Introducing Lisa…

March 4th, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at the Hafu Exhibition held at the 3331 Chiyoda Arts gallery last August. She expressed an interest in the film then and ever since she began transcribing interviews for us, she has helped us tremendously with her insights into the experiences of hafus who comes to japan to find their roots. When she first told me her “fruit basket ” experience (which you can read below,) I was incredibly moved. I hope that this film can make a small contribution towards a larger definition of what it means to be Japanese.

Introducing Lisa...

Name: Lisa Rie Hansen
Mix: Father = Danish , Mother = Japanese-Canadian
Volunteering  as: Transcriber
Birthplace: Ontario, Canada
Hometown: Vancouver, Canada
Time spent in Japan: 3.5 years
Your experience growing up as hafu:
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada, which is a very multicultural community. Despite that, people tend to gravitate toward people who share the same ethnic background. I was a bit of a floater, sometimes hanging out with the “Asian” crowd, and then at other times socializing with the “white” group. I wasn’t quite sure where I belonged, nor where I felt comfortable. I definitely felt different. Sometimes It made me unsure of myself and my place in the world. Other times I felt like it made me kind of special.

The fruits baskets story:
When I was 19 years old, I embarked on a quest to find my “roots” in Japan. I was studying at a small college in Aichi prefecture. There were two other foreigners in this program with me. One was Caucasian and the other (her name was Kamea) was half-Japanese, like me. During one of my final classes, my Japanese classmates decided to play a game. It was a Japanese game called “Fruit Basket.” It is similar to musical chairs, in that there is one less seat available for the number of people. One person would yell something like “Everyone who wears glasses!” And all those who wore glasses would need to stand up and find another seat to sit in. At one point, one of the Japanese students said “All Japanese people!” Both Kamea and I stood up. There was a gasp in the room and then silence. Everyone looked confused. Kamea and I didn’t know what was going on so we asked what the problem was. Some people were confused at the question, while others started laughing. They said, “You’re not Japanese!” It was a moment that completely changed the way I thought about myself. I realized that my entire life, I considered myself Japanese, at least partially. But in Japan, I wasn’t considered Japanese at all because I wasn’t culturally Japanese. I developed a deeper yet desire to understand this culture that I apparently was not a part of, and later on completed another academic exchange, and worked in Japan for 2 years after that.

Any changes as an adult?

The older I got, the more I appreciated my mixed heritage. However I also became more aware of how little I understood about my own “roots.” I subsequently majored in Asian studies and went to study in Japan, and after I graduated, returned there to work. I have made many friends who are part Japanese. There is an instant connection that occurs when you meet someone who has had similar experiences growing up.

Why you are supporting the film?:

The film is a great way to draw attention to some of the issues that are experienced by those living in Japan who have mixed backgrounds. Other hafus in Japan, and people of mixed ethnic backgrounds in general, will no doubt be relieved and excited to see others sharing similar experiences. The Japanese nation is radically becoming more ethnically varied, and a film like this is just what is needed to help foster a deeper level of understanding and sensitivity toward this group of people.

What do you hope is the outcome of the film?
I hope it can be watched by the Japanese population, and that it will be featured in a few film festivals and gain some international attention.