Perk: The Hafu Project booklet

11 7th, 2011

As you know we started our Indiegogo campaign a few days a go. We can’t believe the tremendous amount of support we have already gotten in just a few days. Thank you so much!

One thing you may or may not know is that our project evolved out of the Hafu Japanese Project. The Hafu Japanese project is:

 “an ongoing project that creates a dialogue about being in between cultures. By increasing discussions about culture, ‘race’ and ethnicity we hope to achieve a deeper understanding of these issues. For this reason we actively give public lectures and organize events.”

A very large component is a photography and interview series conducted by researcher Marcia Yumi Lise and photographer Natalie Willer. To this date, they have interviewed over 60 hafus and photographed an additional 70.  Lara and myself participated in their photo shoot when they came to Tokyo in 2009. Indepdeant of each other, we both approached Marcia and Natalie and asked them if they wanted to add a audio/video component to their project. 6 months later we began filming!

They recently produced their first publication – a 40-page full color A4 brochure -which gives you an insight into the lives of hafus. The booklet also provides facts and figures on Japan’s changing population and diversity.

For the $20 Perk on our campaign, you can receive a English PDF version of this publication that inspired our film.


11 1st, 2011

The Invisible Hafu








8 20th, 2011








We asked Sara to share her experience of working with us:

Just nearly a year ago I stumbled across the ‘Hafu Film project’ when I saw someone ‘Liked’ the film’s page on Facebook. So what if I wasn’t on Facebook that dayWhat if I didn’t see that update in the newsfeed?………Would I be here?

I pondered this as I sat in the Hafu film office watching Megumi and Lara work away on their Mac computers.

I spent just over 2weeks in the Tokyo office. Having time off work allowed me to spend my summer in Tokyo where I got to see how much work goes into making this monstrous film. Exhibit A, Transcribing: A 20minute interview piece took me nearly 2hours to complete. For someone with Mac fingers, it probably takes less time. But my clumsy PC fingers kept pushing this button that magically erased all my work. Mac, you’re too smart for me.

I felt pretty special being involved in all this behind the scene action. Seeing never seen footage and interviews, watching Megumi and Lara chopping and piecing shots together as they edited the film. I spent so much time watching Sophia on film, it started to feel like she was one of my buddies. I think if I met her in real life, I might creep her out a little (note to self, don’t creep her out). It’s amazing how much work these girls are putting in but also it’s amazing to see all these other people giving support in many different forms.

The office space which is generously lent by Hafu film supporter Ken is situated in beautiful Kichijoji. The area is bustling with cute little cafes, loads of restaurants and countless amount of ‘Ethnic’ shops (One can never have too many ponchos or wind chimes apparently) Everyday we walked through the park to go get our lunch fix. Leaving my stomach a whole lot heavier but my wallet a whole lot lighter. But it was so much fun spending time with the girls and I’m jealous of them that they get to work in such a beautiful area.

Thank you Megumi and Lara for accommodating me in Tokyo and letting me work in the office. I will miss the good times working on the film, eating yoghurt, complaining about the heat and talking about boys. Good luck with the film!

ボランティアはまだ募集中です。興味がある方 是非ご連絡ください! info<at>

Loving Day 東京: 代々木公園でのピックニック

6 24th, 2011

Celebrating Loving Day with Hafu Project member and volunteers!

Advisor Marcia and Director Lara

Megumi and Lara with Noriko, Ronnie, John and Emi

David's friend Optimus Prime



1)LovingDay =1967年6月12日、アメリカの最高裁判所は不法であった異人種間結婚を法律で認めることを決めました。アメリカ人でなくっても、ミックスである私たちハーフは、この用な不公平を乗り越えられたことを祝うべきではないでしょうか。



Photos by Mike Connolly.

Introducing Virginia….

1 10th, 2011

One way in which volunteers are supporting the film is by transcribing. Transcribing interviews and b-roll, help us when it comes time to edit as it allows us to save time and narrow down our selection of responses. It also helps us prepare for subsequent interviews since we can review what we’ve asked in the past and discover what is still needed. Since we are still filming, we are asking our transcribers to offer any suggestions of what they find interesting in the particular interviews and give us feedback. It’s a great way to have an insider’s look into the filmmaking process.

That being said I want to introduce you to our rockstar transcriber Virginia! Virginia and I shared a plane ride back from San Francisco to Tokyo nearly a year ago when this film was still an idea. I’m so happy to have met her and grateful for her support~

Introducing Virginia...

Name: Virginia Haruna Vaughn

Mix: Mother—Japanese, Father—Caucasian American

Volunteering as: Interview transcriber

Birthplace: Berkeley, California, USA

Time spent in Japan: A year and a half as a child + annual visits growing up + over two years as an adult = 4+ years

Your experience growing up as hafu: My family lived in Yokohama when I was 5 and 6, which was around the time I became acquainted with the term “gaijin”. At the time, I didn’t fully understand the word, but I remember feeling extremely embarrassed and self-conscious when my “gaijin” dad would pick me up from my Japanese kindergarten and speak to me in English—and even more embarrassed when he attempted to speak in Japanese!

From an early age, I’ve been aware of my mixed background but it wasn’t until later that I started to see my multiracial heritage as a truly positive and wonderful thing.

Any changes as an adult? I’ve been able to shape my own identity, which incorporates both of my roots. Starting from my teens, I became frustrated with the limitations of trying to choose one racial identity over the other. Now, I find it incredibly freeing to be able to identify with multiple cultures, instead of being tied to only one.

Why you are supporting the film: The hafu experience is one that is very personal to me and one that is especially complex in a historically homogenous society, like Japan. As the country continues to become more heterogeneous, I think it’s important that hafu experiences are shared.

What do you hope is the outcome of the film: I’m very honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the film—even in such a small way. I hope it encourages viewers to reconsider what it means to be a member of a society and to recognize that cultural and national identities are changing.

Introducing Sara Ai…

12 17th, 2010

Sara was one of the first volunteers to contact us directly and express an interest in supporting the film. (Oh the powers of facebook!) We met her about two months before our Kyoto sneak preview (she lives in Kyoto) and since then she has been an indispensable part of our Kansai team. We hope to continue to work with her on our upcoming Kobe and Osaka shoots. Lots of love to you sista!

Introducing Sara...

Name: Sara Ai Coe

Mix: Father= New Zealander Caucasian Mother= Japanese Kansai-jin

Expertise: Our Kansai right hand woman!

Birthplace: Wellington New Zealand

Time spent in Japan: 1year and 4months

Experience growing up as a Hafu: I really have my mother to thank for keeping me deeply connected with my Japanese roots. From a young age, my mother enrolled me and my older sister into a Japanese school in Wellington (my sister was the very first Hafu to enroll and graduate from this school). Everyday I went to school and studied Science, Social Studies, Math etc with the other Japanese students. I was never really taunted for being Hafu, if anything kids were just curious. But being a shy child, I had my own insecurities about being ‘different’. I would hide from my Caucasian father picking me up from Japanese school and would be absolutely mortified when my mother served rice crackers instead of cookies when my Kiwi (New Zealand) friends came over.

Living away from my mother after high school, my Japanese tongue took a beating. My Japanese level dropped and I felt less ‘Japanese’ as I had little connection with the Japanese community. That’s why last year, when I was presented with the opportunity to come live in Japan, I leapt at the chance.

Any changes as an adult?: I used to tell people I was 70% Kiwi and 30% Japanese. That’s how I felt. I felt like I didn’t really identify with the Japanese ideology of a homogenous society. However, living here for a year, I was surprised at how well I adjusted and how quickly my Nihongo came back. Even all the rules I used to hate (e.g Tatemae/Honne), I learned to understand and respect. My Japanese self popped right back up but I’ll resist from giving myself a percentage on how ‘Japanese’ I feel. I will never be accepted as being 100% Japanese. Nor do I strive to be. I know my place and I am really comfortable with where I stand. I’m the outsider looking in and at times the insider looking out. I love being that chameleon!!

Why do you support the Hafu film: I discovered the Hafu film project purely by accident, a beautiful accident =). As soon as I heard about the project, I knew I had to be involved. The film is created with talent and heart, something which is so rare these days. Already I have met a lot of talented and amazing Hafus. It blew my mind working at the ‘Kyoto Hafu film preview/fundraising party’. Never in my life was I surrounded by so many of ‘my kind’. For once I wasn’t a minority. Big ups to Megumi, Lara, and Marcia. You guys are doing amazing things.

What do you hope the outcome of to film is: I hope the film results in a better understanding of Hafu. Some people fear what they don’t understand and what they find ambiguous. And out of this fear, they can act in foolish ways. It might take more than one film to change the outlook of a nation, but if it changes the outlook of a few, that’s a beautiful outcome =).

アジア系ハーフ募集中 Searching for Asian-mix Hafu

12 15th, 2010


この本編ドキュメンタリー「HAFU」は現在日本に住んでいるハーフ達の経験やアィデンティティを模索している作品です。半年から1年の間、5人のハーフを追いながら、ハーフの日常生活を描きます。詳しくは と をご覧ください。


ご両親の国籍: 父: 母:



Documentary filmmakers are seeking someone who is of Asian-Japanese mix (for example, Korean x Japanese, Filipino x Japanese, Chinese x etc) to participate in a documentary film about Hafus.

The documentary film “Hafu” (working title) is exploring the experiences and identities of people who identify as hafu living in modern day Japan. Following five individuals in their day to day lives as they attempt to find a place for themselves in society. Please see and for more information.

One parent must be Japanese, one parent is from another Asian country. Individual must currently reside in Japan (preference given to someone who lives in Tokyo), 20-40s, female, growing up between two cultures had a significant effect on them and still does in their every day lives.

Please write to with
your name
mix: ie. Father = ? Mother = ?
Current profession:
Feelings about being a hafu in Japan today:
contact information
and recent photo of yourself.

Thank you for your interest!

Q & A

11 5th, 2010

At our Kyoto Sneak Preview and Fundraising Event,  we tried out a new participatory technology called Pigeonhole which allows people to use their smart phones to post questions anonymously to the system which was then displayed on a screen at the event.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time as there were more questions asked directly from the audience than we expected, so we are posting some of the answers to questions that we couldn’t get to on pigeonhole.

We have narrowed down the questions based on whether they specifically addressed the film and its content. We also believe some of these questions were original were posted on pigeonhole were answered throughout our presentation.

1. Will the film address misconceptions of racial / genetic purity of Japanese among non-hafu Japanese?

The film is told through the perspectives of the interviewees. As of right now,  we are not intending to have a third voice (ie. the voice of narrator or “God”) in the film, so whether this will subject directly addressed largely depends on whether the people in the film share and hold this opinion.

Megumi: I personally believe that the subject of “misconceptions of racial / genetic purity of Japanese “ is very interesting and important subject and should be explored more thoroughly in Japanese media. If it is to be included in our film, it will be included as background information not as a major thread of the film.

2. Why did you decide to the call the film “half” when there is a tendency to avoid it in Japan?

As of right now, the title is “hafu” and not “half”, and it is actually a working title. When we started the idea to make this film, we just wanted to get started and not dwell too much on the title. Particularly with documentary films, film titles are usually one of the last decisions made because the feel, the intention, the message of the film may change in the process of making it. We hope that the final title we choose will reflect the film appropriately at the end of this process but it also could end up being “Hafu.”  For now, “Hafu Film” is quick, easy to remember, and you know what the movie is about.

Megumi: I think however the greater question here is people’s views on the term. Personally, for me I have lived with this term for 30 years and have never felt negatively discriminated by being called a “hafu”. Yes, it is a label and yes it does separate us from full-Japanese people but then so would the term “double.” I much rather prefer to be called a “hafu” than a “gaijin” and I feel that is truly my greater battle–to be recognized as even half-Japanese rather than as a complete foreigner. I have also found that many other half-Japanese people do not have a problem with the term either. Either way it’s good to have a conversation around this subject but I feel that there are varying opinions on it and no body should be condemned for being called what they ultimately want to be called.

Lara: To piggy back on Megumi- From my perspective, the word hafu is not meant or used in a discriminatory way in Japan. It is just the word Japanese use to label people of who are half-Japanese. There is also the word Kuo-ta- to address people who have one grandparent who is non Japanese or the other way around (one Japanese grandparent). There is a tendency to label, but this happens everywhere else in the world as well. In Japan, the word does not convey the same energy as English meaning of “half.” I do not consider myself as a half person, and of course that would be insulting as I have grown up within 2 great cultures. But I do consider myself a hafu and would like to be recognized as one, since it seems that in the majority of cases with Japanese people I am only recognized as a foreigner, who speaks with amazing natural Japanese and eats with chopsticks.

3. In what ways can this audience – us – help, over the long run, the Hafu Project?

Our biggest obstacle at this point is having the sufficient funds to cover the expenses of the production. We are making this film completely independently and have largely used the money out of our pockets to cover the costs of travel and equipment.  We both have full time jobs, and so this film is made as a labor of love in our free time. We also have been doing fundraising/preview events such as this one in Kyoto because we believe that there is a greater community out there who is interested in supporting the film. We are offering people the opportunity to gain credits in the film at different donation levels as well.   You can make a donation here.
If you have some free time, we always need the support of volunteers. We need help with transcribing, translating, event organizing and helping us to find sponsors. If you are interested in volunteering please write to us at
We also greatly appreciate if you can spread the word about us. Talk with your friends and family about the film. Join us on facebook, twitter, read our newsletter of follow our activities on this blog.

Lara: In the long-term, if we people have contacts to people within the media industry and can help increase exposure or introduce us to Television distributors that would help us reach our highest goal of getting this aired on Television in Japan and abroad.

4. What are your strategies to get the majority Japanese audience interested in the film?

Megumi: I think this is a fantastic question and I am very interested in hearing other people’s suggestion as well.  Our number one goal is to have this air on television in Japan. If we are able to sell this film to NHK or another prominent channel, we will naturally have a large audience. There will be press around the film and discussions around the kitchen table. Perhaps, we may at some point attract the interest of a major Japanese Hafu tarento who can help us to spread the word about this film.
Beyond that we would like to be able to tour the film in Japan and do community screenings as much as within our means. We also think it would be great to have this film screened to Japanese communities living outside of Japan and to world audiences to give them a fresh perspective on Japan.

5. What is your hopeful intention of making this film?

Lara: I want to show the world how Japan is changing and that Japan is not a homogeneous country as some conservative people may still believe it to be. Even though Japan is a “shimaguni” (Island) we live in an era of globalization, where people travel and cultures mix. Tokyo is a metropolis that is in the same lines as New York, London, Paris, etc. globalization is inevitable. And so, this mindset has to change as well. I want to show one of the other faces of Japan.

Megumi: For me, there are a million reasons why I wanted to make this film and what my intentions are with it. Firstly, I feel like there is a lack of stories about half-Japanese people in the current media of Japan. What is shown is very superficial, so I wanted to share with a larger audience about what it’s like to live day-to-day as hafu in Japan.  Secondly, I believe that many of us half-Japanese people believe that we are Japanese but have to fight on daily basis to be recognized as so. We are constantly asked where are we from, why do we speak Japanese so well, or if we are married to Japanese partner etc. I want to live in Japan where it’s attarimae (translation: duh!) that people like me or David are Japanese. We are the newly emerging community and the next generation of Japanese. This film is my personal declaration of this.

Our Motivation

3 20th, 2010

Our motivation for making this film.

From: Lara Perez Takagi
Spanish (father) x Japanese (mother)

Growing up in different countries and having been strongly influence by both of my parents, it was always clear to me that they wanted me to know my roots and where they were originally from. They worked hard on equally representing themselves within the household. This atmosphere ignited a spark of curiosity within me from a very young age.  Having lived in United States, Spain and Australia, (United States and Australia are very multicultural and considered neutral spots), it was only a question of time before I took off to return to the country where I was born–Japan. I also wanted to meet other hafus and see whether there were other people like me out there–people who came to Japan to see what it was like to live as a hafu.

Being a hafu has always been something very relevant in my life. It is always surprising to notice the overreaction people would have in Japan when they discovered that first of all I wasn’t a complete foreigner, second of all I can speak the language without an accent, and third, in mentioning that my mother is Japanese. This reaction has always been so pure in comparison to other countries, that it became something I have always wanted to study and observe in depth. When I entered graduate school in Japan, my project research theme was more observatory and less personal. After living in Tokyo for a few months and meeting other hafus, it became clear that I wanted to create something much more intimate and relevant to my identity. This was when I created «Madrid x Tokyo»–an audiovisual piece that brings Spain and Japan close together by exploring the differences and similarities between the two nations.

After screening «Madrid x Tokyo» many people asked me about my next projects.  I knew that I wanted to focus more specifically on hafus next. «Madrid x Tokyo» became the stating point to create something bigger, stronger and deeper in regards to Hafu’s in Japan. It is true that there are many social communities and events where Hafus gather, also it is common to spot celebrities on TV who are mixed race Japanese, but It is very rare to find audiovisual pieces that study this socio-cultural phenomenon in depth. We are considered a recent and unique minority that is rapidly growing as globalization is more and more present these days. This is the reason why my intention to create this documentary is very strong. It will become a tool to socially spread and introduce this rapidly increasing new minority in Japan.

From: Megumi Nishikura
Japanese (father) x Irish-American (mother)

As a hafu child growing up in Japan, I was stared at, teased, and called a “foreigner” or “half-human.” Somehow, I had the awareness that this was just childhood antics and laughed it off-never letting it penetrate too deeply.  Luckily, through family friends and attending international schools I was never far from the company of other hafus. When I left Japan for high school and university in the US, I noticed how people approached me differently than they had in Japan. People would ask out of curiosity, “What are you?” They seemed far more open-minded and sincerely interested in my diverse make-up.

In film school at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts, I explored my “hafu” identity through several video and audio projects. Upon graduating, I worked in the documentary film industry in both New York and Los Angeles for a few years. In 2004, I received the Armed with Camera Fellowship from Visual Communications, an Asian-American arts organization. Through the fellowship, I produced a short film about how my passion for peace (circa Iraq-war beginnings) stemmed directly from being the granddaughter of people who had once fought on opposite sides of World War II.

In 2006, when I returned to Japan to attend graduate school, I was confronted as an adult to reexamine what it means to Japanese and a hafu. With a “look” that is not even perceived as the “hafu-look” by Japanese, I am often complimented on the level of my Japanese language ability. When Japanese people meet me for the first time it is often to their disbelief that someone with my name—a  fully Japanese one—could look so foreign to them. There have also been occasions where Japanese my name in written down in katakana- an alphabet that is reserved for foreign words and foreigners. Something that makes me deeply feel that I am not accepted as Japanese national.

This film is my exploration through the lives of other hafus about what it means to be a hafu. It is about the Japanese part of in all of us and our desire to be recognized as a whole person-beautiful complex and real. I know this film will only tell a small slice of the myriad of experiences that hafus have but what I hope for is that when young hafu boys and girls growing up watch this film, they will feel a sense of comfort and a sense of “it’s okay to be who I am,.” Perhaps, they will even feel a sense of pride or excitement at the possibilities of who they can be-the best of both worlds. It’s film that I wish I had seen growing up.

It is also a film for the Japanese people. I believe Japan is changing. This film is my prayer to the Japanese to begin this dialogue and embrace this change.

How we got started

3 20th, 2010

Since returning to Japan  three and half years ago, my day to day environment has forced me to  re-explore my Japanese and “hafu” identity. Last May while ambling around on Face Book, I came across the Hafu/Half Japanese project by Marcia Yumi Lise and Natalie Willier.

The Hafu Japanese project examines both the physical features and identities of individuals who are of mixed Japanese decent. Thus far Marcia and Natalie (also hafus) have been photographing and interviewing hafus living in both the UK and in Japan.

My finding of their face book fan page coincided with their announcement of coming to Japan to implement their project here.  I contacted Marcia and let her know I was interested in her project, less from a participation perspective, and more to offer my services as a filmmaker.

Over the past several months, we’ve worked together to film various events of the Hafu Japanese project, an on-the-street interview and a potential promotional video.  But it was truly last November, when Marcia approached me with the idea of making a feature length film that this project picked up momentum.

Since graduating from film school in 2002, I have been searching for a subject that would captivate me enough for me to put in the commitment that take in producing a feature length film. I’m excited about this project. I feel that so many things have aligned  in my life to make this film happen. I’m excited for the journey that I am embarking on.