Wataru Chagera Miyazaki (pt. 1)
So just to start, what’s your name? Where you from?
My actual registered name is Wataru Miyazaki, which is a really Japanese name.
My father is Japanese and my mother is Ugandan. And they both met in Kenya. My dad went to Kenya I guess for studies? He was into African languages and stuff. And my mom actually went to Kenya, which is next-door to Uganda, to study as well. There are better schools in Kenya because Kenya is more like a hub, especially at the time.
I don’t know the details of how they met and how they got together, maybe I should ask one of these days, but they did and I was born and then my sister was born. I have an older sister too.
So you were raised over there?
Yeah, I was born and raised in Kenya. Most of my memories are of course in Kenya, but apparently I was in Japan for a year or so. To the point where I was actually learning some Japanese but I don’t remember it.
As far as origins go, I’m more Kenyan than anything else. So if anybody asks, “where are you from?” I usually start out with Kenya. But if they take the question any further and say, “But where are you from from?” I will say “Oh, well I’m half Japanese half Ugandan…” etcetera.
Do you get that question a lot?
Not that question exactly, but a lot of people ask me if I’m half. Or mixed. Mainly because of my name.
So how did you end up back in Japan?
So I did all of my lower education in Kenya until high school. I went to international schools in Kenya. There are quite a few. Up until high school I was in Indian and British international schools and three years of high school I went to an American international school. That’s probably why I have a somewhat American accent. As opposed to a Kenyan accent, which tends to be more British because it was colonized by the British.
Then I came back to Japan for university.
So I should mention, my high school was a pretty religious school. It was Seventh-day Adventist. I had the option of going to a Seventh-day Adventist University in the US.
But my dad said I should go to Japan and that my grandparents had saved up some money for my tuition. So I’m really lucky.
What was it like living in Japan for the first time (that you could remember) in your life?
I actually spent one year with my grandparents. Way out in the boonies, in Mie prefecture. Suzuka city.
Among all the grandchildren I’m the one that spent the most time with them and that probably helped me really come to terms with Japanese language and culture. I spent all of that time learning Japanese. Maybe if I didn’t live with my grandparents all that time my Japanese skills wouldn’t be where they are now. They’d be there, but maybe not as natural.
So it really gave you a chance to navigate Japan in a safe and controlled environment?
Exactly. And just a lot of Japanese exposure because I have a lot of cousins in Mie Prefecture. And whatever English exposure I had was with other foreigners learning Japanese. We were all absorbing the culture together.
And you’ve been living in Tokyo for how long now?
I’ve been living here for 13? 14 years? Pretty much half of my life in Kenya and half of my life in Tokyo.
Have you found that there are many people here who, like you, are of mixed upbringing?
Yeah, being in Tokyo I’ve been able to get involved with the mixed community here. A lot of the Americans don’t like the word “half”. It’s actually a big topic of discussion in the mixed community. A lot of Japanese have come to embrace the term, not half as in H-A-L-F, but ハーフ, which is H-A-F-U.
There are so many stories of how the parents of mixed kids are adamant against the use of the word “half” with their kids, and they come up with “double” or “mixed” and all types of words. But all of the hafu kids are like, no we want to use this word. This is our term now.