Wataru Chagera Miyazaki (pt. 2)
What’s your take on on the use of the word hafu?
I’m all for the use of the word hafu, especially the H-A-F-U version of it, though I can see how the other version might have a negative connotation for some people.
But you know getting to have all of these conversations with other mixed people has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.
Well, even within the hafu community, what your other half is can really affect your opinion about so many things. You tend to assume that because mixed people in Japan tend to have similar experiences, they would have similar opinions about anything from food to racism, but you would be surprised.
Continuing with that, is there anything that you have come across that you didn’t realize would be a topic of discussion that turned out to be one?
Well one thing that I have noticed is that because mixed people in Japan have experienced some sort of prejudice, especially those who have grown up in Japan, they tend to be sensitive to prejudice but at the same time numb or desensitized to it.
And this plays out a lot in the conversations that I see between Japanese and African-American mixed and other mixed people. The people who are mixed African American and Japanese obviously have very strong opinions about racial problems in Japan and America and they might lash out when its something that they interpret as racialized. While the other realm of hafu people might not feel as passionately about it. A lot of conflicts tend to arise out of that.
Clearly there’s a difference between being mixed African American Japanese versus, say, Pakistani and Japanese, or German and Japanese, yeah?
There are two aspects of my identity that really sculpt how I see the world. One is the fact that I am African. I’m not half white and I’m not half African-American. And I’m not just mixed, but I also grew up in Africa. I have cousins who are half African who grew up in the states so they’re much more passionate about the affairs over there than I am. But I grew up in Africa. That’s the culture I grew up on.
And the other aspect is, and I’m not exactly sure what the term for this is, but the Japanese fascination with white faces, which is another topic that comes up in mixed culture. Most Japanese people’s image of mixed or half is half white half Japanese people. Their image of hafu is tall, beautiful models, half white.
But especially with people who are half Japanese and half Asian, some other Asian, some are not even accepted as mixed by Japanese people. Like If you’re half Filipino and half Japanese you’re not considered mixed by some people.
What about African?
As far as half African goes I’m not really sure where Japanese people stand. Obviously we're mixed and they recognize that. But it’s not really a topic that comes up. I just realized that.
What about people like Ariana Miyamoto and Naomi Osaka? Do you remember what it evoked in you when you saw people like them representing Japan on some of the largest global stages?
The fact that they are referred to by Japanese media as “Japanese”. And their mixedness something that is mentioned in passing or put at the end, that kind of ticks me off a bit. The fact that if you are successful you have to accept your role as a Japanese person, but if you’re not successful they sort of just ignore you or they’re just aghast that you’re not fully Japanese. That sort of rubs me the wrong way. I’m not really sure what would be a better way would be to introduce them. Like, would we always have to introduce them as someone who is half Japanese and half something else? I don’t know.
What about your experience? Being someone who is half African and half Japanese?
Well I guess part of it is my personality, I’m really laid-back. People would tell me that I’m very Japanese and this is something that they would say even before I came to Japan. I really try not to stick out at all.
The only thing that I can think of that’s sort of a negative experience are those Japanese random stop things. I’ve never really understood the reason behind stops.
Have they happened to you?
Oh yeah, a couple of times. At first I was just like, OK here’s my ID. They would see that I was Japanese and let me keep going. I didn’t think too much of it. But you know recently I’ve been starting to think about why they do it. Apparently they have the right to stop anyone who they think looks suspicious. But at the same time why are they only stopping foreign-looking people? I can understand if sometimes I’m wearing baggy or hippie clothes, have my full afro out, maybe they think I look suspicious? But why don’t they stop anyone else? That thought has really started to creep up on me.
My worst experience was when I was standing at a bus stop at lunch waiting for a bus. And a cop car passed by and we made eye contact. I nodded. They were looking at me and they just stopped and asked me to see my ID. And I asked why? And they said, “Oh, you know just want to check your ID.” But why? I’m waiting for a bus in the middle of a sunny afternoon. But eventually I’m like OK and start to take out my ID but then the bus starts to come. And then without even looking at my ID they said “OK, the bus is here you can go.”
Which is weird because it’s like the moment that they said you could go just because the bus is coming, they admit that they had no justifiable reason to be stopping you?
Exactly. They had no reason to be stopping at all. And that was the one time that I actually got kind of pissed.