In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole? (Page 3 of 4)

Not surprisingly, the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau says that it is not in a position to speculate about the future of the Nationality Act and if an increasing presence of mixed race couples and their children would lead the government to relax the dual nationality laws. However, a spokesperson acknowledges that the issue is likely to be raised and that citizens and the government must hold an open debate about the requirements for not only becoming a Japanese citizen, but for also retaining dual citizenship.

“Why wouldn't a person who is raised in Japan not be Japanese?” asks Takagi. “Japanese are behind when it comes to being more aware of the people who live in their country; their educational system hasn't changed in more than 30 years. With globalization more and more present, eventually there will be a need for change. The educational system must be adapted for children who grow up between more than one culture.”

Takagi takes the Japanese government to task for refusing to adopt a more internationally minded approach to dual citizenship, as seen in other developed countries.

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“There is lack of progress when it comes to adaptation and flexibility in all aspects,” she adds. “Many countries and regions in the world admit and respect dual citizenship, including the U.S., U.K., France, Canada, and Australia. Most countries do not think that a citizen will lose the nationality of their homeland even if they succeed in gaining another country's nationality.”


Takagi, along with Japanese-American Megumi Nishikura, co-directed and produced Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan, a documentary that explores the trials and tribulations of being mixed race in Japan. It will premiere at Shibuya Uplink Theater on October 5.


Lara Perez Takagi (left) and Megumi Nishikura (right) directing their documentary film Hafu. (Photo credit: Michael Connolly)

“For 87 minutes, I want audiences to walk in the shoes of five hafus and experience firsthand what it is like to be half-Japanese in Japan today,” Nishikura says. “Because of the way they look or cultural influences from other countries, hafu often experience feeling ‘other-ed’ in Japanese society. I believe that the definition of what it means to be Japanese needs to include hafu. Ultimately, I believe that with changing demographics, Japan is at a turning point – I believe that a more multiracial and multicultural Japan is a good thing, but it is up to the Japanese people to embrace this change or not. I do hope people will walk out of the theater feeling that a positive future awaits Japan.”

Takagi and Nishikura were inspired to make their documentary after a chance encounter with Marcia Yumi Lise, a sociologist who co-founded The Hafu Project – a series of portraits and in-depth interviews that probe the half-Japanese experience and shed light on what it means to be hafu both inside and outside of Japan. To date, the project has collected 130 portraits and 65 extensive interviews that explore topics ranging from background and upbringing to personal identity and sense of belonging. Exhibitions for The Hafu Project have taken place around the world and are supported by local Japanese embassies.

“In 2009, myself and Takagi met Lise and [Hafu Project photographer] Natalie Maya Willer when they came to expand their project in Japan. In my own research, I noticed the lack of in-depth media attention for hafu and was bothered by the stereotypes of hafu perpetuated by the mass media. So one of our motivations in making this film was to create awareness of the hafu experience and give us a platform to truly tell our stories,” Nishikura explains.

Unlike Takagi’s summer camp experience, Nishikura says that her childhood was generally free from discrimination based on her mixed roots.

“When I attended Japanese elementary school I was aware that I received extra attention from my classmates for being mixed but I don’t have any painful memories. I do remember that when I encountered children who I did not attend school with, they would stare at me or call me ‘gaijin’.”

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