Spotlight: Beneath Japan’s polite veneer lies secret codes of racial hatred aimed at minorities, foreigners

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive on 2016-05-22 21:22Z by Steven

Spotlight: Beneath Japan’s polite veneer lies secret codes of racial hatred aimed at minorities, foreigners (China Internet Information Center)
State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group (CIPG), Beijing, China

Xinhua News Agency

Is Japan a gentle nation? For many people who have little knowledge about the island country or just take a week-long vocation here, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

But for the ethnic minorities and some foreigners who live here for a long time, their bitter tales would tell a totally different story behind the iconic Japanese smile — a real Japan with an underground social code of inherent racial discrimination.

Japan has a long history of discriminating “burakumin,”or hamlet people as they’re known here in English. This group, brandished an”underclass”of people comprise those perceived as having impure or tainted professions such as workers in abattoirs or those in the leather industry. They were seen as “untouchable” and also known as “eta,” an ancient name for burakumin, and were “worth” one seventh the regard of an ordinary person in the Feudal era, and in some cases regarded just slightly higher than animals.

However, such discrimination was not eliminated with the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese Enlightenment in the 19th century, and still impacts people with burakumin ancestry…

…”There was a lot of bullying when I was at school, particularly when I was an elementary school student. They used to throw garbage in my face but I had no idea why,” Ariana Miyamoto, the first Afro-Asian to be crowned Miss Universe Japan, told Xinhua.

“There was this one time when a whole class of kids refused to get in the swimming pool with me, because my skin was a different color,” remembered Miyamoto, who was born in Nagasaki Prefecture but was accused of not being Japanese.

A spiteful remark on one social media after Miyamoto’s won the hard-fought competition read that “they should do blood tests before such events and if a contestants’ DNA is less than 100 percent ‘Japanese’ they should not be allowed to participate.” Another claimed that being “hafu,” which represents “half” in English used by Japanese people referring to people of mixed-race, meant that the “other” half was “less than human.”…

Read the entire article here.

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A Blackanese Beauty Queen

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive on 2016-03-22 14:42Z by Steven

A Blackanese Beauty Queen

Volume 15, Number 1 (Winter 2016)
pages 73-75
DOI: 10.1177/1536504216628844

M. Nakamura Lopez
M. Nakamura Lopez is a writer living in Tokyo, Japan. She studies mixedness, migration, and transnational families.

M. Nakamura Lopez on the new face of Miss Japan.

Read the entire article here.

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

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-09-11 01:50Z by Steven

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…

Read the entire article here.

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Beauty pageants, blackface, and bigotry: Japan’s problems with racism

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2015-08-20 14:37Z by Steven

Beauty pageants, blackface, and bigotry: Japan’s problems with racism

The Wilson Quarterly
Washington, D.C.

Maya Wesby

Photograph via Twitter

Bearing a false belief of racial singularity and superiority, can Japanese culture ever embrace diversity in an ever-intertwining world?

In most developed nations, issues of race occupy headlines and are components, unstated or overt, of nearly every conversation about policymaking — whether the topic is public housing in France, crime in Brazil, or the inheritance tax in the United States. Mostly, its relevance to the issue is framed in matters of promoting harmony and expanding opportunity.

There are, however, notable exceptions. Japan, a pillar of technological development and progress, has yet to address race as a pressing national issue. The racial discrimination that exists in Japan is reminiscent of the segregation-based atmosphere of 1950s America, posing a hostile environment for those of non-Japanese origin.

One of the more prominent victims of Japan’s ingrained discrimination is Ariana Miyamoto, who represents Japan in the 2015 Miss Universe competition. Miyamoto, the daughter of a Japanese mother and an African-American father, is categorized as hafu, a Japanese term and bastardization of the English word “half,” indicating someone who is mixed race.

Growing up in Japan, Miyamoto’s skin tone and curly hair caused others to shun her; classmates and their parents referred to her as kurombo, the Japanese equivalent of the N-word. Rather than identifying solely as black or Japanese, Miyamoto instead chooses to present herself as a representative of all ethnically and racially mixed Japanese. Her participation in the Miss Universe pageant opens the door for hafus to be accepted as part of Japanese society, and changes what it means to act and appear “Japanese.”

Reactions from the Japanese public have been less than kind. Posts on social media read, “Is it okay to select a hafu to represent Japan?”, “Miss Universe Japan is… What? What kind of person is she? She’s not Japanese, right?”, and “Even though she’s Miss Universe Japan, her face is foreign no matter how you look at it.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The beauty contest winner making Japan look at itself

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive on 2015-06-05 14:05Z by Steven

The beauty contest winner making Japan look at itself

BBC News

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, Tokyo Correspondent

At first sight even I am a little confused by Ariana Miyamoto. She is tall and strikingly beautiful. But the first thing that pops in to my head when I meet the newly crowned Miss Universe Japan is that she doesn’t look very Japanese.

In just two years here I have clearly absorbed a lot of the local prejudices about what it means to be “Japanese”.

My confusion lasts only until Ariana opens her mouth. Suddenly everything about her shouts out that she is Japanese, from the soft lilting tone of her voice, to her delicate hand gestures and demure expression.

Well of course she is. Ariana was born in Japan and has lived here all her life. She knows little of her father’s home back in Arkansas in the United States. But to many Japanese, and I really do mean many, Ariana Miyamoto is not Japanese. Not fully anyway.

Ariana is what is known in Japan as a “hafu”, taken from the English word “half”. To me the word sounds derogatory. But when I ask her Ariana surprises me by defending the term, even embracing it…

…Many people here genuinely believe Japanese are unique, even genetically separate from the rest of us.

When my (Japanese) wife got pregnant, one of her friends congratulated her with the words: “It’s not easy for us Japanese to get pregnant with a foreigner”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Of course this myth is complete nonsense. Japanese are an ethnic hotch-potch, the result of different migrations over thousands of years, from the Korean peninsula, China and South East Asia. But the myth is strong, and that makes being different here hard…

Read the entire article here.

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Black Miss Japan fights for race revolution’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive on 2015-05-15 15:31Z by Steven

Black Miss Japan fights for race revolution’

Agence France Presse (via Yahoo)

Alastair Himmer, Sport and Lifestyle Correspondent

Ariana Miyamoto

Tokyo (AFP) – Ariana Miyamoto entered the Miss Universe Japan beauty contest after a mixed-race friend committed suicide. And she endured abuse after winning the crown because of her skin colour.

Far from being put off by the backlash, Miyamoto resolved to use her new-found fame to help fight racial prejudice — in much the same way British supermodel Naomi Campbell broke down cultural barriers in the fashion industry a generation ago.

“I’m stubborn,” said Miyamoto, the daughter of a Japanese mother and black American father, who turned 21 on Tuesday.

“I was prepared for the criticism. I’d be lying to say it didn’t hurt at all. I’m Japanese — I stand up and bow when I answer the phone. But that criticism did give me extra motivation,” she told AFP in an interview.

“I didn’t feel any added pressure because the reason I took part in the pageant was my friend’s death. My goal was to raise awareness of racial discrimination,” added Miyamoto, who was bullied as a schoolgirl growing up in the port town of Sasebo, near Nagasaki.

“Now I have a great platform to deliver that message as the first black Miss Universe Japan. It’s always hard to be the first, so in that respect what Naomi Campbell did was really amazing.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Hafu Nation: Five Voices

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-07 20:13Z by Steven

The Hafu Nation: Five Voices

Tokyo Weekender: Japan’s Premier English Magazine

Kyle Mullin

Velina Hasu Houston (Photo by Ken Matsui)

Four members of the “Hafu Nation” share their experiences of living life from (at least) two perspectives.

Ariana Miyamoto has proven that beauty is not merely skin deep. Although some of her detractors criticized her for not being ethnically pure enough to represent Japan in this year’s Miss Universe pageant, many more supporters see her selection as an opportunity to address what role that mixed race individuals will play in the future of Japan. One work that has brought this question to movie audiences around the world is the documentary “Hafu” (the most common word used to describe Japanese people of mixed race). We reached out to one of the directors of the film, Megumi Nishikura, who put us in touch with several members of the local and international hafu community, who shared their views about Miyamoto’s selection, as well as their own experiences of multiethnicity inside and outside of Japan…

Velina Hasu Houston: A playwright and professor at USC who holds an MFA and PhD, and has explored the U.S.-Japan relationship through drama, fiction, essays, and film, among other forms.

“If Ms. Miyamoto were part white instead of part African American, there might be less brouhaha and discourse about her being named to represent Japan in the Miss Universe pageant. For example, recently Ms. Saira Kunikida, who is Japanese and Italian, was selected by Isetan to represent and be “the perfect symbol” (in the words of Fashion Headline Japan) of its “This is Japan” motto.

“Because Japan thinks of itself as a racially homogeneous and racially pure society, anybody that does not appear to be conventionally Japanese faces myriad issues of prejudgment and, at the very worse, discrimination in Japanese society. Sometimes this is positive in that Japanese citizens may be curious about someone who looks different, especially if that person appears to have some Asian traits. […] But more often than not being hafu in Japanese society can be trying. Japanese citizens stare at hafu constantly—on trains, walking down the street, in stores, and so on. It gets tiring always feeling as though you are being watched. You also may be racially profiled. If Japanese citizens perceive you to be of a certain race or national origin, they may behave differently toward you, thinking that you may act in a way that is to their detriment. These types of encounters are frustrating for hafu because our blood is Japanese as much as it is whatever else we are…

Read the entire article here.

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I’d like Japan to be an easier place to live… but Japan has some fundamental problems that it still hasn’t solved, in my opinion.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-04-20 20:35Z by Steven

“I was born in this country and I grew up here, and I could only speak Japanese. This is my home country; it’s not a matter of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes,’ ” she said simply. “Since my dad is an American, I look like a foreigner, so I used to think, ‘It’s cool having U.S. citizenship,’ and so I went there. But in America I couldn’t understand the culture, and it was then that I realized, ‘Without a doubt, I’m Japanese.’”…

…“There are lots of people from all kinds of countries (in America), so I felt relaxed,” she said. “My family is all black, so I felt relieved. I was like, ‘Wow, these people are the same color as me!’ Over there, I definitely felt a sense of peace — it was easy to live there.”

“I’d like Japan to be an easier place to live,” she added, “but Japan has some fundamental problems that it still hasn’t solved, in my opinion. These problems need to be dealt with right now. One thing is that the Japanese population is shrinking, and if foreigners come and aren’t accepted, I’d be concerned about what will happen to Japan, and so I’d like to see Japan adopt a more global outlook…” —Ariana Miyamoto

Bay McNeil, “Meeting Miss Universe Japan, the ‘half’ who has it all,” The Japan Times, (April 19, 2015).

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Meeting Miss Universe Japan, the ‘half’ who has it all

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive on 2015-04-20 13:52Z by Steven

Meeting Miss Universe Japan, the ‘half’ who has it all

The Japan Times

Bay McNeil

Star-struck: Baye McNeil meets Miss Universe Japan, Ariana Miyamoto, at The Japan Times offices in Tokyo. | OLGA GARNOVA

I felt an almost star-struck excitement at the chance to interview the newly crowned Miss Universe Japan, Ariana Miyamoto. I mean, she’s all the rage, right?

Her name has lit up social media like the constellations since her coronation. Black media can’t stop talking about her. To many, she is yet another global validation of black beauty in the flesh, a young woman who overcame prejudice and race-based adversity to achieve the previously unachievable. How do you not talk about her? Even some of the big dogs, like CNN and Reuters, have given her the time of day, spreading her name and compelling story to media markets everywhere.

Well, almost everywhere…

Read the entire article here.

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The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and Japan’s Miss Universe Reveal Biracial Realities

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2015-04-16 15:08Z by Steven

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and Japan’s Miss Universe Reveal Biracial Realities

Will Wright: Cinéma, Style, Race and Politics Permeate Our Lives. That Fascinates Me.

Will Wright

Thanks in part to the changing of the guard at The Daily Show, biracial experiences and related politics have made headlines, and snuck into our minds. South African, Trevor Noah, once a correspondent for The Daily Show, has been named to host it, succeeding Jon Stewart. His immediate family tree seems about as strange to Americans as Senator Obama’s did when he began running for president; Mr. Noah’s mom is a Xhosa South African and his father Swiss.

But his mixed heritage is not the only one being discussed. If you pay attention to headlines about mixed race folks (who doesn’t, right?) then you’ve felt shockwaves from Japan’s Miss Universe contestant…

Read the entire article here.

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