What does it mean to be Ha-fu

hafuI wrote about Gaijincomplex for Gaijinpot.com. Please check out my articles there. This would be a little private and personal for me so I decided to publish my personal posting on my website. I wrote two articles about Gaijin Complex and how that affects foreigners who are living in Japan and what Japanese can do to overcome the complex.

It is a very complex issue and both sides need to compromise and take a few steps to access the other country’s culture and differences. Japan used to be the number 2nd economic power and now the China quickly surpassed Japan so Japan is at No. 3. Even then Japan (and probably China and S. Korea also) still has a long way to go to overcome the barriers so the country can truly become a member of global community.

In my article, I mentioned that GaijinComplex wasn’t necessarily about discrimination and racism and my posting raised much criticisms. I totally understand. It is unacceptable for restaurant owner to refuse service to clients based on their race and nationalities. It should be illegal. But it is the reality of Japan. It is slowly opening up but when I was going to middle school, it was much more conservative and Japanese people were much more prejudiced against certain races.

Then here comes the unique group of people. They are so called “Ha-Fu”. There is much debate about this name because some people feel that it is not fair and they should be called “Double” instead because both culture and heritage these half people carry make them whole as a person. I have read stories about a woman who appears to be “Gaikokujin” to Japanese people but her mother is Japanese and she was born and raised in Japan and speak Kansaiben! So she is totally nihonjin. However, she had trouble finding a job because people often assume that she couldn’t speak the language and had preconceived notions about her just because it is ha-fu. I can imagine how difficult that might have been for her because she does not look very Japanese and she looks more white so there was not escape for her. Japanese people were curious, they want to speak English with her all the time..

But I wonder if her experiences match my experience being Ha-fu. It took a long time to come out of my closet..and it really doesn’t matter if I am half korean, half white, half Black..whatever but it does matter in Japan. Korean people in Japan (they are naturalized and mostly brought to Japan during war) but they are very segregated and they are very protectively of their community. And also they do change their last name in order to blend in. My mom had a friend family who were all second generation Koreans and they said “You are so courageous to be open about Ha-fu” . My father is Japanese but my mother is from S.E. Asia. Now that I embrace both heritages and am proud to be both nationalities but growing up, I was very aware of my stance. I was very aware that my experience could have been different if my mother was white or something different. But the good news is that I was able to blend in perfectly..

Depending on where ha-fu grows up, growing up in Japan as a mixed race can be very challenging especially for the child. And unfortunately it was my experience as a hafu person. I used to be very self-conscious and had to constantly work hard to achieve something…otherwise I am hafu and need to become a whole. It makes no sense but that’s something I learned through my interactions with my Japanese classmates. I was the only Hafu in school in the conservative countryside of Japan. But the experience was interesting to say the least.

Nothing is wrong to be Ha-Fu. I feel that all Ha-Fu has an opportunity to show other Japanese that they are just like any other Japanese people. Even if they are different, they should proud of their both heritages. I think Ha-fu represents Japan’s modern society and right now, I won’t hide my ethnic background when I go home. Back then, yes I did not disclose my personal information.

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