Identity Crisis of Biethnics Living in Japan

In Japan, the numbers of biethnic children are increasing due to the increase of international marriages. The term Biethnic comes from the article, An identity based on being different (Oikawa et al. 2007), which is pointing at those who have a Japanese parent and a non-Japanese parent, which in Japan is usually called “Haafu” (Half), “Mix”, or “Double”. The terms “Haafu” (Half), “Mix”, or “Double” are taken negative to some biethnics so the author have chosen to use the term “biethnic” to describe them which will be more neutral. These biethnic children face identity crisis living in Japan because of their appearance.

Biethnics who have a parent that is non-Asian will face the difficulties of having non-Asian appearance which makes them stand out of the homogeneous society in Japan. Even those who have been living in Japan their entire lives, those who have a Japanese cultural identity, cannot blend into the Japanese society easily because of their non-Asian look (Oikawa et al. 2007, 642). On the other hand, those who have a parent that is non-Japanese but Asian will blend in the Japanese society very well because no one notices that they are biethnic. However, when they show their non-Japaneseness, they will face difficulties trying to make others understand that they are biethnic (Oikawa et al. 2007, 638).

In the research by Oikawa, she has discovered that there are three types of reactions in order to identify who they are, which are: Unique Me; Model Biethnic; and Just Let Me Be Japanese.

Unique Me is those “who do not like to be stereotyped and who wanted to be seen as unique individuals (Oikawa et al. 2007, 644)”. There are many positive stereo types towards biethnics (such as pretty/handsome, stylish, tall, bilingual, etc.), but to Unique Me, this does not mean anything. They think that although they are biethnics, it does not mean that everyone is the same. Unique Me does not want to be categorized as one type of biethnic.

Model Biethnic is those “pleased to be associated with the prevalent stereotypes, most of them being positive, of Biethnic individuals in Japan (Oikawa et al. 2007, 644).” Model Biethnics prefer to been seen as the stereotypes mentioned beforehand, since it makes them seen as special people.

Just Let Me Be Japanese, are those who want to be treated like Japanese and they even wished that they looked more Japanese. This appears to those who have been living in a complete Japanese society for their entire life and they are completely Japanese inside.

These different reactions towards their biethnic identity appear to be not permanent. Biethnics change reactions over time, and sometimes fit into two different categories depending on the identity crisis they are going through. Identity crisis cannot be avoided among the biethnics.

Oikawa, Sara, and Tomoko Yoshida. “An Identity Based on Being Different: A focus on Biethnic Individuals in Japan.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 31. (2007): 633-653.

by Rashel Phillips

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s