Earning the title of “Japanese”

About a month ago, one big sports news hit the front page of the newspapers. The news was about Yu Darvish who is one of the greatest baseball players in Japan, and probably in the world too. The news said he would go and challenge his ability in Major League Baseball in the States. In those news, most media mentioned him as “Nihon no e-su (Japanese Ace)” meaning that he is a young talented pitcher who represents Japanese pro-baseball league. But I felt somewhat awkward with the use of “Japanese.” As everyone knows, he is half-Japanese half-Iranian. How could people call him “Japanese” without any questions?

What I mean here is not that I want to differentiate him from other Japanese because of his ethnic background. The question is that why he is Japanese when other hafu people are often said they are not. What let him deserve that title which many hafu people have to live without?

I think the answer is very simple: we want anything favorable to us. Darvish is a distinguished pitcher who received offers from several famous Major League teams. His ability is good enough for giving him the status as a member of Japanese society. As long as the person shares any Japanese blood (even if not “fully” Japanese) AND has a special ability that we Japanese are proud of, then he deserves the title of “Japanese.” Because, everyone wants heroes from their own community.

But, think about it for a second. Was he Japanese before he became famous? In his mind, yes – but not by people around him. He had a hard time being called “different.” Hafu are often not given the title of “Japanese.” They have to make an all-out effort to earn the title which full-Japanese people are born with, even if they were born and have grown up in Japan.

Isn’t it ridiculous? Whether hafu or fully-Japanese, we share the country we were born and have grown up in. Why do only fully-Japanese have a right to push the other out, based on their blood? Are we entitled to any authority to decide to let not-fully-Japanese people in, as soon as s/he becomes a hero? The answer is, of course, “No.” None of us has such thing. We, fully-Japanese, have to realize the fact that we are so selfish and have misunderstood that it is us who determine whether to let the person with unique blood (in addition to Japanese) in or out. We now should open up that heavy door to enter the Japanese society to anyone who is willing to come in. Difference is nothing to be afraid of, rather, is a spice to add excitement and fun in life.


by Shiomi Maeda

One thought on “Earning the title of “Japanese”

  1. I found this post very interesting, especially as I am half Japanese.
    I agree with the argument, but I do not think this case only applies to Japan. Any country, or even community, rejects and accepts mix blooded people according to their advantage. It is always the full-blooded who have the power to decide.
    Halfies have no say, and are left to seek how to identify themselves.

    Japan does seem especially scared and rejective of foreigners, however, I have found out through personal experience that it really is not the only place in the world like that.

    I was born in Japan, I can speak Japanese, and my mother influenced me with Japanese culture. So I don’t want to be called a “Gaijin”. Understandable, right?
    But I also don’t want to be called Japanese.
    Japan has the special term “Hafu”. And yes, it can be used negatively to reject, as in “That person is half foreign” – but also positively and accepting, as in “That person isn’t fully foreign, and we share at least half the same ethnicity.” Most of the time I find that I am referred to as a “Hafu” in Japan in the positive sense. And It’s comforting to be able to identify yourself with one word sometimes, and not a sentence.
    I’d rather be called “Hafu” than “Japanese”, because it is a fact that I am not fully Japanese. I am proud of my father’s ethnicity, and he has influenced me as much as my mother. I do not want to dismiss such a large part of me when having to identify myself.

    I realise I have gone off on a tangent, but what I am trying to say is that Japan is not that bad! Not “so selfish and have misunderstood….” It’s sad, but I believe all societies do it. I wish this post was aimed at the whole world!

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