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  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 16th, 2012

    Books etc. by ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
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    Hi Blog. Debito.org Reader CJ submits the following ZakSPA! page talking about Japan’s genetic internationalization in tabloid style: How “funny” it is to be a “half.”

    http://www.zakzak.co.jp/zakspa/news/20121009/zsp1210091400003-n1.htm

    Reading through the articles (enclosed below), I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, it’s good to have the media acknowledging that there are Japanese kids of diverse roots and experiences out there, with some tone of saying how silly it all is that so many people get treated in stereotypical ways (with a “roundtable of halfs” at the end giving their own views on the situation). On the other hand, the level of discourse gets pretty low (“some foreigner talked to me in Narita Airport in English and it was so frightening I felt like crying”), and an opportunity to actually address a serious issue of how Japan has changed is wasted on parts laughing, parts crybabying, parts confirmation that treating people as “different” because they look “different” is a natural, if not inevitable, part of life in Japan. I’ll let Debito.org Readers read for themselves and decide whether this important topic is being broached properly.

    Definitely not cool, however, is the topic page with the prototypical illustration of a “half”:

    We have not only some phenotypical “othering” going on here, but also the trope of “being foreign means you can’t use chopsticks”. One would think that most multiethnic Japanese (not to mention anyone regardless of nationality — it’s a skill) would have few problems with that. But it’s supposed to be funny, in a “microaggressive” sort of way. Har har. Arudou Debito

    ///////////////////////////////////

    “一般人ハーフ”のトホホな体験談を紹介!外見、言葉、文化…

    ★[一般人ハーフ]のトホホな日常 ZAK X SPA! 2012.10.09

    外見でトホホ編

    バラエティ番組を中心に、今、ハーフタレントが大人気!しかし一般人ハーフは、いいことばかりじゃないようで、日本人離れした外見がトホホな事態を招くことも。

    「高校に進学するときに引っ越しをして、誰も知ってる人がいない学校に。そしたら『あいつ何者?』って感じで、最初の1週間は周りからものすごく注目されました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

    初日の休み時間には、彼を一目見ようと学年中が押しかけ、廊下が黒山の人だかりになったとか。

    「話しかけてくるわけでもなく、ワイワイ言いながら遠巻きに見てるだけで……。動物園のパンダになったような気分でした」って、どんなド田舎の学校だよ!?

    「ハーフって○○だよね」という思い込みで、ミョーなことを言われちゃうこともある。

    「『ハーフなのに背が低いよね』ってよく言われます。ベッキーだって158cmで、 私と一緒。背の低い白人ハーフもいることを知ってほしい(笑)」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

    逆に、「ハーフ」と聞いて視界にフィルターがかかってしまった例も。

    「『やっぱり外国の人だからまつ毛が長いですね』『顔が小さいですね』と言われる。ホメようとしているんでしょうけど、現実と全然違う。だって、普通の日本人(父母ともに日本人=以下同)の平均と変わらないですから」と苦笑するのはスリランカとのハーフ女性。

    「学生の頃はよく『金髪紹介しろよ』『妹いないの?』『姉さんいないの?』とか言われました(笑)」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)って、妹や姉がいたら何する気だ!?さらに「お母さんはキレイか?」とも聞かれたそうだが、いったい何を期待してるのやら。 ハーフにエロな妄想を抱く日本人は男女を問わないようで、「ガイジン顔(白人系)だからか、『エッチ好きなんでしょ』と言う人も。ルーマニアハーフの友達は『このおしり、本物?』と女性に触られたとか」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)とは、同性でもセクハラの域。

    「新宿の風俗で“ウマ並み”と思われて断られた。腹が立つより切なかった」(イタリアとのハーフ男性)ってのは、ある意味うらやま……いや、お気の毒さまでした。

    ///////////////////////////////////

    ■言葉でトホホ編

    ハーフの皆さんが日本人に必ず一度は言われるというセリフ。それは「○○語で何か話して!」だ。

    「腹が立つとまではいかないけど、ロシア語を話せるとわかったら、『何かしゃべってみて』と言われるのが困る。何かってナニ?」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)

    聞いたところで、さっぱりわかりゃしないだろうにねえ。

    仕方なく何か適当にしゃべったとしても、「ハンガリー語は(日本人には)ピンとこない言語なので、しゃべると必ずビミョーな空気になる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)というのも切ない。

    別の意味でタチの悪いのが、「語学を少々たしなんでいます(キリッ」という日本人だとか。

    「社内で英語がペラペラとされている人が、自分との関わりを避けようとするので笑ってしまった」(イタリアとのハーフ女性)という程度ならカワイイもの。

    「フランス語が少しできる日本人女性には、必死にフランス語を使おうとする人が多いですね。気がつけば私は日本語で話し、相手は限られたフランス語で返している状態に。お互いの会話のリズムが悪くなるし、正直、迷惑です」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

    気分だけはパリジェンヌのつもりなのかもね……。

    普通に日本語で話しただけで驚かれたり「お上手ですねー」とホメられたりするのは日常茶飯事。そこで「『やぶさかでない』とか、『さもありなん』みたいな言葉を使うと、驚き度が3段階ぐらいアップする」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)ってのも何だかなー。

    ///////////////////////////

    ■言葉でトホホ編

    ガイジン顔を見るや否や、「日本語が話せない」と勝手に思い、妙な対応をする日本人も多い。

    「日本で、初対面の人に『○○でーす!』と日本語であいさつしているのに、私と一緒に来た日本人に『このコ、どこのコ?』と聞かれること多数。日本語で話しかけてるんだから、私に聞いてー」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

    耳で聞いた「日本語のあいさつ」より、目の前の「ガイジン顔」のほうが脳内で勝っちゃったのね。

    「夜に車を運転中、ナンバープレートを照らすランプが切れていたらしく、パトカーに『止まりなさい』と言われたのですが、警官は自分の顔を見るや『日本語わかりますか?』。日本語がわかるから停車したんですけどね」(オランダとのハーフ男性)とはごもっとも。

    「駅員に日本語で発車ホームを尋ねたら変な英語で返され、何言ってるかわからなくて電車に乗り遅れたことがあります」(スイスとのハーフ女性)となると大迷惑だ。

    英語で話しかけるならまだしも、インチキ外国人化する人もいる。

    「『ニホンゴ、ワカリマスカ?』『コレ、ヨメマスカ?』と、カタコトで話しかけられることが。『はいはい、わかりますよ!』と大声で答えてます」(カナダとのハーフ女性)、「日本語で話しているのに、やたらカタカナ語や外来語を使ってくる」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)って、お前はルー大柴か!

    「図書館で本を読んでいたら、中年男性がそーっと近寄ってきて、『日本語読めるんですか?』と聞かれました。日本語を読めない人が、本を開いて見つめて何をするというのでしょう?」(フランスとのハーフ女性)

    実は、ナンパだったのかも!?

    ■トイレで外国人に英語で話しかけられてビビった!

    日本生まれの日本育ちだったり、非英語圏と日本のハーフだったりで「英語が話せない」というハーフは少なくない。それゆえトホホな思いをすることも。たとえば、トルコとのハーフ男性の場合、「日本の私立中高一貫校に入ったら、みんな私よりも英語ができて、中1の頃はバカにされました」。

    日本人だけでなく、外国人にも英語が話せると見られてしまう。

    「子供のとき成田空港のトイレで、隣に来た外国人からいきなり英語で話しかけられた。どう返していいかわからず、“最中”なので逃げられず、怖くて泣きたくなりました」(オランダとのハーフ男性)

    「困るのは英語で道を尋ねられたとき。わかる英語だけ言って、あとは日本語で対応。悲しいのは、クラブで英語で声かけられて日本語で答えるとガッカリされること。『ヤダー、ニセモノじゃん!』って」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

    でも、最近は慣れて「そういう反応を楽しんでる」のだそうだ。

    /////////////////////////

    ■文化でトホホ編

    「日本と○○のハーフです」と言うと、その国の文化や国民性に関するステレオタイプなイメージを押しつけられるのもハーフの悩み。

    「『ドイツと言えばビール!サッカー!お城!ロマンティック街道!』と言われますね。あと、『シャウエッセン』(笑)。それは日本で売ってるソーセージでしょ。ドイツとはまったく関係ないよ……」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)

    まあ、日本人がフジヤマ、ゲイシャ、テンプラとか言われるようなもんか。ただ、当たってる場合もあって、「『父親がロシア人』と答えると『お父さんは大酒飲み?』と聞かれる。でも、本当に大酒飲みなので『ウイスキーならオンザロックで7杯くらい』と正直に答える」と苦笑するのはロシアとのハーフ女性。とはいえ、「『バナナで釘が打てるのか』『プーチンは好きか』とかも聞かれるけど、そんなん知らんがな!」とのことだ。

    相手に興味を持つのはいいけれど、「初対面で親しくもないのに、根掘り葉掘り“取り調べ”みたいに聞くのはやめてほしい」(カナダとのハーフ女性)と、うんざりしているハーフは多い。

    「日本人であると説明しても同列に扱ってもらえず、失礼な質問攻めにあったり、執拗な外国人キャラづけによるからかいを受ける」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)なんて声も。ガイジン顔だからってハーフタレントと同じようにイジられたら、そりゃウザいよな。

    その点、日本人にとって馴染みの薄い国の場合は、「お国はどちらと聞かれたら、『半分ポーランドです』と答える。オランダやポルトガルなどと違って、日本人にポーランドのイメージがない。だから、それ以上あまりツッコまれない。ある意味ラク」(ポーランドとのハーフ男性)だとか。たまに聞かれるのは「酒をたくさん飲むんだろ?」で、「これは本当(笑)。ドイツとロシアに挟まれた国だからねー。ポーランドではウオッカをショットグラスのストレートで飲む。最高でボトル2本空けたことがあります。日本人の友達はつぶれちゃいます(笑)」って、それは個人差あるのでは……?

    ///////////////////////////////////

    ■文化でトホホ編

    ハーフの食生活にも、誤解と偏見がいっぱいだ。

    「牛丼屋で黙って座っていたら、スプーンにフォークまで出してくれるが、黙ってお箸で食べる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)

    「コンビニのおにぎりを食べてると『似合わないね』『違和感ある』と言われ、パン類やピザなどを食べてると『似合うね』と言われる」(アメリカとのハーフ男性)

    フランスとのハーフで現在は主婦の女性は「『家では何料理を作るの?』と食生活に変な興味を持たれることに辟易しています」と眉をひそめる。

    「日本人が想像するようなフランス料理を家で作るわけがありません。普通に日本の家庭料理です、と答えると驚かれたり、フランスの食事が恋しくないのかと心配そうに聞かれるのにも、ややうんざり」

    いまだ日本人の“おフランス”イメージは抜けず!?

    「ハーフというだけで、その国を代表する人みたいな扱いをするのはやめて!」と訴えるのは、スイスとのハーフ女性。

    「たとえばコーヒーに角砂糖を2個入れると、『スイス人はコーヒーにお砂糖を2個入れるんですね』と言われます。違います。私がそうしているだけです。2個の人、1個の人、ブラックで飲むスイス人もいます。個人差をまったく無視し、私のすべての行動をスイスと結びつけないでください……」

    逆に「『我々日本人は~』と聞かされるのも疲れます。『私の母も日本人やけど全然ちゃうで!』と言いたくなる」と憤慨する。

    「高齢の方には『先の大戦では日独伊三国同盟でしたね』と、やけに好意的な人がたまにいる」(ドイツとのハーフ女性)ってのも、喜んでいいのかどうなのか。

    戦争がらみでは「『北方領土を返せ』と言われる。直接言われたり、知らない人からメッセが来たり」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)って、お門違いもいいところだ。

    別の意味で非礼極まりないのが下ネタ関係。「ガイジン=エッチという先入観からか、妙に下ネタを振ってくる人、やめてほしい」(アメリカとのハーフ女性)、「『ロシアの女性ってエッチも情熱的なんだよね~』『ハーフとエッチしたことないからさせて~』とか言う男。バイカル湖に沈めたい」(ロシアとのハーフ女性)など怒りの声多数。

    何を勘違いしてるのか知らんけど、そういう輩は味噌汁で顔洗って出直してこーい!

    ///////////////////////////////////////

    ■ハーフ座談会

    サンドラ:まずは“ハーフあるある”から。「その顔で○○?」ってよく言われませんか?

    荒川:「その顔でヒロシ?」とよく言われます(笑)。純日本人に見られたことは皆無。イギリス人の友達にも「ガイジン顔」「日本人には到底見えない」と言われたことがあります。

    中澤:初対面ではなく、長い付き合いの友達でも、和食を食べていると「似合わないねー」と言われます(笑)。

    一同:あるあるー!

    中澤:おにぎりの中身は「梅干しじゃなく、せめてツナにしろ」とかね(笑)。

    サンドラ:私たちガイジン顔の人に「おにぎりが似合わない」と言うのは、日本人に「ハンバーガーが似合わない」「ステーキ食べるな」って言っているようなもの(笑)。

    林:マックで食べてると、「めっちゃ似合う」とか言われます。別に嫌な気分はしないけど。

    サンドラ:知らない日本人から声かけられることも多いですよね。

    小林:いきなり「英語しゃべって」と来ることも。さすがに小学生、大きくても中学生くらい。

    荒川:小さい子が必ず「アメリカ人だ!」と言うのが不思議。「英語人だ!」って言われたことも(笑)。

    齋藤:急いで駅の階段を駆け上がっていたら、知らない人が突然「グッドモーニング!」って。とっさに「おはようございます!」と返してしまいましたが、妙な感じでした(笑)。

    中澤:話したがるおじさんとかいませんか?飲み屋でフッと目が合うと、急に英語で話しかけてきたりするような--。

    林:俺はそういうの嫌。露骨に“嫌ですオーラ”出してます。

    中澤:自分はわりと話します。頑張ってるんだな、と思って。でも、さっきまで俺、日本語で話してたんだけど……という(笑)。

    サンドラ:顔見知り程度の人が、英語の練習したくて誘ってくることって、ありますよねー。

    一同:あるあるー!!

    齋藤:「私、英会話習いたいから、ランチでもどう?今から全部英語ね」って(苦笑)。

    中澤:そういうときは、しゃべらないですね。母が英会話の先生をしているんですが、1時間何千円でやっているわけです。それと同じことをタダでやれって言われているようなものですから。

    小林:英語関連で言うと、私が日本語話せるとわかっているのに、親戚がときどき会話に英単語を交ぜて話してきますね。「はい、これお茶、ティーね」とか……。

    一同:(爆笑)

    林:俺は日本生まれで英語は頑張って勉強して覚えたのに、テストでいい点数取っても「ハーフだからいいよな」って言われたことがあります。

    小林:私も母がフランス人だから英語は関係ないんですけど、小中学校と、まあまあ勉強はできるほうだったんです。それで、英語も成績よかったんですが、周りはやっぱり「ラクしていい点数取れていいねえ」って感じで。

    齋藤:私は中1まではよかったんですけど、中2のときに赤点取ってしまって(笑)。そこから頑張って勉強するようになりました。

    サンドラ:ハーフと言うと「家では何語で話すの?」というのもよく聞かれる質問ですよね。

    中澤:「父とは日本語、母とは英語」と言うと「じゃあ両親の間では?」って聞かれて「英語です」って。そういうのをいちいち答えなきゃいけないんですよね。

    サンドラ:もっと進むと、「夢は何語で見てるんですか?」「寝言は何語ですか?」とか。

    中澤:「痛いときは『アウチ!』って言うの?」とか(笑)。

    サンドラ:あと「ミドルネームはないの?」というのも。

    一同:それは必ず聞かれますね。

    荒川:小さい頃はミドルネームがありましたが、自分はそれが嫌だった。病院などで名前を呼ばれると、みんなが一斉に注目する。親に懇願して、小学校に上がる前に今の名前に変えた。昔は今より金髪でほかの子と全然違うから、見た目もコンプレックスでした。

    中澤:わかります!自分も小さい頃、髪が真っ茶で目立つから、それで先生に目をつけられたし。

    ■半分は日本なのに日本の部分はスルーされる

    サンドラ:「どこの国?」と聞かれるのはいいけど、聞いてどうするのかなって気もする。「どっちがドイツ?」「父」と言うと、もう次は「お父さんとお母さん、どこで知り合ったの?」となる。

    中澤:勝手に家系図を作られているみたい(笑)。

    小林:どうして初対面の人に、そこまでファミリーストーリーを話さなきゃならないの?

    齋藤:普通、親のなれそめなんか聞かないよね。で、ハーフと知ってから「俺、鹿児島と兵庫のハーフだから」とか言う人も。

    一同:いるー!超あるある!

    サンドラ:いろいろ聞かれながら、半分日本人なんだけどなあ、って思います。日本とドイツだと言っているのに、日本はスルーでドイツのことばかり。それが悔しい。

    中澤:日本人が出身地の話で仲間意識を持つのはわかるけど、ハーフ相手だと仲間探しではなく違いを探してるって感じがする。

    サンドラ:純日本人でもみんなが直毛の黒髪ではないのに、そこから外れると「違う人」。そう教育されてきたから、大人になっても「ハーフは違う人」と思うのかも。

    小林:母の国のフランスだけでなく、「日本のどちら?」って、父の国のことも聞いてくれたらうれしい。同じ和歌山出身の人なら、すごく盛り上がれそう。でも、聞かれたことはありません(笑)。

    中澤:日本の中に現にある多様性に目を向けてほしいですよね。

    サンドラ:若いギャルたちは意外に「どこの国の人?」とか聞いてこない。もう少しで「いろんな日本人がいる」というのが“普通”になるかもしれませんね(笑)。

    ■司会 サンドラ・ヘフェリンさん ドイツ育ちの日独ハーフ。日本在住歴15年。著書『浪費が止まるドイツ節約生活の楽しみ』(光文社)、『ハーフが美人なんて妄想ですから!!』(中公新書ラクレ)ほか。HP「ハーフを考えよう」http://half-sandra.com/
    ENDS

    29 Responses to “ZakSPA!: “Laughable” stories about “Halfs” in Japan, complete with racialized illustration”

    1. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Also definitely not cool is the continued and constant use of a word based mostly on appearance.
      Notice how most of the “issues” that crop up in their interviews and round-table comments are also based on appearance, or rather, people’s reactions to their appearance?

    2. Darkrider Says:

      Any chance we could get a english version of this?

      – Sorry, no. Learn the language, already. Or try Google Translate.

    3. Welp Says:

      I could stand reading few short bits of the posted text simply due to feelings of disgust. Just another reason why it would take something massive to dissuade me from returning to my home country with my wife – not only could I not bear putting my children through school here, but I couldn’t bear subjecting them to society here either.

    4. Welp Says:

      小林:どうして初対面の人に、そこまでファミリーストーリーを話さなきゃならないの?
      This is also amazing. How many times have you been asked to basically detail how you came to Japan, how long you’ve been here, yadda yadda? Now try turning that around on a Japanese person and imagine the “What the hell is this guy on about?!” reaction you’d get, not to mention that maybe I don’t want to tell random strangers about my life? It’s sad to see that even half-Japanese people, just because they look different. can’t get a break from the complete lack of privacy that foreigners here receive.

    5. Baudrillard Says:

      Even Hard Gay, whose antics I find amusing half the time (and other times cringe worthy) was talking to some kids who might have been “half” and he said “Nihonjin desu ka? Mienai naa” and when he interviewed a man of African descent called Hiroshi, he challenged him jokingly over his name. The audience laughed. Well, they would, wouldnt they…

      Still laughing at people trying to have individual identities, J Media? Ha ha, bloody ha.

    6. pondscum Says:

      I think you’re reading this the wrong way.

      I just read the whole thing, and it seems like this article is right in line with Debito’s site.

      The article focuses on appearance because that’s all Japanese people seems to care about. You can’t do x because you look different. You can’t eat y because you look different.

      Whoever wrote this is on our side.

      I mean, the same thing with Debito’s Onsen thing, right? One of his kids looked Japanese, the other didn’t. The whole issue was based on appearance.

      Also, the comment about being scared when approached by a foreigner was about when he was a kid and didn’t speak any English. While pissing, someone talked to him in English. I think most of us, when we were kids, would have reacted the same way.

      Instead of being upset about this article, we should be a little happy that someone in the ‘press’ thought to ask ‘What’s it really like in Japan for people who look different?’

    7. Futureal Says:

      Not a bad article. Obviously there are issues with the terminology and the assumption that “pure Japanese” or pure anything exist, but this makes me hopeful for where Japan will be race-wise in 30 or so more years.

      One assumption in particular I’d like to see someone challenge is the idea of being “half-American”. “American” is not commonly used to describe an ethnic category the way “Indian”, “Japanese”, and a lot of other adjectives of nationality are. Americans who look the way this article seems to think all Americans look describe their heritage as “white”, or some combination of European ethnicities, never as “American”. Being “half-American” is like being “half-policeman”.

      I hope someday people no longer use “Indian” or “Japanese” either as stereotypical sets of physical characteristics determined by “blood”, but using “American” this way is a categorical mistake.

      – Will have to disagree about “American” not being an ethnicity. Although not in the same boat as these people, I for one consider myself to be a Japanese of American ethnicity/descent. What else could I be?

    8. D Says:

      I understand how you might feel like that Pondscum, however I think the real issue here is that no real steps forward are being made. Though it’s mentioned once or twice, I sort of wish the participants made more movement or said things concerning stopping this behaviour from continuing. If that’s not being done, then it’s just a ‘managerie of hafu’ piece. Oh, look at their quirky opinions, how sweet. I think that’s what Debito is getting at…

      I hope people who read the article in Japan are critical about what their reading (critical reading skills people!)They’re given the board, but it’s up to them to make the dive, connect the dots, etc.

    9. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Some of it it certainly worthwhile, but too little too late? I mean, most of the content is stuff that should have been covered in “moral education” lessons at school.

    10. giantpanda Says:

      I just find this incredibly irritating and sad. Basically these poor kids will never be at home in their own country. The only bright spot is their seeming resilience and ability to laugh things off – wish some of that would rub off on me.

    11. Futureal Says:

      I just mean Americans are lucky to have been forced by history to separate “being American” from “being a descendant of the people who were here before people started keeping track of immigration”. Saying “I’m American” doesn’t convey any information about blood or phenotype or any of the other things that are assumed to be part of any other description of ethnicity. That disqualifies it from being one of the variables in the ridiculous math of half- and quarterhood.

      Maybe this gets my goat in particular because my dad is Japanese-American, which for some reason makes me haafu although both my parents are American.

      – Points taken. Thanks.

    12. Karjh12 Says:

      The last time I was in Japan with my son and his mother I got sick of,and so did he (he was 8 at the time) of hearing “haafu kawaii nee”.His mother even enrolled him for a week in the local
      primary school(for the “experience” much to my objection) where he seemed to be looked upon as a previously undiscovered species.You cannot accredit this to so much to the kids rather it was more the unspoken attitude of the teachers.
      None of them had any experience of dealing with a gaijin father or a haafu from another cultural
      background.They were condescendingly overly polite fussing over the haafu kid.”The school has a pet haafu” attitude.

      These societal attitudes begin at a young age,family,school,the broader social context and hinder development in a child growing up to be independent and free thinking

      He was happy to get back to his own school in Melbourne Australia where he has a lot of haafu
      schoolfriends .They don’t see themselves in any other context other than friends and neither do the parents who come from a range or countries.So does this make the kids of the following
      parental combinations haafu
      Swedish/Australian,Singaporean/English,English/Russian,Indian/Australian,French/Australian,
      Chinese/Thai,German/Australian,German/Phillipino ,and the list goes on.

      No,the kids are developing human beings and are being encouraged by the school to be adaptable,thoughtful, critical and eventually take their own driving wheel somewhere in the world.

    13. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Thanks Debito, very interesting. The use of the word ‘haafu’ still drives me instantly mental, but we’ve done all that here before.

      Some interesting points raised in the article that, whilst seeming at times trite to us readers here, may very well have never crossed the mind of the J-readers of this magazine. I suppose that represents a kind of progress. BUT it is still very little progress considering how many years ‘haafu’ have been a part of society- a tabloid magazine still has to pander to readers cliched stereotypes about cuteness, and have a demeaning illustration. It’s still a form of subjugation and aggression.
      On balance, I can’t be impressed by such a small effort so late in the game that discusses the issue within the parameters of the ‘myths of Japaneseness; appearance, language, culture’. I will die of old age (and so will my ‘double’ kids) before any bright J-spark steps out of the box and starts talking about ‘people’.

    14. Bob Says:

      Pondscum has it right. This kind of article is about showing the difficulties that arise from that subset of Japanese people who treat people dramatically different based on appearance. This kind of article is exactly what we need to raise awareness.

      D, the point of the article was not to show steps being made; it was to show where problems still exist. Nobody’s going to write an article about how the convenience store employee treated me like a normal customer. Viewing this article as “depressing” misses the point entirely and reflects a mind made up to stereotype Japan and Japanese as uniformly bigoted. Guess what, it’s not, this article is about pointing out problems that exist.

    15. Jeff Says:

      “I for one consider myself to be a Japanese of American ethnicity/descent. What else could I be?”

      Of European decent. You’re not native American ;^) We’re all from somewhere else.

      – Agree to disagree. Anyway, back on blog topic.

    16. Welp Says:

      @6/14 It’s not that people are upset with the article, but that they’re upset that society apparently thinks that it’s okay to treat their own like this simply because they look differently.

      I also don’t think I’d read too far into the author’s intentions when writing the article. On a long shot, perhaps they were consciously intending to show that problems exist; on the other hand, I think it’s far more likely that they got together a bunch of ha-fu people as yet again, an exercise in entertainment for the domestic audience. As one of the participants said, “like being an exhibit in a zoo.”

    17. Lorenz Says:

      Hi. I just want to share this video i found from youtube that’s also interesting and relates to this. What do you guys think of this video?

      Views from street on hafu (English Version)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi2r23e7fpA&feature=related

    18. Loverilakkuma Says:

      On one hand, it’s good for Japan to acknowledge the existence of bi-racial/bi-cultural individuals. No doubt they are the reasons why Japan really needs to re-think the meaning of Japanese citizenship (or Japaneseness) from critical/intercultural perspectives. On the other hand, I find it a bit annoying when the popular media picks them up and introduces them as if they are the samples of imperfect species. I still don’t understand why there are still lots of people out there who see bi-racial/bi-cultural individuals as something unusual in Japan.

    19. Rick Rosseau Says:

      Time and time again, it’s the focus on appearance in Japanese and other East Asian cultures that drives us “Western” people mad. It’s the one important detriment (sorry if I sound like a cultural imperialist, but Japan is turning me into one) that stops these cultures from really progressing and liberating themselves.

      Japan appears like a democracy – but under the democratic veneer, any thinking person will realise it’s quasi-totalitarian and rotten to the core.
      Japanese salarymen appear to be hard working – unless you go and work at their companies and realise what’s really going on.
      Who cares if the food is radiation-free, if it still tastes good.
      The Yakuza isn’t a problem – do you ever see them pull the strings?
      Don’t worry about the right-wing nut jobs – just ignore them like we do.

      Living in Japan made me realise what core values my culture has taught me, many of which I’ve grown so accustomed to share with the majority that it is simply unacceptable for me to see them as mere “cultural differences” and change them in order to adjust to this society – and to not judge by appearance is one of the most basic of those values.

      That story about a “half-Japanese” being made the “haafu pet” sickens me. It’s the same kind of racism that said “Black people can dance better than white people”. It’s a very sad state of affairs if we are meant to think of this as “progress”.

    20. Rudy Says:

      To counter at least one of the potential points of criticism against this article, the term トホホ does not mean ‘laughable’ (at least that’s where I think the ‘laughable’ in the blog title comes from?). I had to look it up, but the Kojien says: ‘情けなく、みじめに感じている時などに発する語’. For a tabloid-style article I thought it was a pretty good read; the only thing that bothered me was how some of the interviewees don’t even seem to see themselves as Japanese… But that’s not the article’s fault, nor that of the interviewees, obviously…

    21. Jay Says:

      I’m right there with Pondscum: I think this kind of exposure of the real issues is what people need in order to empathize with those of us who might look different. Most people have no awareness at all of these kinds of things or why, even, they are offensive. Most of us have probably had the same kinds of experiences and would love for people that put us into these positions to realize how rude it is. (I found myself looking for a damn ‘like’ button to some of those situations)

      The illustration could easily be taken to be a jab at people who can’t use chopsticks, but if it’s to be understood in the context of the article, then it shows someone who was given a fork and spoon to eat because of the way he looks and, as the caption would indicate, is thinking ‘what the hell do I do with this?’ to himself.

      We have a long way to go, but this is part of the understanding process.

    22. dude Says:

      #16 Welp – I think Japanese people don’t consider half-Japanese or mixed race Japanese people as their own. Think about it. Japanese people view themselves as “pure” – even if they are not. So half are automatically less. Or different.

      #19 Rick Rosseau – You are a traveler. You are visiting (or perhaps living in) a country that you were not born in. Your travels have made you open minded. Or you were that way before you got here.
      The majority of the people in Japan don’t have the benefit of your international experience, and still judge others by how they look.
      Pity.

      I recently had a visitor from Japan (here in Hawaii). He is zainichi, which in any other country they would call Korean-Japanese. We went to a Korean restaurant. We were a group of Japanese people, with him and me (American) being the 2 non-Japanese.
      The Korean waitress spoke to us in Japanese (including me). When we had a question, he asked in Korean. The waitress understood, but replied in Japanese. He said most Koreans don’t view Koreans born and raised in Japan as being Korean – even if they read, write and speak Korean fluently.
      Bummer.

      Not too long ago in the west, a half-asian, or half-indian was called a half-breed. People’s places were determined by how they looked.

      There are a lot of people out there who still treat other groups badly. There are a few of us that are enlightened. Maybe by you and others like you being there, you are accelerating the process…maybe.

    23. Rick Rosseau Says:

      #22 Dude – as you addressed me directly, I’d like to point out that my value system was already in place before I ever lived in a foreign country – because I was educated in the Western world (and by that I don’t only mean education in school, but of course education through life). The idea that judging by appearance is not fair towards the object of judgment, and also not useful to my own acquisition of knowledge (because, I will never learn about the background of something and be able to talk intelligently about it if I don’t look past the appearance) is not something I had to “learn” by traveling or something my mind had to broaden first to allow for.
      I come to think that any advantage the Western world has gained over Asia in the last hundred years is based on this difference in looking at the world.

    24. dude Says:

      #23 Rick Rosseau – As you can see in my comment, I left room for both possibilities. I understand that you were open minded before living overseas. Unfortunately, I have met many people who have been educated in the western world who are ignorant and narrow minded. I would say that the percentage of open minded westerners is much higher than the percentage of open minded Japanese people, but I have no data to support this claim.

      Is the cure for ignorance the western education system? western society? parents? western values? all of the above? I don’t have the answer, but I know if Japan keeps doing what it is doing now, little will change. And Japan really needs to change. Still, every day the number of mixed race Japanese citizens (throughout Japan) coming of age is increasing. Japanese society can only ignore this reality for so long.

      Maybe this article is evidence of Japanese society trying to adjust to the new reality, on their terms? In the U.S., It took a long time to go from negro to colored to black to african american. Maybe this article, and the terms used, are just the first steps? Perhaps we will see an evolution of the term and treatment/perception of mixed-race Japanese people in the near future? Like I said, I don’t have the answers, just lots of questions.

    25. SC Says:

      You should check out Sandra’s site who is featured in that article. Her site is pretty interesting.

    26. Marcus Says:

      You completely missed the mark here:

      “We have not only some phenotypical “othering” going on here, but also the trope of “being foreign means you can’t use chopsticks”. One would think that most multiethnic Japanese (not to mention anyone regardless of nationality — it’s a skill) would have few problems with that. But it’s supposed to be funny, in a “microaggressive” sort of way. Har har. Arudou Debito”

      The use of the trope is a reference to one of the stories:

      “ハーフの食生活にも、誤解と偏見がいっぱいだ。「牛丼屋で黙って座っていたら、スプーンにフォークまで出してくれるが、黙ってお箸で食べる」(ハンガリーとのハーフ男性)”

      As you can see in the picture, the haafu depicted finds it hard to eat gyudon with a spoon and fork (and would much prefer to be given chopsticks) – it’s making fun of this trope, just like you are. I guessed as much from the image and was surprised by your analysis.

      Overall I think you’re misreading both the intention of the journalist(s) and what they are actually doing here. I don’t find these articles troubling at all, instead I laud them. Maybe it’s “too little, too late”, but can the magazine be blamed for that? Better late then never, I say.

      – Okay, and that’s why I left this blog entry open to Reader interpretation about whether this important topic was being broached properly. Read the last sentence of the first big paragraph of my comment again.

      Where I did (and still do) take a stand on right after that is with the illustration. It’s not well executed, as it’s not all that clear what’s being problematized. Follow the sight lines of the subject — they are more clearly focused upon the donburi than on the spoon and fork. (And who holds their silverware like that anyway? Or even a pair of chopsticks? Or any eating utensil?) If I would have rendered the illustration (just as a sketch outline, without clothing/facial features added), I would have done it something like this:

      Sight lines are much clearer now. Or I would have put the knife and fork into the subject’s hand like it was a pair of chopsticks. (Try it sometime — now that’s kuizurai!)

      Your point is taken that it is based upon a story below. But on the website you have to go through four pages to see it. The first impression thanks to the illustration, I argue, is not on the idiotic waiter for giving him a spoon and fork only, but on the sweaty “Half” who has trouble picking his way through the Mysterious Land of Washoku (which allegedly any other “foreigner” has difficulty eating) because of his foreign background.

      And that’s before we get to the racialized features of the subject of the illustration. Not funny.

    27. Baudriillard Says:

      In a way, it does not matter even if Debito judges them over harshly. Japan’s lack of reforms and continued broken promises regarding rights regarding NJs and those with an NJ parent need to be met with an extreme response, and extreme suspicion of motives. Race should be a non issue.

      And frankly speaking with the prevalent mood of Tokyoites being suspicion of foreigners, outsiders, even their neighbors, one can hardly blame NJS for being overly suspicious or over sensitive to every little singling out as being “different”. Hell, I could even argue that this IS “the Japanese way”, has been since the Tokugawa Shogunate.

      The chickens are coming home to roost. Ever see that South Park episode about the nurse with a foetus growing out of her head, and how she is repeatedly honored and singled out for “trying to live a normal life”? Sure, its positive discrimination but its still discrimination.

      I am sure a lot of kids from various backgrounds in Japan would just wish the media, their peers, and the oyajis would just shut the frick up and judge them more on the quality of their character rather than the color of their skin.Race should be a non issue.

    28. john k Says:

      It is seeing things like this that always makes me feel i should set up my own restaurant. And furnish it thus:

      1) Provide knives and forks only..for sushi
      2) Provide sushi, with cooked fish on top
      3) condiments, such as tomato ketch-up or peanut butter only to go with sashimi

      The obvious questions from the Japanese customers are then easy to identify the ridiculous corollary for all things Western/foreign and “their” pathetic stereotype’s in Japan.

      I was at an Italian restaurant last week with my wife. The man sat opposite us was saying…British people only eat fish and chips. He said this as he was eating is tempura style italian fried fish, totally lost on the irony…as i was eating my freshly delivered roast duck…cut into thin sashimi slices and pretty much raw…ahhh so very authentic Italian!!!

      A simple matter of food, foreign food, is so well and truly sanitized for Japanese, it is foreign food in name only..as the dish itself so far from its origins it is laughable. Hence my 3 little points above :)

      – Unfortunately, this is a tangent from the topic of this blog entry, and I don’t want this to get into a discussion of the forms of foodie cultural imperialism.

    29. Marcus Says:

      I agree it’s somewhat questionable that the “half” has been rendered almost completely foreign, but I get that the illustrator is doing it to drive the point of the story home – if he looked to Japanese on the illustration, people wouldn’t get why he was given a fork and spoon. Considering how manga characters can have all varieties of facial structures but still count as Japanese, the one feature that is the least dubious in representing foreignness is blond hair/eyebrows, I guess. Personally I’d have made another stylistic choice and I think it’s clumsy. I disagree with your assessment of the illustration being unclear (as I didn’t interpret it as you did at first glance) but I guess that’s a case of ten people, ten colors.

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