Hafu

by Tomoka Otani

The word Hafu stands for mixed-Japanese and I have a lot of friends who are half Japanese and half American since there is an American base near my house in my hometown. Because they look more like Americans, they were teased by their looks and names. When I was in elementary school, most of my Hafu friends had experienced bullying at least one time in their school lives. It was shocking to see my friends bullied just because by their looks or their names. Japan is said to be a racially homogeneous nation and it is extremely difficult for people who look different from other people to live in the society and to interact with other people. For example, the American people who are working at the American base are having hard time interacting with other people out side of the base, therefore, they tend to be inside the base most of the time and they hardly have a chance to know Japanese people even though they are living in Japan.

Another example is my friend, whose father is an American and whose mother is a Japanese, born and raised in Japan and could not speak English. She had trouble interacting with other Japanese children in the class because she looked different. In addition, because she looks American, she was often spoken to by Americans in English, however she could not understand since she only speaks Japanese. It is very hard for her because she looks American but she is Japanese inside. As a result, she couldn’t interact with neither Japanese nor American.

As we talked about the citizenship of Japanese, I began to think what does it mean to be Japanese. It is extremely difficult to define what does it mean to be Japanese, however, I think the most important thing of all is what people believe. For example, I have two Hafu friends, whose father is an American and whose mother is a Japanese, whose father is a Japanese and whose mother is a Chinese. They both speak English and Japanese, Japanese and Chinese. However the girl with an American father looks different from us and the other girl with a Chinese mother looks the same like us. The American Japanese are more likely to be asked by other people if she is hafu or a foreigner compare to Japanese Chinese. But both of them grew up in Japan and they both believe that they are Japanese. Therefore, I came to think that the most important thing when we define what is it mean to be Japanese is what the person believe. It is hard for others not to judge people by their looks but in terms of citizenship, I think what the person believes is the most important thing of all.

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