‘Hafu’ tells story of Japan’s mixed-race minority and changing attitudes in society

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-11-15 02:07Z by Steven

‘Hafu’ tells story of Japan’s mixed-race minority and changing attitudes in society

Japan Today

Philip Kendall

TOKYO—For such a small word, “half” carries an awful lot of weight here in Japan. Adapted to fit the syllabary, the word is pronounced “hafu” in Japanese, and describes a person who has one Japanese – and of course one non-Japanese – parent. More often than not, the word carries certain connotations, and many Japanese have preconceived, often erroneous, notions that hafu have natural English ability, have spent time abroad, and possess many of the physical characteristics Japanese associate with Westerners. At the same time, the word is immediately indicative of something very un-Japanese, and many hafu – even those who have never set foot outside of Japan and speak no other language – are never truly accepted by society as a result.

The Hafu Project was begun in 2009 as an initiative aiming to promote awareness of racial diversity in Japan and the issues facing those of mixed heritage. It was after becoming involved with the project that two filmmakers, Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi, began a collaborative work that would eventually become a full-length feature film titled, simply, “Hafu.”

Three years in the making, “Hafu” was completed in April this year, and has been screened at independent cinemas everywhere from Madrid to Tokyo. After checking out the film for ourselves when it came to Shibuya recently, RocketNews24 talked with Megumi and Lara to learn a little more about the making of the film and how in their opinion attitudes in Japan are evolving.

“Hafu” documents the daily lives and experiences of five hafu who have either lived most of their lives in Japan or are visiting for the first time in an effort to learn more about their Japanese heritage. Shot in the documentary style with the featured hafu providing the voiceover throughout, the film has a quiet poignancy to it that at times brought us close to tears, yet ultimately left us feeling both upbeat and confident that attitudes toward hafu in Japan are changing for the better.

Hugely impressed by this profoundly moving and inspiring film, RocketNews24 got in touch with Megumi and Lara, who kindly answered our questions about themselves, the making of the film, and how they see life for hafu in Japan changing as the number of children born to mixed-race parents increases each year…

Read the entire interview here.

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Double the trouble, twice the joy for Japan’s hāfu

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-10-04 14:40Z by Steven

Double the trouble, twice the joy for Japan’s hāfu

The Japan Times

Kaori Shoji, Special To The Japan Times

Until about 10 years ago, the standard Japanese image of kids of mixed blood was that they were 1) gorgeous, 2) rich and 3) able to live in Japan with none of the kinks and hang out at Azabu clubs when they were 13. In high school, my girlfriends scorned their own Japanese heritage. The common reply to what we wanted to be when we graduated was “gaijin” (foreigner). Failing that, the next best option was to marry a gaijin and bear hāfu (mixed-race) kids, who would then automatically go on to have brilliant careers as newscasters or supermodels.

Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi’s documentary “Hafu” shows quite a different picture. “One of the reasons we made this film,” Nishikura tells The Japan Times, “is that the growing number of hāfu here are not celebrities or models. We wanted to put a hole in the stereotype of hāfu — to show that not everyone is Caucasian, well-to-do and beautiful. There are a lot of people who aren’t like that, who are struggling with the language, with life in Japan and with their own identities.”

Both the filmmakers, who each have a background in documentaries, are mixed-race. Perez Takagi was born to a Japanese mother and Spanish father, and her childhood was divided by vacations spent in Japan at her grandmother’s house in Chiba and daily home life in Madrid

Read the entire article here.

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FILM: Mixed-Race People Tell Their Stories in ‘Hafu’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-05-05 00:14Z by Steven

FILM: Mixed-Race People Tell Their Stories in ‘Hafu’

The Rafu Shimpo: Los Angeles Japanese Daily News

J.K. Yamamoto, Rafu Staff Writer

Hafu,” a new documentary about mixed-race people in Japan, will be screened Wednesday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, First and Central in Little Tokyo, as part of the 29th L.A. Asian Pacific Film Fest.

Directed by Lara Perez Takagi and Megumi Nishikura, the film had its Los Angeles premiere on April 5 at JANM during the Hapa Japan Conference. The Bay Area premiere was on April 7 at UC Berkeley.

The title, the Japanese pronunciation of “half,” is the most common term in Japan for people who are half Japanese. It is similar to the Hawaiian word “hapa,” which originally meant someone half Native Hawaiian and half Caucasian.

The film focuses on five stories that reflect the diversity of the Hafu experience:…

…At the L.A. premiere, Koji Sakai of JANM noted the connections between “Hafu” and the museum’s ongoing exhibition “Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History”: “In a lot of ways the community, or people in general, think of Hapa as a new phenomenon, but in reality Hapas have been there from the very beginning in our community, and it’s time we acknowledge and support that.”

Duncan Ryuken Williams, co-director of the USC Center for Japanese Religions and Cultures, convener of Hapa Japan 2013, and co-curator of “Visible & Invisible,” had high praise for “Hafu”: “It’s a really thoughtful and inspirational film … The film directors did a great job of picking these five individuals. I think you’ll agree they represent the spectrum, the range of possible people in this Hafu experience … I’ve followed the making of this film and I know it’s a major labor of love for the two film directors. They put a lot into making this happen with the help of dozens of people who volunteered their time, most of whom were Hafu individuals.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, Videos on 2013-04-11 21:33Z by Steven

Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
29th Edition
2013-05-02 through 2013-05-12

87 minutes
Directed by: Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi
English, Japanese

Screening: Wednesday, 2013-05-08, 19:30 PDT (Local Time): National Center for the Preservation of Democracy

HAFU is more than a mere documentary about mixed race Japanese, or so called Hafu. The film seeks to break with the “one nation, one culture, one race” paradigm which has shaped much of contemporary Japan’s self-image, and makes a compelling argument for the hybrid reality of Japanese identity today. At the same time, Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi, both Hafu themselves, render visible the hardship of those subjects who do not comfortably fit into common categories of belonging, and offer them a platform to be heard. What happens if my looks do not match my nationality, or if my language does not reflect my home country? Who defines the compatibility of subjects and their identities in the first place?

Most of the featured protagonists grew up in Japan, but cannot escape the role of the foreigner. As a Venezuelan citizen, Ed has to renew his visa every few years, despite being raised by his Japanese mother in Japan. Every time again, he is confronted with his identification as an outsider to Japanese society and the prospect of being expelled from the country he identifies both as home and hostile. Fusae is part of that same community of “foreigners within.” Part Korean and part Japanese, she appears with a strong sense of belonging at first, “I was born in Kobe, so this is where I want to work and pay taxes.” After a while, however, Fusae allows a deeper look into the traumatic experience of being mixed race in Japan and the tears she sheds reveal the inner turmoil that defines the lives of many other Hafus: of David, born to a Japanese father and Ghanaian mother, who surprised the other kids with the fact that his blood was not green, but red as theirs; of Sophia, who grew up in Australia ashamed of her bento box lunch and secretly wishing to be blond like her class mates. What all of the here depicted Hafus share, is the longing to belong. Not just to be acknowledged, as Ed puts it, but to be understood and accepted.

Feng-Mei Heberer

For more information, click here.

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Hafu: The Film

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2013-01-31 19:37Z by Steven

Hafu: The Film

Hafu: The Film

Megumi Nishikura, Director, Producer and Cinematographer

Lara Perez Takagi, Director, Producer and Cinematographer

Marcia Yumi Lise, Thematic Advisor

Jilann Spitzmiller, Executive Producer

Aika Miyake, Editor

Winton White, Music

Dear Friends,

A belated happy new years to you! We have been quietly busy these past few months but have many great announcements to share with you.

Our first screening date has been set! On April 5th we will be screening at the Japan American National Museum in Los Angeles. Filmmakers Lara and Megumi will be present at the post-screening discussion afterwards. Seats are limited so RSVP your spot today.

The screening is part of the 5-day Hapa Japan Festival, which celebrates the stories of the growing number of mixed-Japanese in the US. For those in Los Angeles area this event is not to be missed!…

For more information, click here.

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The Other Hafu of Japan

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science, United States, Women on 2011-01-20 22:34Z by Steven

The Other Hafu of Japan

Rafu Shimpo: Los Angeles Japanses Daily News

Brett Fujioka, Rafu Intern

A new documentary examines the lives of racially mixed individuals as they explore their own identities.

Is a ship the same if you take it apart piece by piece and replace its frame? No simple answer exists, as anyone who has tackled this philosophical Rubik’s cube knows.

The ethno-national equivalent to this riddle grows exceedingly more complicated with the swelling number of international unions each year. Statistics in 2004 chart that 1 in 15 marriages in Japan were international and that 1 in 30 children born there possesses a parent of non-Japanese descent. Japan’s ethnic constituency is rapidly changing and its people may need to rethink what it means to be Japanese in a country where blood and national identity are considered one and the same.

The same applies for the hafu (mixed Japanese) community. The lives for each individual half-Japanese vary from person to person and the filmmakers for the upcoming documentary, “Hafu,” and their subjects best represent this.

“Hafu” is the tentative title for an upcoming documentary in Japan following the lives of several half-Japanese individuals as they explore their identities.

Both Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi spent most of their lives away from Japan. Takagi is half Spanish and stayed in Madrid, Sydney, Washington D.C., and Ottowa due to her diplomat father’s itinerant career. She eventually completed her higher education at the Francisco de Vitoria, Complutense and Waseda Universities before finally returning to Japan.

Nishikura, likewise, lived her childhood spread throughout the world. She stayed in Beijing, Manila, Honolulu, DC, Berlin, London, and Los Angeles and graduated from New York University.

“Lara and I have unusual stories and come from international backgrounds,” said Nishikura in an interview with the Rafu. “I don’t know if that’s representative of a lot of the mixed Japanese community.”

There’s a reason why they’re so hesitant to pinpoint a grand narrative for the hafu experience. There is no all-encompassing hafu story and the eclectic subjects of the documentary are indicative of this…

Read the entire article here.

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HAFU: a film about the experiences of mixed-race people living in Japan

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Live Events, New Media, Social Science, Videos on 2010-09-27 04:58Z by Steven

HAFU: a film about the experiences of mixed-race people living in Japan

Hafu Film Sneak Preview in Kyoto
Institut Franco-Japonais du Kansai, Kyoto, Japan
Saturday, 2010-10-23. 19:30 – 22:00 (Local Time)


Lara Perez Takagi
Megumi Nishikura

David Yano (29). David was born in a small village in Ghana, to a Ghanaian mother and a Japanese father. His father, an architect, was in Ghana to build the Noguchi Hideo Memorial when he met David’s mother. After spending 6 years in Ghana, they moved to Tokyo. However due to difficulty of adjusting to their new life in Japan, his parents filed for divorce when he was 10. The next 8 years were spent in an orphanage school in Japan with his two brothers. There he discovered his greatest passion: music and performance. He started modeling when he was a university student and now works as a multitalented TV presenter. Due to his dark complexion, David is regarded by default as a gaijin (foreigner) when people meet him for the first time. However, having spent much of his life in Japan, he feels he acts and identifies as Japanese more than anything else. Despite this claim David, has returned to Ghana once a year since the age of 20. Seeing the dramatic difference between the two countries, David felt the call to use his talents to benefit the people of Ghana. He has set an ambitious goal of raising $30,000 over the course of 8 months in order to build kindergarten back in Ghana. Audiences will watch him as he organizes various fundraisers and events has he struggles to attain his goal.

With an ever increasing movement of people between places in this transnational age, there is a mounting number of mixed-race people in Japan, some visible others not. “Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern day Japan. The film follows the lives of five “hafus”—the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese—and by virtue of the fact that living in Japan, they are forced to explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that once proudly proclaimed itself as the mono-ethnic nation. For some of these hafus Japan is the only home they know, for some living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and others are caught somewhere between two different worlds.

For more information, click here.

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