Growing Up As A Hafu In Japan

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Even though Japan is far more Westernized today than it has ever been, it still remains a very homogeneous country. The government has been trying to promote internationalization and also improve the English curriculum in schools but the process takes times and Japan is not a country that moves quickly.

As more foreigners choose to live in Japan, the number of interracial children has been on the rise. These children who have a non-Japanese parent are called “Hafu”, a twist on the English word half. Some people say these mixed children should be called “double” instead of “half”.

I am actually Hafu myself. My mother is from South East Asia and my father is Japanese. They met while my mother was studying in Japan as an international student. All of us, Hafu who grow up in Japan share the same dilemma. Hafu children are minorities so we struggle to fit into the mainstream Japanese society that constantly teaches us the importance of harmony and unity. At least, I look Japanese and people would never know that I am Hafu unless I tell them but what about the Hafu children who look non-Japanese?

If I had Hafu children, I wouldn’t feel comfortable raising them in Japan.

My sisters and I went to a regular public school in the countryside of Japan. It was a very hard experience for us and my family. Our classmates would often tease us about the fact that our mom was from a South East Asian country. Overall, being Hafu was very tough for us and sometimes we wished our mother were Caucasian instead.

Why is it so difficult to be Hafu in Japan? Japanese society is of one nation, one language and one culture. There is a saying: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” And Hafu children are often bullied in school just because they are different.

The question than arises as to whether Eurasian Hafu children are special and are not discriminated against in Japanese school. Typical Eurasian Hafu children are admired for their “exotic” Eurasian look, while Hafu Asians like myself are looked down upon as not being fully Japanese.

My father’s co-worker is married to a Caucasian woman from Brazil who has blond hair and blue eyes. Both of her sons looked very White and could have appeared in children’s fashion magazines in Japan. Even then, their sons struggled to fit in school and started to tell their mother not to come to their school. They were embarrassed with all the attentions they got every time their mom came to their school. Obviously, their experiences in school were a little different from mine. Nevertheless, it isn’t easy to be Hafu in Japan because we are the outsiders and the nails that may be hammered down.

The real issue arises when Hafu children grow up and start looking for a job. Many conservative Japanese firms are still reluctant to hire Hafu, especially those who obviously look mixed. It doesn’t matter if they speak perfect Japanese, many companies feel that for a position that requires you to deal with Japanese customers, you must also be Japanese.

The only advantage of my Asian heritage is that I can easily blend in and pretend to be Japanese. My sisters are working for Japanese companies and their employers aren’t too concerned because of their appearance and fluency in Japanese language. My sisters still tell me they are happy with their heritage because if they were Eurasian Hafu, they might have had an option to become fashion models but they would have had more difficulty finding a regular job.

I believe that my childhood experience as Hafu is what made me seek opportunities outside Japan in the first place. Racism exists in America and it may even be worse than Japan, but I am comfortable that in America I can just be who I am.

Conclusion:

My experience growing up as Ha-Fu was back in 1990s, and I truly hope that things are different in Japan today. But I suspect that many Hafu children who live in Japan still struggle with discrimination. The Japanese government has a long way to go to open up the country and be part of the international community.

I support the idea that Hafu should be renamed as Double. We are not Hafu. We are double because both cultural and ethnic heritages make us who we are. We are Japanese despite our mixed ethnic and cultural heritage.

Topics:  

Japan born, US educated, language teacher.
  • LoverOfAllPeople says:

    Agreed. And to thing we can`t have an intelligent discourse without resorting to name calling. It`s very sad.

  • LoverOfAllPeople says:

    And why exactly do you think so? This kind of thinking is what ruins us.

  • PANDA says:

    Being Japanese means accepting Japanese tradition and customs. If you think traditions are useless, I can understand why you’d never fit in. Traditions and customs make up the soul of a people’s culture – to reject the very core of what makes one Japanese and demand acceptance as a Japanese is contradictory.

  • Ellie Gabriel says:

    I have just written a book about racism in Asia, Yellow Racism, As Large As White Racism, and tried to stick to the central theme of racism to other races, but wandered off when I encountered a large and angry movement called Hapas, the sons of white fathers and Asian moms sometimes feel their mothers preferred men of another race, whites, and they don’t look white. In Canada none of my friends ever thought of words like Eurasian, mixed races, , Hafus, Hapas….good looks to me don’t depend on the race, and there are so many other things to be considered in love, friendship, romance, family, or working life.

    It is good that so many people are coming forward on the Internet to discuss these things. Thanks!

  • Gillian Cia says:

    Loo at the European migrant crisis and the changing demographics of Europe. With the massive influx of Muslim migrants and Islamic culture in Europe, coupled by the low birthrate of White Europeans, it is said that Europeans will be a minority in their own countries and places like Germany or Sweden (Rape Capital of Europe) will become Germanstan, Swedenstan or 3rd world nation with Sharia Law. Terrorist attacks, military police and “No-Go Zones” are popping up.
    Same with America and the diversity has lead to widespread violence and distrust and racism between whites, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims etc.
    Maybe the Japanese and other know this and that is why they are unethusiatic about disharmony and “hafu or doubles” and would rather have a society of unity, harmony and collectivism rather then of diversity, discourse and individualism

  • Joey Cunningham-Lennøx says:

    I though Japanese people were supposed to be considered world leaders in fields like science and math. This hafu thing is a poor reflection of that. If you take 50% of your genetic makeup from a Japanese person and the other 50% from elsewhere, you are still a whole person.

  • Joey Cunningham-Lennøx says:

    Yes, Nationality is more important than ethnic group. If you have to label people, do it on solid facts, not by degrees of race.

  • Joey Cunningham-Lennøx says:

    I’m white and living in Japan. I have been stopped and ID’d in the streets on one occasion and I found it to be very rude and obviously ethnically motivated. It put me in a terrible mood for a day, but at least it was only once in 2 years of living here. Nobody (to my knowledge has ever called me names, though people do often talk about me as if I’m not there, which again is rude, but I don;t think that’s the intention. I think people are sometimes just curious and not confident enough to try to get to know me. It’s largely ignorance, but not malicious. A young girl (about 13) asked my wife recently if we were married. She was so surprised and immediately she asked my wife how she fed me. Of course, she was only young, but this was not only sexist (my wife and I both cook) but also racist in that she wrongly assumed only Japanese people can enjoy Japanese food. I’ll eat anything. Show me a Japanese cookbook and I’ll eat the very pages if I’m hungry enough.

    • SpiderMars says:

      I am “white” too and have lived in Japan 8 years. You are right. It is not malicious behavior. But it doesn’t make any less socially inappropriate or hurtful. There really is no excuse for being ignorant to the outside world. Not in this day and age. There is a lot of discrimination in Japan. As a foreigner, white, black, or whatever … you have to learn to deal with it, because fighting it won’t work and will makes you miserable. After all these years, I just think .. “man .. what an ignorant person”.

  • Joey Cunningham-Lennøx says:

    I agree with the overall message here. When I become a father (next year, fingers crossed) they will be DOUBLE(s) and although it’s not really the issue here, I’m excited because Caucasian/Japanese people are all beautiful from what i can see. I would not ever consider subscribing to the quote “If I had Hafu children, I wouldn’t feel comfortable raising them in Japan.” I find that defeatist and think it would actually add to the problem. If we want a fairer Japan, we should not back down to this kind of challenge, but try to tackle it. That said, I think my children will have more advantages here than disadvantages e.g. perfect English and and an awesome Dad.

  • Issa Kabeer says:

    I totally understand what means to be a half and half too! It can be very hard because there is really no place you can fit into.

  • Jiyong-crayon says:

    Japanese is a nationality, nothing else. There normally is a culture and language, etc tied to the identity, but looks have nothing to do with culture.

  • Seethebigpicture says:

    Is it really this bad? I’m American and have a Japanese girlfriend. If we have kids she said she would want to raise them in Japan so this is a concern for me. It’s interesting that you say that Japan has a dark negative energy to it, I’ve recently started to develop my extra-sensory awareness and noticed that where I live in Texas has a lot of good energy but I can also feel that there is an underlying negativity as if there has been lots of evil committed in the past on these lands and perhaps present currently as well. As the song “Summer Breeze” by SOJA puts it; “I can feel it in the summer breeze, there’s something in the trees, some kind of long lost feeling, it kind of feels like there’s something wrong, something that we’re doing, or not doing until it’s all gone, another way that maybe we forgot, or that we still need, or that I’m not remembering, I can feel it in the summer breeze, there’s something in the trees, and it keeps calling me.”

  • Itchy Ass says:

    From what I know SK is even more homogenous and xenophobic than japan. They believe that koreans are a ,,pure blooded race” (descendants of a single ancestor, no mixing with another race so far). The government even support this mindset. Bc of that mixed people are often looked down and not really welcomed in the society. Did you ever wonder why there are almost none mixed korean celebrities? You will be even called a foreigner if you weren’t born in south korea or if you grew up in another country. Nationalism is really strong there.
    But koreans are really tolerate towards other cultures. They wont really judge the actions of a foreigner based on their moral standards. Like a western celebrity can go around dressed in really revealing clothes but he/she will be even be shielded with ,,americans are really open minded, something like this is normal there”. But they wont allow that a korean celebrity does the same. It the same with normal people.
    And as long as you`re american or european you wont really face racism in korea or japan. But its a different case if you are from SEA or black.

    • mikedo2007 says:

      Also, if you’re wondering why Japan’s film industry is not pandering to China unlike how Hollywood, South Korea, and Bollywood are doing this. Some people suspected that Japan’s xenophobia could be the reason behind why Japan is not pandering to China.

    • mikedo2007 says:

      Actually there are some mixed and biracial Korean celebrities in there. I didn’t denied that racism exist in South Korea, but South Korea doesn’t seen xenophobic compared to Japan. If they were, then K-pop and K-drama wouldn’t be big around the world compared to Japan when they don’t export J-dramas, or J-pop outside of Japan/Asia.

    • mikedo2007 says:

      Actually there are some mixed and biracial Korean celebrities in there. I didn’t denied that racism exist in South Korea, but South Korea doesn’t seen xenophobic compared to Japan. If they were, then K-pop and K-drama wouldn’t be big around the world compared to Japan when they don’t export J-dramas, or J-pop outside of Japan/Asia.

      “americans are really open minded, something like this is normal there”

      Not exactly when you have Donald Trump running for president.

      • Itchy Ass says:

        Yes there are and how successful are they? There are only a few and they aren’t even A-list celebrities. Dont get me wrong I have nothing against korea but as a kpop fan of 5 years I have seen how xenophobic koreans are. And I have the feeling that compared to japan that korea is even worse in that aspect. Well no wonder considering how nationalistic koreans are. What worries me is that the younger generation has this conservative mindset as well. The younger generation in japan is more open for interracial relationships and that says alot. And you don’t seem to understand something. Kpop or Kdramas beeing big in the world doesnt mean that koreans are less xenophobic. Korea makes millions with the hallyu wave. It has a positive effect for their economy and also makes koreans proud that foreigners are interested in the korean culture. Jpop or Jdramas aren’t really popular outside of asia compared to kpop/dramas. and thats why korea export more. Its this simple. This has nothing to do xenophobia. Bc how else would you explain that japanese lead the world in the gaming and anime sector. The export of domestic products primarily serve the own economy and have nothing to do with xenophobia.

        And compared to conservative korea, americans are quite open minded. Just watch kdramas. How many sex scenes did you see? Even a (short) lesbian kiss in a drama became a huge issue.
        But really, do americans want to see the world burn. Why do they support this little piece of shit.
        Anyway I hope both koreans and japanese stop this stupid xenophobia.

        • mikedo2007 says:

          “Bc how else would you explain that japanese lead the world in the gaming and anime sector.”

          Just for the record, the anime industry has been facing issues and the Japanese video game industry overall in general are not on par with their western counterpart. I mean the anime is coming out today are pandering to otaku, and not to a mass audiences compared to what K-drama are getting.

          “Jpop or Jdramas aren’t really popular outside of asia compared to kpop/dramas.”

          You know how many fans of those complain about the lack of accessibility to both J-pop and J-dramas. Meanwhile after K-drama got popular, Taiwanese dramas are gaining popularity on a worldwide scale. Some people are asking, why is J-dramas are hard to find when it comes to subtitles and accessibility. Because of K-dramas and K-pop, South Korea has been outcooling Japan.

          “This has nothing to do xenophobia. ”

          Some international fans of J-pop and J-dramas are saying and suspecting that Japan’s xenophobia could be the cause of why J-dramas and J-pop have accessibility issues. That’s why Japan didn’t cash in on the drama fad that K-drama created. As I said, after K-dramas got popular, Taiwan cashed in immediately and now Taiwanese dramas are gaining popularity alongside their Korean counterpart.

          “Yes there are and how successful are they? There are only a few and they aren’t even A-list celebrities.”

          http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Culture/view?articleId=117293

          They might not be A-lister, but still Korea’s attracting a lot of non-Korean celebrities to even work in Korea like take Taiwan’s Chen Bolin:

          http://www.soompi.com/2015/06/25/taiwanese-actor-bolin-chen-signs-with-same-agency-as-ha-ji-won-stepping-into-korean-entertainment-industry/

          Also I guess Twice’s Tzuyu is getting another Taiwanese singer to look into the Korean market:

          http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/culturesports/2016/08/14/0701000000AEN20160814003300315.html

          So if I see more foreign singers from US and/or Asia taking the Korean market more and more. That would tell me a lot about South Korea attitude to foreigners.

          Also if you want to know how bad is J-pop’s accessibility is, have a look at this:

          http://blog.onehallyu.com/japanese-entertainment-101-accessibility/

          http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2015-12-09/.96265

  • Itchy Ass says:

    I think we can’t really compare this to germany. 20 % of the population here have a migrant background. The majority of the german society is really open for multiculturalism and as long as someone try to integrate to the society they wont face (maybe except in east germany) racism.
    I’m also half and I love how the german society changed after WW2.

  • Anna says:

    You must be kidding, surely, I hope. Excuse me? Ethnic diversity IS a strenght, everybody knows that. In fact, it is encouraged from a scientific point of view. Take a look at this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3146070/Mixed-race-relationships-making-taller-smarter-Children-born-genetically-diverse-parents-intelligent-ancestors.html Human race also has a large story of mixing throughout history, making our genes more diverse. I don’t know why it should be any different now.

    • reezy says:

      LMAO that’s pure politically correct bullshit. Black and White mulatto children in the US have an average IQ right between the average White mean of 100, and the average Black American mean of 85, right around 92 or so. Similarly, east Asian and white mixed offspring have average IQs of about 102-103, which is again right in the middle of the two racial means. Intelligence has a heritability of 0.8, meaning that the observed variance between people to people is overwhelmingly genetic, NOT environmental, as most dogmatic social scientists would have you believe. Moreover, the genetic nature of the inheritance of intelligence generalizes across races, producing measurable quantitative differences that are innate in the mean IQs of different races.

      “Ethnic diversity is a strength”, nothing but a modern myth.

      • Joey Cunningham-Lennøx says:

        Those stats reflect racism not race. It’s about the opportunities which a person can or can’t have depending on their background. That’s what needs changing. It’s something shallow racist people can’t comprehend. Since you are the man with the figures (no sources mentioned), can you show me a comparison between the IQ tests results of white people living in, say Detroit and blacks living in Baldwin Hills, CA.? Better yet, focus on one ethnicity in these two locations and we’ll see if economics/politics might be a factor…Look also at neighboring countries (e.g. in South East Asia) who are ethnically similar but have very different scores, or places like Mexico which ethnically are predominantly Spanish and western European, but somehow score significantly lower than most European countries. You can choose to focus on ethnicity rather than looking at the big picture, but that actually says a lot about the way your mind works and very little about the people themselves.

  • A M says:

    Is all half japanese people use their japanese name, like you sista?

  • christinanolanXD says:

    ily for this<3 tysm

  • USVeteran says:

    My son is half Japanese half caucasian, and supposedly is well-liked by the girls and disliked/bullied by most of the boys in his school in Japan. A white father and a Japanese mother, so he looks like a typical Eurasian but with prominent eyelids and admittedly very girly feature-wise, which is why I was hoping for a girl. Dickish thing to say? haha
    Him and his mother live in Osaka while I’m in the states at the moment to tie loose ends, so it’s hard to get a total grip on the situation.. but It doesn’t seem too bad so far. He’s still young. so I’m only hoping it gets better with time and a growing immigration number. I know he wants to become a lawyer or a scientist, but I assume that would be pretty rough as it is now.

    Well I was never one to get offended over names or words, so I could really care less which one it is. I’m sure you know more about the topic than I. I feel like haafu sounds more natural though.

  • TeaTown Cowboy says:

    Haafu is perfectly fine. The people who are trying to push/propagandize “double” are parents. I grew up in Murica but lived in Tokyo for 20 years and my mom is Japanese. Haafu is just a term/label/word. Any word can be used with animosity, disrespect, disdain, etc, including your beloved “double”!

    • Joey Cunningham-Lennøx says:

      That’s true. I used to work with developmentally disabled people and since the word ‘retarded’ has become a stigma, we now have to phase in the term ‘intellectually disabled’. But the problem was never the term ‘retarded’ (the proper term originally), but rather the attitude and treatment of people who fall into that category. There’s nothing to stop the new term from also becoming stigmatized unless we change people’s attitudes.

      Still, here I prefer ‘double’ as it is more actuate in that it focuses not only on ‘Japanesesness’ but also whichever other ethnicity is involved. You have twice the ethnicity because you ‘belong’ (I used the term apologetically) to two groups. I think that’s important because the problem in this whole area of discussion is the undeserved focus on how good it is to be Japanese, racially speaking. Japan is fantastic, but that’s not because of the predominant ethnic group. Double is better, because being black, Hispanic, or white is just as good. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy of ethnicities. People should not judge your understanding of culture based on the extend to which your ancestors have resided in a particular location. Better still would be to ignore both races and if you need a label, look at nationality instead.

  • tedx says:

    For some Japanese, halfu means not 100% japanese and I dont like the word. Japanese people sometimes make others become racist with their extreme xenophobia and weird ideas about outside vs inside. For awhile, I couldnt stand them, with their cutesy voices and blind conformity. I now try to keep an open mind, but I must admit its not easy. For me, the halfu paradigm is just a selfish racist holdover from days long gone, and serves absolutely no purpose except to promote ones own insecurity. Whats good, however, is that now social media and people like the miss universe Japan are exposing this crap for what it is.

  • babyxx says:

    Hi, I think I’m late on the discussion, but being hafu in japan is actually a compliment. Everyone fawns over your looks… but only if you are a mix between white and asian. Still, I don’t think many people disregard hafu’s. Things have changed.

    • Linda says:

      True, in the urban areas it has changed a lot, but in the rural its still pretty racist.

      • luis_espinal says:

        The solution is not to live in rural areas. Whether it is in America or Japan, it is a loser’s game if you don’t “fit the mold”.

  • Nentenren says:

    I am fully aware that it is far from being an easy task to bear these kind of treatments and I know that not everything is solvable in this world, but I think people should fight more in these kind of situations (no violence of course). Most often, people use the easy method by leaving to another place or avoiding to confront people who discriminate them, but the best way to change things is to make their opinion change, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Flarn Buckholter says:

    I’m half, too. My mom is from Okinawa, my father is from the US. When I was a kid, I looked like a half-gook and got beaten up for it here in the Deep South. Now that I’m older, I look more like a white guy, so when Japanese meet me they are nonplussed when I speak Japanese. Can’t win, I suppose.

  • John Calvert says:

    I am hafu born in America, my mother Japanese and my father Italian American. My mothers family in Japan are total racists. They told me if I come to Japan to visit that I could not stay with them because I am hafu and they don’t want to deal with the stigma. I have no desire to go to Japan I don’t even like the food or their culture. I rather identify myself as Italian American. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother but she left Japan for a reason to be with my father. She once told me she could never go back with her children because we would be treated like garbage. She was right. Screw the Japanese. Go to hell you racist assholes.

    • Linda says:

      I’m half Japanese and Italian born in Tokyo, attending an english speaking school, and I agree that in the past I had gone through a lot of discrimination regarding my looks because I look more Italian ( from some people ). but living here, I realised that not everyone is racist. There are wonderful Japanese friends that I got close with, and my mom’s side of the family doesn’t think I’m different in any way. So it’s not always full of negativity 😉 If someone still discriminates me now, i’d just make fun of how ignorant they are, and stay with the people that I choose to be with.

    • TeaTown Cowboy says:

      Cause all Japanese are like that….geez.

  • 島風 says:

    Well. I was born in Japan and moved out when I was little. We might move back soon, but have things changed so poorly that we (half asian half white) are treated badly and bullied? Maybe moving back is a bad idea..

  • Winton Yuichiro White says:

    Very very well written article, Yumi. It’s very succinct and to the point yet you encompassed every aspect of what we go through and the Japanese society/culture in relation to us.

    If I may add one thing to the never ending debate. I’m a Eurasian hafu that grew up in Japan. “Hafu” doesn’t evoke the word “half” or “半分” to Japanese so it’s never demeaning at all. It’s only to Western ears. You can say the same thing for “hapa”. The word “hafu” that has kept me from questioning my own identity compared to the US where I would be labeled as the ubiquitous “Asian” or “Other”. I love the word hafu for myself and all of us.

  • voices says:

    The problem is not Japan, the problem is other countries seeing most things in Japan as racist.

  • James Paul says:

    In Japan they have to change as they are already looking at labor shortages in the near term and in the not so near term a lot of skilled labor shortages will crop up…..

  • Damien Yeo says:

    I’m a hafu, half Singaporean and half Japanese. I get what you mean when even among the hafus, there are “levels” in which the Eurasian/American hafu is the ideal hafu that Japanese admire for their 高い鼻(high nose) and 青い目(blue eyes) Initially, it used to really get to me because growing up both in Singapore and in LA, I was used to being exposed to many races from a young age and multiracialism is where I feel most at home and I never understood why Japanese people always tried to “fit” me into this particular category and when they can’t, they get confused. After being here for some time, I have learn to embrace the positive parts about being hafu but looking like a Japanese, I’m always grateful for the ability to blend in when I’m super tired taking the first train home after a whole night out with friends and wouldn’t be subjected to stares like how some of my white and black friends do. On other times, I get to stand out because people get caught off guard when that “日本人” (Japanese) opens his mouth and out comes *surprise surprise* English. I guess the hardest thing about being an asian hafu in Japan is the constant need to want to fit in and realizing that you can’t and feeling depressed about it. I have learnt to instead embrace it and use it as part of my identity and advantage. My white friend says I’m like an Asian Mystique from X-Men haha well time to get on the train to work with my suit and briefcase~ Salaryman変身!

  • Emi Shingyouchi says:

    Even after having a half Japanese- and half Black woman, be crowned a symbol of beauty in Japan. I being the same mix as her still remain unworthy. I came to Japan to study Japanese to more or less be more Japanese, I decided to choose one culture over another and even that isn’t enough for me to be treated normally. I am currently a student at an international school in Japan, and all my life when I was studying Japanese in America I was bullied by teachers. I am studying Japanese now in Japan, IN COLLEGE and I am still being bullied by teachers. On top of that, the school has done nothing about it. I don’t know how to make myself adjusted here and the more I try to fit this mold the more the Japanese people hate me. Even strangers who find out that I am half Japanese will either be openly racist to my other half, and deem me completely unworthy of any human recognition. EVEN the city hall will not give me my health insurance and residency card no matter how many times I ask. I have to rely on my student id to make anything happen.

    • Winton Yuichiro White says:

      How are teachers bullying you? And both in the US and Japan? That’s messed up.

  • John Tait says:

    I’m Scottish (living in London) and my wife is Japanese. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the word ‘hafu’ until today.

    My (beautiful) nine-year old attends the Ealing Japanese school on Saturday mornings, and my five-year old will start later. The majority of the children there (on Saturday) are mixed and seem entirely comfortable about who they are – it’s never ever occurred to me that all these beautiful children would be looked down upon in Japan.

    My children visit Japanese relatives one or twice a year and have Japanese as well as Western names. I’m glad to be living here in such a diverse capital city through – I won’t want them living in a society that looks down on them.

  • Amanda Browning Heun says:

    Hello, I am also half Japanese and half American. My father and mother met and married in the 50′ s while he was stationed in Japan. Now growing up as a military brat we were generally sent to bases where bi-racial marriages were common. I do not recall as a child asking friends what they were as far as nationality was, we always found that out over sharing a meal together. As far as the term hafu goes I was always referred as hambun hambun. My mother told us we were American kids. My grandparents in Japan were loving as well as my aunts and uncles. I grew up a young child in the Viet Nam Era and once we were in the states and we’re treated very poorly due to the fact we looked asian. My father returned to take us back to Yokota Air Base and resumed his duty in Vietnam Nam.
    Strangely enough, I never realized what racism was until my dad retired and we settled in California. There at a Japanese American center celebrating a Hawaiian function a nisei gentleman approached me and asked who my parents were. I responded and he called my mother a war bride which insulted her and we left the function. I never recall feeling “less than” until that moment. I remember saying to myself I am not whole I am only half. One half is not whole. Years later I realized that I had the best of both worlds I had the beauty and grace instilled from my Japanese mother and the determination and fight from my father.
    My mother always said it is what’s in your heart that makes you whole..

  • Chatunguinho Chatúnguez says:

    I have lived in Japan and I think that the way Japanese people look down on non-Caucasian foreigners and mixed-race Japanese citizens is appalling. I know that bullying is a problem all over the world, but I cannot help but notice that the culture of bullying and exclusion in Japan is particularly nasty. From what I have seen, Japanese kids learn from a very young age that it is okay to treat with disdain anyone who is different to themselves and exclude anyone who doesn’t fit into their narrow mold of normality from their in-group. This discriminatory mindset seems to be deeply rooted in the Japanese psyche from childhood.

    Why do so many Japanese people feel the need to be hostile towards anybody who is physically or culturally different to themselves? This is a question upon which I often ponder. Maybe their fragile egos feel threatened. Maybe they can’t bear the envy of feeling that somebody else has some quality that they don’t have. Envy is one of the most destructive emotions in the human psyche. It is a begetter of hatred and evil. I would be willing to bet that in many cases plain and homogenous Japanese people are driven by envy and their own insecurities when they treat foreigners and ‘ha-fu’ with contempt and coldness. After all, many foreigners and ‘ha-fu’ have exotic looks and unique beauty, some are taller than your Japanese average, some of the girls have wide hips and impressive curves, some speak several languages fluently, etc., enough to put a dent in the ego of many Japanese.

    I am a European male. I studied in the Kansai region for some time and also lived in the Chūbu region near Nagoya. I speak Japanese and generally like Japanese culture, but if I am completely honest Japanese females never really interested me beyond the superficial cutesy look. I don’t find them attractive because they look quite plain and often don’t have their own criteria of thinking as they live in a society which stifles individuality and promotes conformity. However, I love South East Asian females. Their beauty is so deep and they tend to have a lot of personality. They are quite emotional, they have great humanity, and they are known for being empathetic and affectionate. I would love to be with a Japanese-SE Asian ‘half’ as long as she was more SE Asian than Japanese in looks and psyche. Same with a Japanese-Brazilian ‘half’. I’m a warm-blooded person myself and I prefer the company of warm-blooded people.

    As for the term ‘ha-fu’, it is clear that it is a ‘wasei eigo’ term. Nobody in the Anglosphere calls mixed-race people ‘half’. However, my guess is that it probably comes from the English word ‘half-breed’ which is in itself a derogatory term for people who are not considered “racially pure” or “thoroughly native”.

  • ひさみ。なかむら。 says:

    I’m part japanese but do not look japanese and I want to move to japan. I have ever so slightly more ‘asian’ than usual eyes, but I have poofy bright orange hair, really light skin, and green eyes. My concern is that I may not be accepted as japanese. Suggestions? Thoughts?

    • Flarn Buckholter says:

      You won’t be. It’s better to be 100% white over there. The Japanese just need to be able to compartmentalize you into a neat space. Being half or part Japanese makes it messy for them and they don’t know what to do.

  • ico says:

    I am half British (father) and half Italian (mother). Growing up in Italy wasn’t exactly difficult – I never got bullied because of my mixed origins. Probably because this is a well-respected nationality.

    However, it did make me feel different – what with all my classmates’ insisting I “say something in English” and the continual “you’re soooo British” (I was just shy, methinks). At times it was positive, it made me feel proud to be able to connect two languages and cultures. other times it made me feel very uneasy and, well, misplaced.

    I can just imagine what it might be like growing up juggling two cultures PLUS fending off racial bullying.

  • Hack999 says:

    I’m British and my wife is Japanese. Our son is three and we are considering moving to a rural area of Japan later this year. For quite sometime now, we have been fretting over whether it is such a good idea. The last thing we want is for our son to get bullied at school or grow up an outsider. Is the issue of bullying still a very real one? Is that more common in rural areas than in cities?

    • James Paul says:

      bah put the kid in martial arts classes, the rest will sort itself out…

    • Anthony Joh says:

      I think it’s more common in the rural areas than the cities as there are less foreigners there. I’m half and grew up in a rural part of Japan and my feeling is your son will get bullied. It’s inevitable as he will probably be the only non Japanese in his class.

      • Simon_V says:

        I dont think bullying is inevitable. My daughters were the only mixed kids in their rural elementary and junior high school (39 and 27 kids in their respective grades), and I haven’t heard a peep about discrimination. The only thing was an official ban on taking part in English speech contests, which is understandable, but in their case quite inappropriate as we use only Japanese at home. They are both at respectable colleges now and enjoying life too much to write home.
        The kids’s own attitude is vital.

      • Yumitolesson says:

        I agree with Anthony..but the most important thing is that parents protect their HAFU children and that makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, my parents were unable to do that and I went to probably the worst public school in the rural area so kids were bullied for no apparent reasons. But if you don’t wish to take a chance, sending your child to an international school might be another option.

  • Dani Pascual says:

    I plan on studying in japan to master the japanese language and an advantage to me is i can pass for a japanese cause ever since high school people often mistaken me for a japanese. Im chinese actually so i imagine if ever i have a child with a japanese it will be difficult for him/her because japan tends to have a negative image on china also my child might be bullied for his/her chinese heritage

    • James Paul says:

      I will tell you my opinion about this. My son is half Japanese and the girls chased him around at daycare. This is probably a root reason why mixed kids get bullied….

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I truly want to believe that it is changing. My story..growing up as HAFU was back in old days..long time ago. 🙂 and people are more open now but I say this to everyone but parents can make a huge difference.

  • JuniorOC says:

    Hi. I’m glad my comments have been read. The story I told about my Indian-English friend happened more than 10 years ago, but I’ve noticed some changes in the Japanese society since then. For example, today it is more common to see half-Japanese or foreigners on the Japanese TV in comparison to 10 years ago. But it’s not true to say “discrimination” in Japan is not a big deal. It certainly is! I could write a very thick book just with the derogatory comments I’ve heard about foreigners in Japan, from people of different social class in different geographical areas of the country.. but this is not the idea. I’m a Japanese descendant and I’m VERY proud of my background, and that’s why I wish the best for Japan. However, if you want to overcome a problem, first you need to recognize its existence. I don’t think it’ll do any good to say there is little or no discrimination there.. this is just not true. I think the country will change (for the better) one day, and be a nice place for every person, regardless of the background.

    PS: I don’t have the statistics, but as far as I know, it is very hard for a foreigner to find a “regular skilled work” in a Japanese company in Japan, besides English teaching job.

    • John Wolf says:

      I am an American with a Japanese wife. We have two daughters, both born and raised in Japan. They have been treated fairly, just as any other citizen of the country. They excel in and out of school, have numerous friends, and never suffered any blatant discrimination. They both are very happy and comfortable with their mixed cultural background. I am not saying discrimination is non-existent, because, unfortunately, you will find it wherever you go in this world. I just have not experienced it to the point that it caused me any discomfort or problems.

      As a side note: I have spent the majority of my time since 1986 in Japan, and I only taught English for 6 months, as a favor to a Japanese friend. I have held a few skilled jobs in the country during this time. If you are persistent and have the qualifications, getting a job other than teaching is not an impossible task.

    • slow_moon says:

      Thank you for replying!

      Oh I’m not denying that there’s discrimination here. There’s lots!

      But I also think foreigners in Japan have a responsibility to prove their worth. Too often I meet people who think Eikaiwa/ALT work is all they can get and that’s not true. There are many who feed these lies to people who come to Japan wanting to be successful. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe there are no jobs outside of teaching then you will be less motivated to look for them. It’s so much easier to blame the country for not giving us opportunities than it is to actually do something to change our situations. As a recruiter I came across hundreds of skilled foreigners working in fantastic positions(including a French IT manager earning Y14million at a very domestic Japanese company). Yes, most companies they work at are western but some are Japanese and very domesticated.

      Let’s not forget that the Japanese language is nothing like English in terms of global use. It’s easier for a foreign national to get skilled work in the UK because most of these people have had a good exposure to English while growing up. 99% of us in Japan haven’t had Japanese exposure beyond words like sayonara. We’ve had to make a conscious decision to study Japanese.

      A typical domestic English company won’t make allowances for staff who don’t speak English well and it would be the same thing here.

      • Anthony Joh says:

        Great comment about finding work in Japan. Everyone should learn this before coming here.

        • slow_moon says:

          Thank you. I worry that I may come across as one of those “look at me!” types but I’ve only been here 1.5 years and I keep hearing the same complaints from other foreign nationals and not enough proactive talk and my Facebook feed has plenty of “I hate my job! Does anyone know of any jobs going?”.

          Interestingly, I’ve met quite a few guys from India who have no problems working here. One works at Rakuten, another at Yahoo. Both software engineers. These are their first jobs in Japan and they’re at the lower end of the JLPT scale as well. Yahoo guy arrived in Japan a few months ago with just hiragana and basic vocab. I haven’t met a native Indian struggling for work here yet.

          I guess native English pronunciation is both our gift and our curse. Like linguistic Spidermen 🙂

  • slow_moon says:

    The word ha-fu is problematic because it’s a loan word. It’s easy for people using it to avoid all responsibility because it’s not a Japanese word and so can be interpreted in different ways: Does it mean half-Japanese or does it mean half-person? Does it depend on the manner in which it’s used?

    My girlfriend is Japanese so if we are lucky to have children then they will be ha-fus here but we’re in two minds about where to raise them. On the one hand Japan is safer I think but I’m also concerned about their mental safety.

    Back in the UK terms are changed so as to not cause offense or if the word has negative connotations. The trains here in Tokyo often remind me that the priority seats are for handicapped passengers but the word handicapped has been considered insulting in the UK for a while now.

    I don’t believe double is a good replacement for half(it can have the opposite effect – that a mixed-race person is worth two pure-blooded people), although I understand why people would want that. I think it would be better to stop using either half and double or to turn half around so it just means half-Japanese without the negative, half-person feeling (as though being fully Japanese means being a full person which is ridiculous).

    But considering this is a country that clearly distinguishes between ‘Japanese’ and ‘foreigner’, I think half will be hard to eradicate.

    • James Paul says:

      In Hawaii they call half Japanese and half white kids and people Hapa and its only a good thing when its a super attractive female…. same shit different country…

      • Chuck Egwuatu says:

        Hahaha broda Jame Paul, we call em mix plate, hapa or me popolo. Nobody care along as you get respect and aloha.Sorry guys I wrote in pidgin English.

      • slow_moon says:

        Yep.

        Bottom line is the majority will never ever consider themselves racist by using the term half because they’re the ones that coined it.

    • John Wesley says:

      I was just thinking about this. I don’t like the word “ha-fu,” either.

  • Rob Keller says:

    I was way too young to notice being a hafu in Japan (1955-1962), from birth to the age of seven, all I remember is the love I got from my family and relatives. At the age of ten, I became a hapa in Hawaii.

    Life might have been easier if I was homogenizened but then I might not have experienced my multi-cultural life. I embraced my dual-ethnicity, it gave me the ability to empathize across racial lines. I am comfortable being Asian or European, I love being able to do both. If one said something about the other, I always thought it was done in ignorance – not being familiar or fear of the unknown.

    What’s the line from the Crosby, Stills & Nash song? Teach your children well.
    What’s the Good Book say? There is no fear in love.
    What do the French say? Vive la difference.

  • JuniorOC says:

    Very nice article! I’m also half-Japanese but I was born and raised in Brazil. In Portuguese, we don’t say “half” or “double”, we just say “mixed” as people in U.S. do. I can speak Japanese fluently, almost as a native, but my education is from Brazil and the U.S. Even though, I love Japan and the Japanese, but I could never feel myself at home during the seven years I’ve lived in Japan, because the boundaries the society have built with the foreigners are too high and some locals can be very hostile to foreigners, especially if you have some Japanese background and speak well the language. I try to believe that only the minority of the society dislikes foreigners and mixed people, but this minority is still strong enough to make you feel unwelcome there.. that’s why I tell my friends that I love in Japan and the Japanese and always want to visit the country, but I can’t live there.
    Once I was trying to help an English friend with Indian background to find a job in Japan as English teacher. The first person I talked to was a friend who was herself a teacher and knew some language schools. She was very honest in her answer and said : “if he is not white, it’ll be very difficult for him to find a job”. I also called one school and the first question the person asked was “Which country is he from?”. That also surprised me because it is illegal in the U.S. to ask the country of origin to someone seeking a job.
    Anyway, I cannot understand how Japanese can be hostile (I don’t want to say racist) to Asian people such as Chinese or Korean who physically look like them, and be so friendly towards white Europeans or Americans, sometimes treating them like superstars..
    So, talking again about “mixed people” living in Japan, I really take my hat off to them because it’s not easy for them to have a life in Japan being Ha-Fu (or double).. they are the pioneers that will help change the local society.. I think a good way to start the change is Japan becoming bilingual, like the Philippines, and provide education in both Japanese and English. This could help open their minds and their roads…

    • James Paul says:

      Many people in Japan want to learn English as spoken in either America or Europe. This is where that preference really comes from.

  • mikedo2007 says:

    Yumi, I read your article and like many hafu, you’re not alone. Japan itself has ethnic issue and is slow to change. I’ve seen other Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea take diversity and multi-culturalism more seriously then Japan. Actually, South Korea and Taiwan treat their hafu better then Japan.

    Yumi, do you know Debito Arudou?? Read this if you don’t know who he is:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debito_Arudou

    If you don’t know, you may have heard of the Otaru Onsen case (as in the infamous “Japanese only, no foreigner allowed” sign)

    Debito has been an activist for a multi-cultural Japan, and speaking up about human right for foreigners (and hafu) in Japan, he has his own website/blog:

    http://www.debito.org/

    Debito is fluent in English and Japanese just like you, I want you to send this story to him. You and him can talk about the issue, Debito is trying to catalog all cases of racism, discrimination in Japan

  • Nina says:

    Amazing post, I love what you wrote and completely agree with you.

  • Gaijinn says:

    I was surprised that even in a reputed National University, professors uses this term too to define children who are mixed. So i think it may take some time until this word vanishes. Tradition and beliefs are very strong here in Japan, sadly.

  • Kenji Oh says:

    by the way, I wrote an extended response to this article on my tumblr in English and Japanese
    http://kenjioh.tumblr.com/post/96191986589/growing-up-as-a-hafu-in-japan (English)

    http://kenjioh-jp.tumblr.com/post/96192641874 (Japanese)

  • lksdalkdsjakl says:

    A good read. Having worked with “hafu” kids who attend both international and Japanese schools I can see their struggle to fit into both worlds. But still, being a foreigner in Japan is even harder…

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes it is challenging but I hope that Japanese society is more accepting of mixed children. 🙂

  • Sharon Lee says:

    I was born in 92. I can’t really speak for hafu experiences in Japanese schools since I attended an American school on a military base. I did go to a japanese school for a week trial and by the end of the week, there was one girl who “tried” to bully me by ignoring me and hiding my chair out in the hall. Her reason was because I started to get used to all the attention I received from the school. Her actions stemmed from jealousy.

    Other than that one experience, I always had special treatment from the Japanese society. It does getting annoying how people keep asking about my background but I know that it is only out of curiosity. There are SO many hafu celebrities and talents which to me, comes to show how much they have accepted the hafu culture. They also advertise some cosmetics as “look like a hafu!” “use these lenses to get hafu eyes!” …which may sound offensive to those who are mixed but I am one of the few that are actually flattered. Long story short, I’ve had a good experience with my hafu-ness

    Reading this article and seeing some comments, it seems as though most discrimination happens during school years. If I am wrong, please share experiences or stories! You can’t spread awareness by simply saying “I was discriminated.” It happens to a lot of people at one point in their lives.

    Also, can anyone explain to me why double is a preferred term than hafu? I’ve heard some people prefer double but have failed to explain why the word hafu was so offensive to them.

    Thanks!

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I do not like the terms “half” or “double” I used these words since people used to refer to me as “Ha-Fu” and Ha-Fu is “half” because Japanese people use this term because mixed people are not fully Japanese so many mixed people in Japan wants to be called “Double” instead. I don’t really care since I am older now and have a pretty good sense of who I am. I am sure that you are enjoying the special treatment you receive from the Japanese society and if you look like one of those models featured in Vivi magazine, you may even apply for a modeling job. But I have heard Japanese kids with white parents struggled in school..and finding a job. It is very fortunate that your parents moved you to an American school. I forgot to mention but family support is VERY important and it is the key factor if you are raising a mixed child in Japan. I didn’t have that option and I wasn’t born in the 90s. 🙂 But thanks for reading my article and posting an insightful feedback.

  • Keith Rose says:

    In Hawaii we love and celebrate hapas.

  • Jamming James says:

    The “Hafu” students that I teach in ES and JHS are not always bullied, but they are almost always singled out, and it really annoys me to see them being put in awkward situations by not only their classmates but by the teachers too. I have a few classes where the students refer to their “Hafu” classmates as gaijin and nominate them as group representatives for all English activities, despite a lot of them not even having English speaking parents. The teachers also pick “Hafu” students to answer questions about other countries, even if the student has never been to that country before. I think they only perspective these kind of people have are that there are Japanese people, and there are non-Japanese people. The matter of where isn’t important, what’s important is that they aren’t “Pure Japanese” (Words I have actually heard in school).

    I have seen a lot of dodgey things here in regards to “Hafu” students, like teachers being jealous of some “Hafu” students being able to speak better English than them, so they either ignore them or try their best to stump them to belittle them in front of their classmates, or situations where a “Hafu” student has much better pronounciation then the teacher, so the teacher will fixate on even the smallest mistake without offering any encouragement or praise for the parts they excelled at, even in situations where the student is at a level far above that of the teacher.

    It has really opened my eyes to whether or not I want to raise my children here. I would definitely say that every time this conversation comes up with my other English teaching friends, almost all of the “Hafu” students we have are either bullied, neglected, ignored or singled-out. I know of at least 5 non-Japanese teachers who have left Japan before their children were in ES because they have seen what is waiting for them and don’t want to put them through that. Also, you know, the UK system isn’t perfect, but for all the problems there are, racism isn’t one of them.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      So are you originally from UK? Thank you for sharing your experience and it is validating to know that mixed children do indeed have a hard time in school and it wasn’t just me or my friends’ children. I was hoping that things would have changed by now but it is pretty sad to hear about the reality that mixed children live in Japan. At the same time, bullying takes place anywhere and racism is a very serious issue in America where I currently live. 🙁 The only good thing is that I no longer have to explain that my dad is Japanese and my mom is non-Japanese..people here still become curious if I tell them but at least I feel like I can be who I am without feeling embarrassed of my heritage. Also, parents’ support is critical and if I was raising a mixed child in Japan, I would have a serious talk with her/his Japanese teachers..these English teachers would make my child feel different from anybody else. Japanese schools take “bullying” very seriously but I understand that it doesn’t always help the situation and kids in school can just stop talking to the bullied kid or just give him a silent treatment..I agree with you on raising a mixed kid in Japan. There are a lot of advantages to raise a child in Japan but parents of mixed children definitely have to be aware of the reality and provide unlimited support. I don’t think I would raise a mixed child in Japan because of my personal experience but even in America, I definitely have to pick a school..as racism is everywhere and we can’t always prevent our children from being bullied. Thank you for your valuable comment and sharing your personal experiences.

  • Checo de la Cueva says:

    YOU ARE “FUURU” (FULL).
    I am sure most Japanese feel less than half.
    THEY ARE THE GAIJIN, not US.
    I mean, do you think YOU are different?
    Their inferiority complex makes them want to destroy what seems to be more than them.
    They are being demanded so much by society, and probably at home they are expected to be so much, than anything that could be better, or look better, is a threat, in a way.

    People with low self esteem actually need to feel they are superior. There is no in between.

    The war caused this complex situation, and we may be perpetuating it by not seeing ourselves as human beings. By labelling, and accepting being labelled.

    Globalization is about throwing away lots of information we were given since very little. Discarding many precepts and standing up as human beings. In the end, nobody is perfect, but if we keep defending what not-perfect people have lead us to believe, there will be no change.

    Last names, nationalities, skin color, religion and many titles just keep us united with limited minded people who themselves will not grow. Grow as human beings, I mean. Possessions also set a wall between us and the rest, therefore limiting our personal growth as members of the most amazing living species in the world. Technology, specially that of ‘communication’, is not helping much, either.

    So, whatever our decisions, or other’s decisions were, we are where we are. Are we still looking for connection, or are we still striving for a “better” life?

    The reason why we humans are so desperately working for a “safe” future, is because we feel lonely. Because not many people are helping people. So, no guarantees. This is keeping us from being able to enjoy the present. The only thing that is actually happening, is happening now.

    Are you aware of it?

    We have a lot mental, material and emotional garbage to get rid of.

    This is our one chance.

    Got tired of rejecting what you really need? Of living life according to what others told you is should be like? Have you considered that maybe you are wandering through life because what you are pursuing is not what your heart needs?

    Maybe you inherited fear. It doesn’t matter how “good” you do in this life, as long as you don’t start fighting through your fears (prejudice, guilt, anger, frustration), it doesn’t matter how much you accumulate (money, possessions, knowledge, even friends), you will never find the connection you need.

    Not only the Japanese are strange. This whole system is making us all strange.

    Everything starts with doubt. If there is no doubt, there is no beginning.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      YOU ARE “FUURU” (FULL).——Thank you ^_^
      I am sure most Japanese feel less than half.
      THEY ARE THE GAIJIN, not US.
      I mean, do you think YOU are different? –> Yes I think my background is unique and I did feel very different from everybody else in Japan and still I think I am unique.

      Their inferiority complex makes them want to destroy what seems to be more than them.
      They are being demanded so much by society, and probably at home they are expected to be so much, than anything that could be better, or look better, is a threat, in a way.

      People with low self esteem actually need to feel they are superior. There is no in between.
      –> This is very true. Kids who bully other kids often have issues at home.

      The war caused this complex situation, and we may be perpetuating it by not seeing ourselves as human beings. By labelling, and accepting being labelled.

      Globalization is about throwing away lots of information we were given since very little. Discarding many precepts and standing up as human beings. In the end, nobody is perfect, but if we keep defending what not-perfect people have lead us to believe, there will be no change.

      –> Sure, in an ideal world, I would like that to happen but the reality is that mixed children are more like to be bullied in school in Japan. However things have changed significantly compared to the time I grew up in Japan.

      Last names, nationalities, skin color, religion and many titles just keep us united with limited minded people who themselves will not grow. Grow as human beings, I mean. Possessions also set a wall between us and the rest, therefore limiting our personal growth as members of the most amazing living species in the world. Technology, specially that of ‘communication’, is not helping much, either.

      So, whatever our decisions, or other’s decisions were, we are where we are. Are we still looking for connection, or are we still striving for a “better” life?

      –> I am looking for a connection and also for a better life.

      The reason why we humans are so desperately working for a “safe” future, is because we feel lonely. Because not many people are helping people. So, no guarantees. This is keeping us from being able to enjoy the present. The only thing that is actually happening, is happening now.

      Are you aware of it?

      We have a lot mental, material and emotional garbage to get rid of.

      This is our one chance.

      Got tired of rejecting what you really need? Of living life according to what others told you is should be like? Have you considered that maybe you are wandering through life because what you are pursuing is not what your heart needs?

      –> I am not sure if you are talking to “me” or to general audiences here but I am pretty comfortable with what I have accomplished outside Japan.

      Maybe you inherited fear. It doesn’t matter how “good” you do in this life, as long as you don’t start fighting through your fears (prejudice, guilt, anger, frustration), it doesn’t matter how much you accumulate (money, possessions, knowledge, even friends), you will never find the connection you need.

      -I think we are afraid of unfamiliar and unknown..

      Not only the Japanese are strange. This whole system is making us all strange.

      Everything starts with doubt. If there is no doubt, there is no beginning.5

      Reply

      • Checo de la Cueva says:

        I meant they are different in the way that they relate to people. They are different from most of us, outsiders. Cause we talk, we express, we complain, we beg, we cry, we get angry, we laugh our heads off. . . . . have you heard them laugh? It’s just so mechanical. And their faces, with a permanent grin?

        They are definitely strange.

        I have talked to many, many people from different countries, and never have I felt such a barrier as the one I get here… if I get to talk to them, cause most of them are just so evasive and/or their conversations so plane and superficial….

        The Japanese need to learn to respect us. In my country, we don’t say foreigners (unless you are queuing for some paper work at immigration). We may say ‘the French’, the ‘Americans’, the ‘Germans’, also ‘the Japanese’, as I’m sure happens in yours.

        Japan represents only a 2 % of the World’s population. And they are moving on forward to the rest of the planet with factories and businesses. And they don’t mix, either. They usually have a place where they all buy their groceries, their meetings, their clubs, their restaurants, but they remain isolated from the people of the place where they go.

        Funny, people still respect them because of all the skills and they seriousness when it comes to work. I mean, this guys DO LOTS OF THINGS. Everybody is busy, learning, creating (yeah, shopping, too) so, in that area, I pay them my respects. But, when it comes to their silent, passive demeaning treatment of any one who is not Japanese, I think we should give them a loving lesson one of this days.

        If I told you things I’ve heard, and things that have happened to me just because I LOOK different, you’d be surprised. Really, astonishing, in this 21st Century.

        • Yumitolesson says:

          Sorry to hear about your negative experiences in Japan..may I ask where you are from? It is a bit strange that they refer to foreigners as “gaijin” or “gaikokujin” (preferred)…and yes, Japan remains somewhat isolated from the global community despite its technological advancement..there are things Japan can do to improve.

        • Saule says:

          I am sure you probably have hurt feelings since you put words tjis way. There are many valid points in what you said, but I sense aggression a lot and wish to add that in no way counter attack would produce positive result, but rather end in war. Mild gentle persuasion is better, and start changing oursevles and the ones around you change, even slowly but it happens. I am a gaijin with Japanese husband, if we have children they will be 50-50’ies 🙂 I like that, because in the 50-ies in USA was interesting culture (in LT, there was Stalin, so I think of USA – try to stay focused on positive). We all have had troubles at school, because troubled children are cruel, and those who are not troubled become bullied. Everyone suffers. I hope if that is understood, school phase will be easier for them.

          • Yumitolesson says:

            It is difficult to change other people..actually it isn’t possible and if someone doesn’t like Japan, it would be better off for him not to live there unfortunately. Life is too short to live in a place where you aren’t happy..

  • Megumi Koiwai says:

    Hi.
    My name is Megumi Koiwai and I’m a “ha-fu” in Japan as well. First I
    have to say, this is a really good piece and is very articulated in a simple
    manner. Thank you for writing this. I almost want to translate this article in
    Japanese so that my friends can read this. (Let’s be honest. Japanese people do
    not have ANY interest about these articles, esp when its written in English). I
    want them to be more curious. Be more enthusiastic about social justice and
    equality!!! Be more open minded!! PLEASE! There have been so many articles
    about biracial/multi racial people and it always gives me hope and support. You
    guys make me feel that I’m not alone in this. 



    However, It’s so hard being a “ha
    fu” in Japan. It’s actually indescribable for me. Of course, I got
    bullied. Of course, I HATED my mom for coming to school to talk with my teacher
    (My mom is White). Of course i get compliments such as “your nose is so
    tall!” “your eyes are so big!” “ha fu people have the
    “American” vibe” “ha fu people are fun to be with”
    “what do you say this in English?” “your much more American than
    Japanese” I can go on and on about this BS. These “thoughtful
    compliments” that they are saying, is NOT thoughtful, generous or a
    compliment at all. They have no idea about race so they don’t realize what
    their saying is very racist actually…. 



    But here’s the thing. I don’t blame them.
    Because they never lived in an environment where people look
    “different” from themselves. They never had the opportunity to
    discuss about it with their classmates! But I do blame and get upset when they
    don’t look around and SEE the issue or the problem we have in Japan regarding
    race. It’s not even about being “color blind”. They literally are so
    blind that they don’t put in any effort to learn and talk about race. It’s just
    beyond disappointing as a citizen in Japan. 

My only hope is that I do want my
    children to feel comfortable living in Japan as a multi racial citizen. So I
    wish that Japan can be more talkative and have more discussions about race. I
    mean I’m an open book so let’s do this people!

    • SpiderMars says:

      I agree with you. Japanese are protocol driven. Meaning, there are social rules on how to deal with situations. Due to either lack of exposure, education, or just straight up ignorance, there are no rules on how to “deal” with people of foreign or mixed race. The Japanese are petrified of being rude or causing social “unbalance”. So when they are confronted with an alien situation, they fold under the pressure and resort to stereo-typing, humor, or anything that will be them out of the mess. The Japanese people need to realize that being Japanese doesn’t mean where you or your parents were born, it means holding a Japanese passport, and fitting in in group, although not visually, but everyway else.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Sorry to hear about your experience as a Ha-Fu in Japan..I can only imagine what you are going through and I couldn’t even talk about this openly for a long time actually. 🙂 It has taken me many years to just process the past and be who I am regardless..racism exists everywhere and unfortunately we have to be the change and it is good that you are aware of the situation, and are determined to support your future kids. Family support is very important although I understand why you don’t want your mom coming to school..I used to tell my mom not to come to school lol I hope that things will improve and don’t listen to what ignorant people say..

  • David Walichvich says:

    Can we drop the phrase ‘hafu’ or ‘double’ and just use “mixed” !!! The next generation will have various heritages and it’s not whether they are labelled as hafu, mixed, or quarter, but they are physically and genetically mixed. America has no problem with people labeling themselves as mixed so why is ‘hafu’ still being used?

    • Yumitolesson says:

      In Japan, mixed children are called “Ha-Fu” or “Quarter”..that is why I used the word “Ha-Fu” in my article. However, my experience growing up as Ha-Fu may be a little more negative than other Japanese people of mixed heritage. I hope that the status of mixed children will improve in Japan in the nearest future, but I do not know.

  • fahmi saidi says:

    aregato npon;)

  • J76 says:

    It is an important subject for parents of such children growing up in Japan. I too have used the term “double” anytime that someone referred to my son as “half”.

    Naturally all that kids want is to fit in with or be accepted by their potential peers so any type of label can be potentially harmful. I noticed while on vacation my son really was able to relax with other children. The focus was no longer on Double, Half, or Gaijin but on name and age.

    I know it is my responsibility to make sure that my son realizes his self worth so I have started some conversation with him on the subject and given him lots of chances to open up. Beyond that I am not sure what else I can do. I would love to hear more from Ms. Nakata or anyone else reading this about how parents can help their kids deal with this issue.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      You must be a great parent for providing unconditional support for your son..I think family support is extremely important when raising mixed children in Japan..Unfortunately, my parents weren’t as supportive as you are, so that made our experiences (myself and sisters) very challenging. I think balance is everything, and I am not sure what your son’s heritage is but as a child, I wish I was able to speak with other children who were going through the same thing, so it may be helpful for him to go to an international school even on a part-time basis. 🙂

  • Alejandro Ridruejo says:

    Thaks for your article. To be honest, I had no idea that those terms “hafu” or “double” could exist. I just see a japanese girl. But I can say I like japanese girls, especially those who become from a non-japanese and a japanese parent. They have always been the most beautiful in my opinion. And I have also read you are much more
    intelligent, just because of the genetic combination. In fact, you are the expression of the future of the humankind. The combination. The union of different cultures, towns and nations.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I am proud of my mixed heritage now, although it has taken me a long time to embrace that. Thanks for your comment.

  • MixedRootsJapan says:

    Sorry you feel like this, things have both changed and not changed but the community is growing. Hope you get to see our documentary film “Hafu” hafufilm.com and also visit mixroots.jp

    We meet regularly for both social events and seriois academic research and discussion.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes I would definitely check out the documentary..I am very interested. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • samm bennett says:

    My daughter was born in the year 2000. She is a Double. My wife and I (she is Japanese, I am American) told people right from the start that she was a Double. To this day, when people refer to her (or anyone) as “Hafu” I always politely correct them: it’s Double”.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      That is good that you are being supportive of your daughter. Family support is VERY important raising a mixed child in Japan.

  • James Either Or says:

    Just on a side note the very thought of putting a label on them is stupid to begin with half or double it doesn’t matter

  • James Either Or says:

    Racism is everywhere, it comes from the us and them mentality that develop when we astabishing our society, if you want to fix that we must go back to the roots

  • emiemiemi says:

    I am a hafu but I was born and raised in the Philippines. I only go to Japan as a tourist. I wish I could also work there but I cannot get residency or long term visa because of my age. My brothers are also hafu but they live happily there. I am proud of being a hafu. People say I look more like a Korean than Japanese.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      That is very interesting! I did not realize the difficulty of obtaining a long-term visa even if you have a Japanese parent..

    • Charmine Joy B. G says:

      Have you ever tried applying in agencies? Many agencies can give you good work here in japan! And im Not talking about being an entertainer. Coz i know most people pinoys and some japanese too Connect being filipinoes instantly as entertainers. (And i hate that…) there are plenty of job offerings you just have to check it out! 🙂

      • Yumitolesson says:

        Oh I will check it out. I have a pretty solid career in the US now but it is good to know that there are opportunities in Japan!

    • Sheila says:

      How old are you?

  • alexniii says:

    Sayaka Akimoto is also Filipino though

  • Sofija Todoric says:

    You are what you choose to be, so in my opinion both terms ”hafu” and ”double” are equally inapropriate. Qute some time ago anthropology showed us that there is only one human race so it’s wrong to use this word because of it’s negative conotation. Why there is always need in people to categorise everything, other people as well…. I will never know….

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I wish they didn’t categorize me back home but Japanese people still use the terms “ha-fu” or “quarter” They don’t really think deeply but it is what it is.

  • shadowind says:

    Btw, who are the people in the photo’s?

  • shadowind says:

    My girlfriend is Japanese on her father’s side and Filipino on her mother’s side and I love her for her rather than how unique it makes her.

  • Manda says:

    I think you’re very beautiful as you are! I’m a Chinese Indonesian, used to be called as “foreigner” by my own nation, although I can fluently speak and behave like Indonesian people. We never know why we’re born in a country & being different in all levels. But one thing I learn, it’s not a mistake/coincidence, just to be true to yourself, you’re what you are! Do not let anyone judge your appearance! After all, we’re all same creatures, have same red blood & white bones 🙂

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes that is very true..at least I am able to just be “me”..not “Ha-Fu” or whatever they wanted to define me in the countryside of Japan, but racism does exist everywhere..and sorry that you were labeled as a foreigner in your own country. I talked to a Chinese Indonesian family before and they did tell us that they were having a very difficult time back home but it is now improving.

      • Manda says:

        Yes, my dear, Indonesia’s getting better & better! Our Jakarta local government is now led by a Chinese Indonesia. I hope Japan’s getting better too 🙂

  • Monina Eleazar says:

    I don’t think that raising an asian hafu is so difficult here in Japan. I have two growned up daughters and i’ve never experienced or felt that my children hated their roots or felt bullied. I’m being introduced to their friends normally with proudness because their friends are so eager to see me also. I’m one of those proud Filipinos living and enjoying the comfort living of Japan.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      that is great! Obviously my experiences are outdated since it’s long time ago but I am glad that things are better, also it depends on what part of Japan you live.

  • Imon Goswami says:

    Excellent article. Any kind of change takes time…and we can all simple hope that someday Japan will open up. With all due respect to Japan…I completely agree that mixed people are ‘double’….they are that wonderful bridge that connects two cultures together. 🙂

    • Yumitolesson says:

      yes I hope to always represent the good of Japan while embracing my unique cultural backgrounds. 🙂

  • Eri says:

    i’m also hafu , and a japanese citizen, i lived in the Philippines since 7 yrs old til 4th yr of college, but i’ve decided to stop studying dentistry in phil. and went here in japan , now i’m struggling in speaking japanese language and writing kanji, i even dont have a job right now , but i want to work on school as english language teacher.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I hope you will find a good English teacher job in Japan..unfortunately language barrier is very challenging. 🙁

  • dcan83 says:

    My two children are “HAFU”. I am American and my wife is Japanese. I would prefer my children attend Japanese school because I believe they are superior to American schools in some respects. However, I really don’t like the racism in Japan, therefore I would prefer my children attend American schools or International Schools where they are more welcome and not referred to as “HAFU” or “GAIJIN”. My daughters are human beings and shouldn’t be labeled because they have parents from differing ethnic backgrounds.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes it is challenging for mixed children to attend school in Japan..but you are being very supportive as a parent and that’s very important. 🙂

  • Dhônz Jabinës says:

    although i am not Japanese, but i think Japanese people are more open with regards to the foreigners who are living in Tokyo. I felt sorry for the Hafu people who are being discriminated. However most of the feedbacks from my Japanse friends is that, Hafu are often the most beautiful people in Japan. No offense meant but there are a lot of Japanese hot girls, and its even hotter if you are of a mixed blood.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes definitely! I might have been treated differently if I had grown up in Tokyo but I am sure that things are a little different now.

  • Sheila says:

    I’m also hafu but I don’t look like Japanese. (I also don’t look entirely Filipino) I chose to study in the PH because I was afraid to be bullied at school. My younger sister, who pretty much looks a 100% Japanese, experienced being bullied and now she studies in the PH. From my experience in searching for work here, it was a struggle because I don’t speak perfect Japanese. I was declined from many job interviews but now I landed at a job where they appreciate my multi-lingual skills and it’s not even a language school. I’m still learning Japanese now and willing to learn more especially kanji.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      That is great that you’ve found a good job..unfortunately bullying is a serious issue in Japan and I hope things will improve in the future..

  • Michieie says:

    The article’s a bit short; it’s be nice to have one or two more paragraphs about your experiences or some more information. That aside, it’s an interesting theme that needs to be expanded.

    Also, those are some really pretty people in those pictures.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Sure. I would love to write a longer version of my childhood but I intentionally kept it short, and wrote a summary of my experience as a Ha-Fu in Japan and just leave the interpretation up to the reader.

  • kei says:

    you are gorgeous! I think mixed people are the most beautiful, I wish I was one too ^^

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