example would be when I went on a school trip to Japan.

    We were in Kyoto (Kiyomizu Temple and the surrounding area) and there were a lot of other high schoolers from Japan around. My school was traveling in small groups and I was the only Japanese speaker. One thing lead to another and one of my friends and I ended up interacting with them.

    The first reaction to me was the standard “wow you can speak Japanese – omg -” kind of thing, which I’m used to because most people don’t expect it from me. What sort of nagged at me was how that reaction didn’t really wear off.

    They ended up asking to take pictures with me and my friend. I know that they found us good looking, which is nice and all, but it felt more like being some kind of rare animal. The fact that we had to take the same picture with 10 different cellphones also contributed to that feeling. As mentioned earlier it was a kind of positive discrimination.

    Just my 2 cents (or $2 judging by the length of this comment :P).

  21. Those people are still around in great numbers, but a growing proportion of people seem to be totally comfortable with the idea of not-totally-Japanese people speaking Japanese. I blame it all on the TV talents.

  22. Minatan37564, you should also consider that you were in one of the top tourist spots in Japan – interaction with people tends to be more normal in everyday sorts of places. In Kyoto tourist areas, cashiers will often try to speak English to foreigners, something that I have not heard in years in other locations. In any case, they obviously thought that you were awesome.

  23. Minatan,

    As a white guy who lives in Japan and speaks Japanese, I get reactions like that all the time. Just yesterday, I was at the mall shopping for a watch and the salesman commented on my Japanese ability. He even told me I “look just like” the model on the promotional material. Yeah, no shit I can speak Japanese. Go and get the keys to the display case already!

    But rather than seeing it as positive or negative discrimination, I think most people who mention stuff like that are just trying to make conversation. If you can direct the topic to something *other* than your personal identity once that topic becomes stale, they will probably get over their supposed fascination as well. It’s more fun for all involved.

    That said, you always have the “be a dick about it” option. If someone starts asking about your background or telling you how good you are at using chopsticks, just give one-word answers and look annoyed until they shut their racist uncreative mouths.

  24. Just wanted to second (third?) Dave’s comment on Great Happiness Space, and make one correction:

    It’s composed entirely, if I recall correctly, of interviews with the male hosts of one Osaka (I think?) host club and their female clients. The clients seem to be entirely hosts (if that’s the right name for the female version) themselves.

    I believe that most of the hosts’ clients, when asked, said they were involved with “mizushoubai“, which covers anything from working in a club hostessing to servicing men at a soapland or doing “delivery health“. Going by the amounts of money being flashed around, and my personal experience regarding the generally low pay of most women who work at clubs, my immediate assumption of the occupation of the women in the film was “sex worker.”

    It was indeed a rather poignant film: all parties involved were, at the end of the day, desperate for intimacy but would never really find it through their chosen professions. And the subtext of leaving one’s home (in the provinces) to make ends meet in the city rang true at the time of the film’s release; with the economy having worsened since then, I’m sure being a host/hostess is seen even more as a “way out” for young, rural Japanese with no prospects.

  25. Primary school students on their shūgaku ryokō are organized to everything in group formation. So it’s not enough for just one student to take a picture. As well, many students are encouraged to interact with the people they see (often this encouragement takes the form of an English class assignment), so they may have been trying to cover that base as well. Who knows. They surely meant no ill will.

    As well, these are students for which a trip to Kansai is a taste of a different culture with different history, etc. Meeting a half Nigerian, half Japanese raised abroad that can speak Japanese means they met something far more exotic to them than their own school’s AET, so you have to add on extra ‘OMG’s to everything.

  26. Yeah, as Peter says, middle and high school kids are frequently given these completely retarded assignments where they are given a questionnaire in English that they don’t understand and told to go to major tourists sites and harass foreigners for their homework. When my mom was visiting years ago she thought it was adorable and answered every single one while I slunk off to the side tearing my hair out in boredom.

    Likewise, the big school groups you see around during tourist season are absolutely from outside Kansai, and if you think about the probabilities, still probably from a less cosmopolitan region than Kyoto is itself. I remember back when I was doing undergrad study abroad here once I agreed to do a completely ridiculous and stupid job guiding around a group of visiting teenagers for the day, following a set itinerary and making them practice English. (There were like 50 different groups, each with their own ryugakusei guide.) Aside from just being a silly thing to do, I was also rather indignant that these kids were having a rare chance to visit about some of the most important historical sites in their country, but their opportunity for actually learning anything was partially sacrificed in order to squeeze in a pointless and irrelevant English practice.

  27. wow. what a cringe fest.

    won’t be seeing the movie I don’t think and agree with Mulboyne’s
    comment, basically WTF was that exhibition about in the first place.

  28. I’m surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the documentary “Doubles” which came out at least a decade ago. (I watched it at some point in my first year of Japanese language class back at Rutgers in NJ in 2001 or 2002.) It was similar to this movie in its most basic concept of looking at the lives of half-Japanese, but it was different in several ways:

    1) It was a more professional production (based on the above clip, which is somewhat amusing, but amateurish)

    2) It was mainly concerned with half-Americans, particularly-but not exclusively- among the very large Japanese-Hawaiian community.

    3) The title “Double” was being pushed as a positive alternative to the ‘demeaning’ term “half.”

    4) It mainly if I recall correctly, consisted of interviews with “double” children and adults, and was generally far more substantive.

    The one scene that sticks with me is an interview with an old Buddhist priest, sitting seiza in his robes inside a temple somewhere in Japan telling his story. Although not particularly obvious from his face, his father was a white American, who had impregnated his mother sometime in the early 1920s and then gone back home (not sure if it was before or after the birth); they had never met. Despite this, his birth had been properly registered and he held both passports. In 1941, shortly after turning 18, he decided to travel to the US and find his father in California. But the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred before he found him, and he was soon put into an internment camp with the other Japanese and Japanese-Americans. He said that the US Military gave him the option of serving in exchange for freedom from the camp (as they often did), but not having any particular cultural ties with America, not to mention having been locked up soon after arrival, he instead tore up his US passport and renounced his citizenship. After the war he returned to Japan, without trying again to locate his father.

  29. like the film “my darling is a foreigner”,
    “I am a half” is only possible in Japan.
    In Germany, England, the States,
    nearly any other major nation it would be like

    you are a half ? You wife is foreign ?

    So Farking What !!

  30. “Like the film “my darling is a foreigner”,“I am a half” is only possible in Japan.”

    I think somewhere in the industry someone is probably working on a project for a prequel and make them into a trilogy.Like “Born to be a solid Japanese”.

  31. Brother John, I think you are being a little disingenuous.

    There is plenty of discussion about being “mixed race” in countries outside Japan. There’s a reasonably prominent website in Britain – http://www.intermix.org.uk – which offers “a view of the mixed-race experience”. I’m sure there are others elsewhere. If you want a documentary with mixed race people going out in public to ask what others think about mixed race people, I’d point you towards “Chasing Daybreak” which came out in the US a few years ago.

    When you look at a lot of the debate elsewhere, you notice that it isn’t just about race and ethnicity but also often about nationality so Japan isn’t especially unique in that respect either.

    I’ve come across quite a lot of material about the hafu experience in casual web browsing. It seems to be a popular topic for English language tutors at Japanese universities to raise with their students, as are “gender and identity” issues in general. The academic standard tends to be as woolly as those on show in the documentary Curzon has highlighted.

    It’s a shame but one series of videos which shows the best and worst of this kind of approach no longer appears online. According to the website of Tamarah Cohen of Kansai Gaidai University (ameblo.jp/labrys), “We Japanese” is now only available on request.

    They were interviews she conducted in English with some of the university’s half-Japanese and zainichi Korean students. On the negative side, Cohen had a fairly clumsy agenda and some serious questioning biases but, on the plus side, she did find some engaging interviewees and brought in two of the Western mothers had some useful things to add.

    If you look at these kinds of exercises as just a collection of anecdotes rather than hard evidence in search of a dubious thesis, then they can be interesting. I’ll keep an eye out to see whether Cohen posts her series publicly again.

  32. For anyone who is interested, and in the area:

    Celebrate diversity in Japan with HAFU PROJECT
    12 June 2010 (Saturday)
    6pm – 9pm

    Come and celebrate cultural diversity with us by watching
    a sneak preview of the forthcoming feature-length HAFU documentary film. http://www.hafufilm.com/

    —- This event coincides with Loving Day – the day interracial marriage
    was legalized in the United States (June 12, 1967) —-

    Meet the filmmakers and hafu project researcher to
    enjoy an evening of lives performances by
    comedic HAFU duo LOVE DRIVE and Nazihah’s sensual belly dancing!

    All proceeds will help produce the Hafu documentary film
    and the Hafu Japanese photography/research project.

    Venue: Las Chicas B1F in Aoyama (http://www.vision.co.jp/)

    Nearest station: Omotesando Exit B2 (5 mins walk)

    Donation: With RSVP or before 7pm is 3000 yen (includes 1 drink)
    After 7 is 4000yen (includes 1 drink)

    Please RSVP via the following link:

  33. “Brother John, I think you are being a little disingenuous.”

    Indeed. North America has very different cultural dynamics than Japan, but it is really no trouble to find equivalents to “hafu” and “Darling ha Gaikokujin”.

    “Banana” is used to describe those “yellow on the outside, white on the inside” in a lot of contexts, including a few docos like this one.

    There is also a “mama and papa ha gaikokujin” type of kids show (“Indie” something or other, about a family of immigrants from India and their Western born daughter – I think that it is Canadian) that I just happened to catch a few minutes of a day or so ago. It works like “Darling ha” on just about every level – smart female lead who is like the target audience culturally pokes fun at the cultural misunderstandings, etc. of her largely assimilated parents.

    Anyway, whether it is Japan or elsewhere, WHY NOT have things like this?

    And of course, I’m sure everyone caught that “Dora the Explorer is and Illegal Immigrant” thing.

  34. i checked hafufilm.com and it seems that the video was taken off. i went to the waseda event the hafu project presented at and i thought they were doing a brilliant job. the video introduced here is not part of the documentary (the documentary focuses on five portraits of half japanese people). and it seems that the documentary wont incldue analysis either.

    i personally like the fact that theres no analysis — it allows the viewer to analyse for themselves. it is interesting to hear what academics or researchers have got to say but at the end of the day its important for whoever is reading/watching to get a good feel of what it is to be the person being featured in the film or the exhibition work. no? academics are always out there to talk about issues of “japaneseness”, “Japan” “japanese people” — there’s a lack of public involvement, especially so in japan because there is such a divide between the academia and the ippan peepuru (general public).

    aaanyway im sure that they are doing as much as they can within the budget, and time they have.

    oh by the way wouldnt it be interesting to compare the “image of hafus” interviewed/filmed by “japanese” people? in which case the introduced video is a valuable contribution to the current dialogue.

  35. it would be interesting to see people asked these questions in the remote country side.

  36. The video is filmed in Harajuku right? I’m sure that’s totally representative of the entire country’s racial attitudes.

  37. My wife (who is Japanese) and my kids (both dual Canadian/Japanese citizens) are currently in Japan for a few months to visit family – I’ll join them next week – and our eldest son is attending elementary school. I suppose you could say he is experiencing “positive discrimination”, as he is very popular, and his popularity is attributable to his foreign-ness, his good looks and cheerful personality (he also speaks, reads, and writes Japanese at his age level), and his ability at sports.

    We’re lucky in that he’s attended school in Japan twice in the past three years, so the kids in the neighbourhood generally remember him, and I suspect his popularity would decline from Beatles-level mania to merely “popular kid” levels by the start of school in September if we were to stay in Japan a little longer.

    We’re also lucky in that the school principal is pretty enlightened, as is the classroom teacher, and everything could change if we got some dolt as a tanto-no-sensei.

    However, it’s kind of the same thing in Canada, too, so it would be hard to figure out how much worse it would actually be in Japan if the classroom environment sucked. Our son is a popular kid back home in Canada, but still suffers (like all the other kids) at the hands of some of the older students.

    I like to think his foreign-ness would eventually become a moot point in Japan, although his mixed heritage has never, ever been noteworthy in Canada, so even the concept of “haafu” is more than a little absurd, let alone discussing it here with a room full of Internet strangers.

    My only wish is that my sons could grow up without ever encountering that somewhat hateful word “haafu”. I hear the word from time to time and am able to grit my teeth and let it pass, but it’s fairly ignorant, and does get tiresome to discuss my sons’ “haafu-ness” with Japanese strangers who are, quite frankly, ignorant twits. On the other hand, Japan has always been good to me, the people (especially in Fukui!) have always treated me with kindness, warmth and friendliness.

    It’s all so much more complicated than saying “racism bad”, although hopefully the next 20 years will see more and more of a multicultural society. For example, my foreignness in Tsuruga, a small somewhat isolated town on the Japan Sea Coast, is never an issue.

    Interesting discussion here.

  38. KokuRyu brings up an interesting point about the difference in how mixed heritage is perceived in Japan and Canada. The mixed heritage really doesn’t play a significant role here, in fact many of my friends are so called “haafu.” Though they aren’t necessarily Japanese.

    One thing I think is important is that most people don’t really mean any harm by referring to your son as “haafu.” However, I do agree that it gets tiresome.

    I’ve been asked, more times that I can count, where my parents are from and what I am a mix of. This isn’t just in Japan, but in the US and Canada as well. It’s something one simply has to grow used to.

    I think the key is understanding that no harm is intended, regardless of how ignorant they may be.

    In terms of schooling I definitely think that Canada is a much better choice than Japan, at least for high school. Based on my experiences and that of my Japanese friends currently in high school (in Niigata and Osaka), that is.

    One thing to look forward to are all the modeling contract offers that your son will get in Japan. No joke.

  39. Where did you go to high school, Minatan? Are you sure this isn’t a case of the proverbial grass being greener on the other side? (…Which is often proverbially due to the presence of more manure)

  40. Went to high school in Canada. You really can’t generalize. A half-Chinese friend of mine was routinely called a “mutt” and a “monkey” and attacked once or twice.

    Friend of a friend of a cousin (I only mention it because it was in the news) was hit with a baseball bat after a party and died – was thought to be an Indian vs. Vietnamese gang thing.

    I’d also say that if you want to keep a child away from hard drugs, a Japanese school isn’t a bad idea.

    As for people not making a big thing about racial mix – a neighbor recently voiced his concern that my wife and I would feed dog to our “mixed race child” after going back to Japan for a while. Ugh.

    Still, I know that I tend to both remember everything and I’m also a magnet for crazies no matter where I am so I don’t think any of this is representative. Goes to show that you can’t generalize, however.

  41. By the way, tangentially related to this thread, Bill McGurn wrote about the “racially divisive” US census in yesterday’s WSJ.


    Here’s the start:

    Few Americans of a certain age reached graduation without at least one all-school performance of “It’s a Small World.”

    The song was made popular by an exhibition at the 1964 World’s Fair, where visitors rode through a pavilion featuring animated dolls representing the nations of the world sweetly singing in international harmony. Today it lives on at Disney theme parks. But those of us who lived through the era knew it as a popular choice for music teachers seeking to replicate the experience of global peace and unity using real-live students instead of dolls.

    A college friend of my brother’s once told him about the production at his own grade school, St. Tarcisius in Framingham, Mass. There the nun in charge had asked the friend’s sister—whose last name was Duffy but who had been adopted from Asia—to dress as “Miss Korea” for the performance. The request confused the child. “But sister,” she protested, “I’m Irish.”

    Little Miss Duffy may have been wise beyond her years. If the 2010 Census is any clue, the increasingly complex racial categories that it uses to define Americans bear little resemblance to reality—or how Americans see themselves. It comes at a time, moreover, when a new study on interracial marriage suggests that the lines are fast blurring.

  42. Wow what a discovery! I am one of the producer/directors of the Hafu documentary film which is currently in production.
    It’s great to see that there is such an active discussion taking place but I guess in any discussion where you don’t hear directly from the people involved, stories get skewed and opinions are based on misinformation/misinterpretation. No worries though! This part of the much needed discussion to be had.

    While obviously I can’t respond to everyone, I’d like to clear up some misunderstandings.
    1. The clip placed on this blog is not part of the actual HAFU film itself.
    2. This documentary is about creating dialogue but it does not come with any academic agenda/framework/analysis. Our goal is to give audiences a view into the every day lives of those who identify as mixed-Japanese. We hope that audiences will arrive at their own understanding of what the hafu experience maybe like for some.
    3. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from the larger community and if you are interested in having a genuine discussion about the film with people who are actually half-Japanese then please feel free to contact me via the website.

    Have a great day!

  43. I will add that I did get a chance to attend the Aoyama event, and soon realized–as has been pointed out–that the actual film is nothing like the short at the top of this post. Thirteen minutes (approximately 15% of what they plan to create, according to Ms. Nishikura) has been put together so far, and the event gave participants a preview of two of the stories that the documentary follows. One is a single man (mother: Ghana, father: Japan) in his twenties who grew up in a Japanese orphanage, and the preview introduces him and his campaign to raise money to build a school for a community in Ghana. He was there at the event and so there was a chance to hear him speak to the film and his own project. The other story is of a family that has been in Japan for about ten years or so, the wife Mexican, the husband Japanese. The kids speak three languages and the parents come to a crossroads trying to decide whether international school is a better choice for their son than continuing on in Japanese public schools.

    The stories are interesting. Furthermore, this project has only just begun, and so they are looking for more half-Japanese stories to add to this. Three of the four women putting this together were there, and made their appeal for the importance of an independent film like this. They also appealed for money, since they are all doing this in their spare time, outside of working full-time jobs. I had a chance to talk with Ms. Nishikura briefly and it’s clear that they are busting their humps to try and create a documentary that will add to the ongoing dialogue of what it means to be half Japanese.

    p.s.: The combi (“LOVEDRIVE”, two half-Japanese guys) that warmed up the audience was quite good. And I usually cannot stand o-warai geinin. Their whole schtick was in Japanese, but if you understand Japanese and have been here in Japan long enough, many of the jokes hit home.


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