Half a Life as a Haafu

AP Writer Natalie Obiko Pearson describes her life as a “haafu” in Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun.

I’ll always remember the feeling of liberation upon arriving in America. My appearance drew no attention, I spoke English with the neutral American inflections picked up at the international school — I could pass.

Then came the pitfalls of my complete unfamiliarity with America: I knew none of the references to popular culture; I wasn’t used to interrupting people so I never got a word in edgewise. I thought a Subway sandwich was something sold in the subway.

In Australia and the United States, countries of immigration built on diversity, I can pass as a native. In Japan I can only do it over the phone. The game is up the moment they see my face or hear my name — Pea-ya-son, as it’s pronounced in Japanese.

Trapped in a culturally ambiguous haafu land, I find kindred spirits in people who have grown up as immigrants or so-called “kikoku shijo” — Japanese partially raised abroad who don’t carry an ounce of foreign blood, yet are marginalized once they return.

Still, the fact that such people exist in Japan means there’s an end in sight — the makeup of the country is changing.

Many here believe that Japan, with its rapidly graying population, has no choice but to open its doors to a massive influx of foreign labor within the next couple of decades. Japanese society will doubtless endure some painful teething. But, frankly, I can’t wait.

via Japundit

1 Comment

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One response to “Half a Life as a Haafu

  1. Shintaro Nakano

    While nakamahazure [exclusion, ostracism] attitudes persist with both Kikokushijos [native kids returned from abroad] and Haafus, I find that life in Japan for both are quite different. Haafus living in Japan are tolerated more for being “chutohampa” [half-finished, lackadaisical] in their Japanese language skills, and are often praised for being good at it, while the former who can visually pass as a regular Japanese is also simulatenously deprived the feedom to keep his or her American ways. The kikokushijo will have to quickly learn the language to not only an adequate degree, but to a native level of someone who graduated high school in Japan.

    As well, while the Haafu will never be accepted in Japanese society until the day he or she will die, the Kikokushijos will eventually be re-integrated.

    The Haafu people may be jealous of this fact, but it is also important for the Haafu people that some kikokushijos also envy the freedom that the Haafu can continue to enjoy in Japan that the Kikokushijos had to renounce.

    The declaration of choice for the kikokushijo is not only for their nationality, but that they must choose to be fully Japanese culturally as well.

    I want to say that as a Kikokushijo Japanese male that I am really interested in connecting with not so much the regular Japanese, but with the haafus who I feel have a kindred spirit with. I am interested in also dating a haafu girl in Japan. I feel that haafu girls are beautiful, and if other Japanese men do not wish to have them, it is their loss. I am open, so please email me at lotusbomber@gmail.com

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