I learned a new term yesterday. Haafu. This is a Japanese word for ‘half’, used to describe a mixed-race person.

Last year, Ms. Ariana Miyamoto became the first multi-racial woman to represent Japan in the Miss Universe contest. This week, Ms. Priyanka Yoshikawa won the Miss World Japan contest.

Twitter was alive yesterday talking about how Japan has come a long way from being homogeneous to multi-racial. Cultural barriers are finally broken, given that Haafu girls are doing well in beauty pageants.

That said, there were tweets about Japan should not embrace racial diversity in beauty pageants and that only ‘pure’ Japanese should be allowed to run.

All of this raises an interesting debate on identity. What does it mean to be ‘Japanese enough‘? Do mixed-race folks in Japan self-identify as Japanese? Do you have to be born in Japan to feel Japanese? Do you have to speak Japanese to identify as one? Do you have to follow Japanese cultural practices to be Japanese?  Are ‘pure’ Japanese more authentic?

I am curious enough to dig deeper and ask my Japanese friends – some that are in this country temporarily and others that have married outside their community and have haffu children. It will be interesting to discover what they think about the word haffu.  I wonder if they would find it derogatory. More as I know.


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