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Are you “Hafu” / Half Japanese?

Last updated on June 23, 2009

Photograph by Natalie Maya Willer

I received an email from the creator of  “Hafu” regarding upcoming events in Japan. I am sure that many of you have read the Japan Times article,”Hafu, focuses on whole individual” which was published back in February 2009. The creator states that: “This 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 organise events.”  

Jacqualine Kurio in her piece, “Nationality, Identity, Language and Culture – Making the Pieces Fit” examined three articles, one of which was on the website Hafu. She writes: “So while we can see that language, culture and nationality all have some bearing on identity, neither one can be said to be more important when it comes to establishing a sense of place or belonging. Clearly it is a combination of all these things, plus many other elements too subtle and numerous to list.” 

Ms. Kurio also wrote: “Cross-cultural marriages have been steadily increasing in Japan over the last few years, yet the divorce rate among such couples remains high (1 out of every 2.5 marriages) with ‘irreconcilable cultural differences’ being cited as the most common reason for the break-up. As a result of these marriages, more than 3% of births in Japan are to parents of mixed cultural backgrounds, yet the provision of education to enable these children to maintain close affinity with the non-Japanese side of their heritage (including language and culture) is extremely limited and depends more or less solely on the parents’ efforts.”

We here at Black Tokyo like to examine the issues and encourage dialogue found on websites such as Hafu. Please checked out the Hafu website, the Hafu Facebook Group and the dates for the upcoming events. There is information on how you can participate in the photoshoot (I believe it is for those 18+) below and on the Hafu website. Be sure to tell a friend about Hafu and the wonderful work they are doing!

The Hafu Blog states: “Our events are designed to create opportunities to instigate fruitful discussions on cultural diversity, identity and ‘race’ in a profound and thoughtful way. Typically, our talks are 30-45 minutes long with plenty of images and quotes from interviews, followed by a discussion. Our exhibition can also be booked, usually for a period of at least one week, with the option of an event ‘In conversation with the curators’.” 

Here are the upcoming events in Japan:

Calling all half Japanese people living in Japan (over 18s only)
Tokyo Photo Shoot                 20 & 21 June (Sat & Sun) 10am – 7pm as well as 24 June (Thu) 5pm-8pm

The Glass House Studio
Kokubunji, Tokyo

Osaka Photo Shoot                 28 June (Sun), times to be confirmed 

Information: Our photo shoot in Tokyo will take place in a studio in Kokubunji, which is around 20 to 25 minutes from Shinjuku. The studio in Osaka still needs to be confirmed but if you are free and can attend please let us know now so we can slot you into our schedule. The photo shoot should not take more than 20 minutes.
In addition to the photo shoot, we will select a number of people to be interviewed. The interviewing process will take about 60-90 minutes. We can meet in a mutually convenient time and place. You will be asked a number of questions about your identity and experience in relation to your half Japanese background.
If you are interested in taking part, we would love to hear from you. Please fill in our online entry form:

The project:  Hafu is a collaborative project between artist/photographer Natalie Maya Willer and social researcher Marcia Yumi Lise. The project is made up of portrait photographs of half Japanese people (or Hafus as they are called in Japan) and their stories, extracted from in-depth interviews. As part of the exhibition we will organise a range of events including an academic seminar, family art workshop, networking night, live photo shoot and a cultural evening.
The project tries to give insight into the experiences of ethnically mixed Japanese individuals. It offers an opportunity to explore the ways in which Hafus construct their identities and establish a sense of belonging whilst being in between different cultures.
The work we carry out is highly respectful to everybody portrayed. The format provides an intimate and safe environment where subjects’ stories can be heard. We place much value in respecting people’s opinions and integrating them in the dialogue we are trying to create. Our work is carried out to a high standard and we aim to achieve further intercultural understanding based on the trust of the people we work with.

Public lecture
“Hafu Japanese Identities”
25 June 2009 (Thu)
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Sophia University, Institute of Comparative Culture






One Comment

  1. JapanSoc JapanSoc May 23, 2009

    BLACK TOKYO » Blog Archive » Are you “Hafu” / Half Japanese?…

    Are you hafu/half, double or halvsie (a person with half Japanese heritage)?…

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