In Japan, the word “Japanese” is used as an all-encompassing term: signifying one’s nationality, race, culture, language, manner, and more. Ethnically half Japanese people in Japan are called “Hafu”, which literally just means “Half”. Because so much meaning is wrapped into the word “Japanese”, a label for your ethnicity therefore implies you must be fundamentally different inside, too. That your mannerisms, beliefs, culture, must not be “Japanese” like others, that you must not feel Japanese in the same way as others. What we see in the documentary “Hafu”, is that the experiences of Half-Japanese people can often be isolating. You might feel completely “Japanese” inside, but never be treated as such. Maybe you resent your mixed heritage, or associate more strongly with one of your “halves”. As the film-makers point out, the population of half-Japanese people in Japan is growing. And with it, a better understanding of what it means to be mixed-race must also grow.
Personally, my experiences are much different than those of someone born and raised in Japan. My story is most similar to Sophia, who grew up in Australia, except for me it’s Canada. This Friday, there is an organized screening of the documentary in Toyama city. I’ll be speaking at the end of the film with other panelists, I’m interested to hear what they have to say, and especially what the audience’s reaction is to the film.
The documentary isn’t available online, but I found some really interesting videos associated with the project. The first is one of the film-makers, Megumi Nishikura speaking TedxKyoto in 2013. The second is a compliation of interviews at an event in Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) organized by Hapa Japan.
Image at the top of the article is from hafufilm.com