Reader Mail

What it means to be hāfu 
in Japan

The article “Portrait book explores identity from eyes of mixed-race Japanese” in the April 9 edition, about Japanese Belgian photographer Tetsuro Miyazaki’s ongoing project Hāfu2Hāfu, gave me a chance to think again about diversity in Japan and myself, because I am hāfu (half) — in my case, African and Japanese — as well.

I suppose that most racists do not know when they are being racist, and it is a problem that they don’t feel guilty because they don’t know how hurt we are by their words and attitude. For example, Japanese who are interested in foreign stuff are willing to accept hāfu, but at the same time they are apt to ask one-sidedly about our background or parents even if we don’t want to talk about it.

In thinking about what it means to be hāfu, I’m wondering what it means to the Japanese to be “Japanese.” Why is it that when I speak my mother language, Japanese, 80 percent of Japanese act amazed and offer a compliment like “you speak Japanese very well.” I am wondering if this nation hasn’t been developing at all in the postwar period. Hāfu are not just half. We have two or more types of identity. Nobody needs to care if other people’s appearance is different from their own. Everyone should behave naturally.

All I want is for Japan to become a more thoughtful country.

ANNA TASHIRO
UTSUNOMIYA, TOCHIGI PREFECTURE

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.