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Photo Illustration: Steven Veach; photos, Jupiter Images

I was posed the following question by a reporter, and here’s my two-cents.

Q) What type of racism, ostracization, or other types of experiences have you or other mixed race Japanese faced? Any examples?

A) The most common cause of pain us people of mixed ethnic or cultural heritage face (in any part of the world) is forced distinction and denial or refusal to accept our multiple heritages that makes us one whole. What we face while we live in Japan is less direct and conscious – indeed it’s exactly the opposite where people who have grown unaccustomed to differences and how to deal with it treat us with false expectations and callous attitudes.

The Japanese mixed roots population is far more diverse and complex in that it does not consist of a single majority – while we are united in a common identity of sharing a Japanese heritage and an “otherness”, there are those who may be idolized and those who are treated as the sad cases. Therefore, it seems that social class and racism is bred by differential treatment and pressure to act a certain way or possess certain attributes like fluency in English, good looks and a model contract. Anything else, we may be grouped in as outsider immigrants or gaijin who don’t know better. This is when it hurts more because although we may love Japan very deeply and feel an attachment to it, despite the pointy quills of our partner that stings us in embrace.

The question “what are we” therefore is not only to be answered by us, but a question that the general Japanese population needs to come to terms with. It seems so much simpler if mixed roots, nikkei, the general Japanese can work without such psychological illusions of gaijin and local. It is perhaps foolish then to create a word to distinguish us – why can we not be all Japanese? – but it may exactly be this lack of a better terminology that forces us to refer to the rest of the Japanese as “Japanese” and ourselves in various terms, which makes it seem like we are not “Japanese”, at least not enough.

This boils down to:

1) Us people of mixed racial or cultural roots must come to terms with our own identity and relation to Japan;

2) Japan needs to get used to and be educated in dealing with its multicultural society;

3) Together we need to reclaim and rediscover the Japanese national identity;

4) Educators, education board, media need training and education.

And 4 leads to another article… of recent media coverage of mixed folks (take “Hafu Collection”, “Hafu Face Make-up” for example and blackface to dressing Africans up in gorilla costumes)