Passive and Active Identities

by Kohei Nomura

In Japan, the mixed-ethnic minorities are called “hafu” which means half. Most Japanese people who are based on Japanese ethnicity and culture accept this word “hafu” with something good images like a blur. However, and therefore, problems which mixed-ethnic minorities have tend to remain and be hidden in the Japanese unified society.

I belong to entire Japanese ethnicity, so that what I should do to fit in the Japanese society was just growing up among the environment. At the same time, it automatically helps forming my identity as a person. It was a quite passive process to me. However, mixed-ethnic minorities in Japan should be more active to form their identity because they have several roots and this situation may be unique among their environment. They should search and find their identities, the countries they will live, the way to interpret who they are and so on. Moreover, if they are hybrid of different skin colors, they might not be seen as “Japanese” even if they decided to live more like “Japanese”. In fact, Hafu Project Booklet (Lise, 2011) which is a brochure of a project to spread mixed-ethnic people’s lives shows several experiences of mixed-ethnic people. Some of them say they were aware of being different and forced to think that it cannot be helped. Mixed-ethnic minorities have to try forming their identities and let them be accepted by themselves. The process is not the things which Japanese-ethnic people fully understand. That is why I think the problems which mixed-ethnic minorities have are hidden in Japan.

However, we can know and respect the way to live as mixed-ethnic minorities. It is quite different from the general “hafu” images I previously mentioned. To spread this reality and let Japanese people think of the mixed-ethnic people’s struggle, we all would be able to make effort to create better Japanese society which helps forming mixed-ethnic people’s identities.

Actually, Japanese society is changing to more diverse ways. Hafu Project Booklet (Lise, 2011) says “Japan is undergoing significant transformation”. The number of foreign national are increasing from 1970s, and from 1990s, it is increasing more sharply. As a result, the number of foreign nationals changes from 751,842 in 1975 to 2,186,121 in 2009. This also means that the number of mixed-ethnic minorities can increase and the hybridity of several ethnicities may not be special. Thus, Japan’s situation today that the number of foreign nationals is increasing can create the new opportunities to deepen understanding of mixed-ethnic minorities. I strongly hope that we will make a better society which enables us to respect each identity for “everyone”.


Lise.M.Y., (2011), Hafu Project Booklet, Retrieved October 18, 2012



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