Being ‘hafu’ in Japan: Mixed-race people face ridicule, rejection

Being ‘hafu’ in Japan: Mixed-race people face ridicule, rejection

Al Jazeera America

Roxana Saberi

Among Japanese, the perception of pure ethnic background is a big part of belonging to the culture

TOKYOAriana Miyamoto was born and raised in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. But she said most people in her homeland see her as a foreigner.

“My appearance isn’t Asian,” she said, “[but] I think I’m very much Japanese on the inside.”

Miyamoto, 21, was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American sailor who left Japan when she was a child. In Japan she’s considered a hafu, or half-Japanese. Some people prefer the term daburu to signify double heritage, but Miyamoto said she’s not offended by the word hafu.

“I don’t think the equivalent word for hafu exists overseas, but in Japan you need it to explain who you are,” she said.

In March she became the first half-black, half-Japanese woman to be named Miss Universe Japan. Many people in Japan cheered, tweeting messages such as “She represents Japan! Being hafu is irrelevant.”

But others complained on social media that she didn’t deserve the title…

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