Being HAFU in Japan – Documentary

October 24, 2014 Juju Kurihara Culture, Lifestyle, Society, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments


HAFU_B5_Flyer_Front-726x1024Quite a while ago, I heard about a film night from a friend of mine and without knowing much about the contents, I went to see it. The documentary is called HAFU, ハーフ in Japanese, which means a half. A half of what? It´s a person who has parents from different nationalities. For instance, the child´s father is Japanese and the mother is Korean. You may think, "What´s so special about it?". But it´s not so easy in Japan, it´s a big deal.

When I was six, my family moved to a new house in the western part of Tokyo, close to Shibuya. I was hanging around the entrance while the moving guys and my parents were carrying stuff between the truck and the house. From the path leading to the houses at the back, a small boy came out and watching me. I didn´t notice anything different about him apart from he was very pale. That was the first day I met Michael, Maikeru (マイケル) we called him. 

He was four at that time and lived with his mother and grandma in the flat behind my house. He didn´t have father and since his mother and grandma looked very Japanese, I didn´t know why he looked a little different. You would say, "How did I not know by his name. Michael doesn´t sound nothing like a Japanese name". True, but having a weird name like mine – Juju -, even I was only six years old, I simply couldn´t judge people by their name. 

Later, I heard probably from my father that his father was a American army and he didn´t stay with the mother. I don´t know the detail but as a reality, the American father went back to his country without seeing his son grow. 


HAFU preview in Berlin.
One of my good friends in the primary school was Ruth Yoko, her mother is Japanese and he father is English. From the aspect, she looked quite western. She was one year older than me but we played often. Despite of her girly looking (long wavy hair and quiet dolly face), she was good at catch. We played catch in the corridor of the hotel of our school ski trip with a ball made by a pair of socks. She was cool although I don´t remember how we got to play. I don´t even remember if she spoke.

But then I saw the classmate of her, specially girls were whispering behind her. She looked a little isolated in the class and she was usually just lowed her head and ignored those voices. It was then I noticed that her being, being HAFU giving her a difficult time. 


A while ago, I have picked up this issue in the article, "Is he half Japanese or half gaijin?" Many people said the word "half" sounds like incomplete and many mixed race people prefer to be called "double". But it seems like as the word describes, mixed race people are treated "not really Japanese" but "not really gaijin". Yes, they are treated like incomplete person – HALF -. Should it not enrich the person by having the parents from two different cultures?  


Becky HAFU GeinoujinWhy is it? If you watch Japanese TV, there are many TV personalities who are mixed races and people love them because of bigger eyes, lighter hair colour or olive coloured skin, whatever it is different from Japanese. However, in the real Japanese life, HAFU is not accepted. 


This documentary asks the same question and yet, it´s more real because these questions come from the ones who have been dealing with all their life. Fighting rather than dealing. They were born in Japan and grew up in Japan. Their soul is Japanese and Japan is thier country. But if they have been rejected whole their life from their own country? It must be confusing. As a fact, they are having identity crisis, "Who am I?" despite the strong belief of "I am Japanese".


According to the study, there were 4,156 cases of international marriage in 1965. And in 2010, there are 30,207 international marriages inside Japan. Right now, one in 49 Japanese people is HALF. Japan is no longer one nation, well, think about the origin of Japanese, perhaps Japan has never been one nation. Now another change is coming. Japan is diversifying. Like the argument of the Nobel Prize winner, Shuji Nakamura, that the PM considers him as a Japanese and the Japanese embassy considers him as an US nation because of his US passport. 

It´s a contradiction. They consider someone is Japanese because of the passport but on the other hand, they don´t consider by the passport but by his/her aspect. I think Japan including me, need to see the reality and to become truly globalise. The documentary makes me think about being "international". Japan is a developed country but it seems like people are still struggling with the idea of "nationality" as in being Japanese. 


Directors, Megumi and Lara.


The production team of HAFU are currently going around the world to promote their documentary. They are not a big film production but a small group of four girls who themselfs are hafu. To keep their project going, they need your help. Watch the promo video. You can check the screening in your town from HERE. They will be in Milan, Italy this Sunday, the 26th and in Warsaw, Poland on the 29th. If you are in those cities, go and check it out. If you like to support them, you can contribute for the project from HERE.   

HAFU official website :




映画『ハーフ』予告編 Hafu: the mixed-race experience in Japan [Official Trailer] from Hafu Film on Vimeo.



More about Japanese Nationality

Is he half Japanese or half gaijin?

Nobel Prize winner, Shuji Nakamura, is he Japanese or not?

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Mihoko & Genki

Makiko Sese

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