What is it like to come from two cultures and only be recognized for one?

November 1st, 2011

The Invisible Hafu

What is it like to come from two different cultures and only be recognized for one?

One of the things that we are setting out to do with this film is to give audiences a taste of the diversity of the hafu experience. For me, it was only when I came back to Japan as an adult did I begin to realize how many different experiences hafus had. Until then, most of the hafus I had met had either grown up in Japan and gone to international school or those who were born and raised in US and didn’t speak much Japanese. Now that I have been living back in Japan for five years and have been working on this film for nearly two, I have met many hafus with very different experiences. I have come to realize that so many factors play into one’s hafu experience: where you grew up, what your other roots are, which parent is Japanese, whether you speak Japanese or not and so and so forth.

As we began filming and learning more about the hafu experience, we also started researching the little statistical data there is on related matters in Japan. What we discovered at times blew some of our preconceptions.Walking around Tokyo it seem as though the most common combination of mixed couples are Japanese women and Western men but according to the statistical data of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare we found out that the highest combinations of mixed marriages are between Japanese men and women from other Asian countries (China, Korea, Philippines etc).  So this means that many of the mixed-Japanese in Japan today are actually mixed with other Asians and quite possibly go unrecognized as being anything other than Japanese. In order to tell this story, we wanted to find someone who is of asian-mix and hear about her experience growing up in Japan. For the past few months, we have been filming with Fusae.

Fusae was born and raised in Kobe, Japan, to a Korean father–a naturalised Japanese citizen–and a Japanese mother. In order to protect her from discrimination from others, her parents kept her Korean background hidden from her until she was 15–a traumatic experience for her at the time. She now clearly remembers how her paternal grandmother spoke Korean and cooked Korean food. After this revelation, she began exploring differences between Japanese and Korean culture. But 18 years later she is still struggling to redefine her place in society as a Korean/Japanese descendant. She has become actively involved in Mix Roots Kansai as the organizer of children’s events. She feels by organizing such social events, she is helping the younger generation find acceptance with their mixed identities.

Here are some photos from our first shoot with her. Photos taken by Ikon.